Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What a day!

Wow... even if today we'd been able to update this blog as things were happening, ~czechtacular and I would have had quite some work on our hands. (Donations to the Hab It Her Way Manicure Fund, which we don't dip into that often but a girl's gotta take care of herself sometimes, are heartily accepted.)
I guess days like this make up for those lazy summer days when there's no trade news, no gossip, and nothing hockey-related to look forward to.
So I guess we should get to today's business:

Mats Sundin announces retirement. Tells journalists he plans to use his free time growing hair.
And yes, if you're interested, we can start taking bets on when he'll un-retire and at what price.
His announcement was marked by a severe lack of nostalgia regarding the year he won the Stanley Cup.
(Which reminds me, I wish Patrice Brisebois all the best.)

Sergei Kostitsyn suspended and stuff. So he refused to be sent to Hamilton, and was so upset that he demanded a trade, and as a result the organization suspended him. Tsk.
Why, Sergei, why? We've seen his potential, and he could be much more important to the team than he is right now with the skills he has, but there's something that's holding him back from doing anything. I don't know exactly what it is (I doubt very many people do) and I'm probably better off not knowing, but I'm just disappointed that this is all happening.
I guess at this point we can only hope that whatever this problem is gets sorted out (whether it's a question of ego or an actual conflict) because honestly, what team would take a player who got himself in the news this preseason for being a diva? (... okay, maybe San Jose, but this Heatley business is a story best told by someone else at another time.)
All this to say that I want the old Sergei back. The fast, energetic, scrappy Sergei who helped the team win games.

Three players get A's. (And they didn't even have to study!)
From the press release:
"Montreal Canadiens’ Head Coach Jacques Martin 
announced today that defensemen
have been named assistants."
(I'd like to start by saying that as a perennial rookie, it's good to know that "assistant captain" is an acceptable term to use, and whoever told me that I had just made up another term for what should be called an "alternate captain" was wrong.)
All great choices. I think Jacques Martin could have expected to have some heavy objects thrown at him if Markov didn't have that A on his jersey. Gill is an experienced player, and he's coming off of a Stanley Cup win, and he just seems like the kind of guy that his teammates would have trouble hating, so he's a very logical choice. Gionta's shown us what he can do, and he's a great player, and I've heard he's a pretty good leader and he's come off as very personable in interviews so I'm sure that his teammates and game officials will like him.
(Dear Josh Gorges: I would probably have given you an A, but you'll be just fine without the extra responsibility.)

Lost at "C". We've got three assistants, but no captain yet.
I'm still not clear on whether this means that Markov, Gill, and Gionta are out of the running to become captain, but I guess we'll find out in due time.
Or will we? Didn't Jacques Martin promise to name a captain before the season started? I may have expressed my distaste for this idea, but I've got to be honest that I'm not happy he reneged
on his promise. He's only been coach for a few months and he's already going back on his word? For some reason that doesn't give me a very good feeling.

But the biggest (and best) news that I have to report to you?
There's less than 24 hours left. Yay!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Preseason jitters (yes, it's a long post)

Quite a few things are happening with our Habs in these final days leading up to the regular season, and it feels like fans need to train and psych themselves up just as much as the players. (That’s in part because we know winter’s coming. Get out your throwback jerseys and your snow tires, ladies and gents, the season’s changing.)

So here's a little overview of a few hot topics that have been peppering fans' and journalists' discussion of the team as the clock winds down to our season opener.

THE NEW GUYS. We’ve done a pretty good job of welcoming our newcomers so far, just as they’ve done more than their share of singing the city’s praises. (Seriously, Scott Gomez, any more singing and you’d be joining the cast of Glee.) It’s a good thing that Montrealers follow their hockey so intensely... can you imagine being a casual Habs fan and seeing a picture like this: 

We’re basically going into a season of Who’s Dis Guy?*

This season is going to prove whether or not we were all right: Should Bob Gainey have cleaned house as obsessive-compulsively as he did? Are guys like Gomez and Gionta a little too eager to play in front of the most intense city in the league, before they’ve even seen our dark side? Were we, the fans, right to turn our backs on the Habs who disappointed us? Everyone’s been jumping the gun and answering these questions lately, but personally I think we need to wait it out until we know for sure.

THE LINEUP. Today five more players were cut from Montreal and sent to play for the Bulldogs. Definitely a gain for Hamilton, and maybe not a huge shock to us. It was pretty obvious that a player like Curtis Sanford was signed to back up and support young up-and-coming players who could use an experienced, big-brother figure.

Cutting Sergei Kostitsyn was a bit of a shock to me, since I had assumed (or, at least, hoped) that he’d be back this season and rarin’ to go. That wasn’t entirely the case. Still, the cut was Jacques Martin’s call to make, and as fans all we can hope for is that the coach’s decisions are in the team’s best interests. Which reminds me...

THE COACH AND THE CAPTAIN. We’ve got an experienced coach, a man carefully chosen by team management out of a vast ocean of, um, available francophone coaches. I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t exactly know much about Martin before he was hired, so I’m going into this season a little blind.

I don’t doubt that he knows what’s right for the team, and I tend to lean toward trusting coaches and team management more than the average armchair coach (if only because I’m aware that they’re standing behind the bench and I’m sitting on my couch with my cat). However, I’ve got to comment on this decision to appoint a team captain. Last time I checked, this was Canada and 2009. How about a little democracy? If you want a guy to lead this team, this half-new team recovering from a season of fail, why not ask the guys who are in that team? To me, an election seems like the most logical process, although I’m hoping that whatever method Martin is employing to make his decision will make sense.

As for the identity of this as-yet-unnamed captain? I’m not too sure about who I think it SHOULD be (maybe because, as I mentioned, the lineup changed too drastically, and we could maybe wait until the regular season starts), but as for who it WILL be, if I were a betting woman I’d put money on Scott Gomez. I don’t quite know why - chalk it up to female intuition, I guess.

In any case, we’ll find out by the time les boys are done with their retreat. Which reminds me...

THE PRESEASON RETREAT. None of the players seem to be pulling a diva fit or criticizing Teen Ranch in Ontario, so why is everyone else so scandalized? Some local anglo sports reporters in particular can't seem to say enough about it.

I don’t care where the retreat takes place, as long as the guys get to practice and rest and bond. Isn't that what matters? The only thing I’m worried about was a joke by writer Manny Almela implying that guys like Ryan O’Byrne might look like this if they sleep on bunk beds:

And I’m only worried about that for two reasons:

I know the importance of a good night’s sleep, and I hope O’Byrne, Gill and their teammates of all sizes have been getting their share of shut-eye

It’s a hilarious sight gag that I kind of wish I could see for myself

So, in these final hours, I hope that the team’s preseason enthusiasm doesn’t fade as fast as their idealism probably will.

*If you were wondering, ”Who’s Dis Guy” is a running joke between your bloggers, usually alluding to a player whose face you cannot recognize.

Photos used in this post are not our property. They belong to and Warner Brothers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wait a minute, who are you?

That's actually a very good question. Who are we? What authority do we claim to have over other Habs fans, that legitimizes the existence of this blog? Actually, probably none. But we're here doing it, which must count for something.

Time for a brief(ish) rundown. In the third person, because that's how I roll these days, apparently.

No bandwagoners here. ~czechtacular has been a Habs fan since 1998 (which she recently proudly declared on CKAC while Dave Morrisette, yes him, sat next to her as a witness). This is by no means close to any sort of dynasty era. She remembers the Turner Stevensons and Craig Darbys that most try to bleach from their memory. She had several opportunities to move to other teams' fanbases, starting with the departure of Mark Recchi, but never could, not even in the worst of times. Meanwhile, Rookie was aware of the presence of hockey in her early years, mostly because that's what the whole family watched when together on the weekends, then sort of ignored it throughout high school (she knew the basics, though, although she knows it's not much). A good friend of Rookie's from cegep is a huge hockey fan, and would be the one to take Rookie to her first NHL game while they were in university. Rookie was faced with a problem: she had grown to like hockey, and saw the entertainment value in it, but her knowledge of the Canadiens was kind of shameful. As a joke, some mutual friends suggested she ask ~czechtacular for a team rundown, and she thought it wasn't a bad idea. The next day, she was provided with three pages of information, some of which she didn't understand, but she was hooked. The Writers Guild of America strike a few months later would separate her from her first love, well-written television, so she turned to hockey like a rebound boyfriend and she's become committed.

...That doesn't mean no other teams are allowed. While the CH may be the be all and end all of every hockey debate in their hearts (and this includes after 5 game losing streaks, thank you very much), ~czechtacular and Rookie do indulge in extracurricular activities (oh dear, already HIHW's first euphemism - don't take it the wrong way, gents, as there's a tall bespectacled gentleman who works in Rookie's office and she sneaks glances at him when she can). They are fans of the game above all else, and can look to a number of other teams, and players from other teams, as their own personal highlight reel that enable them to love hockey even more (if that's even considered possible).

No looks-based rating system. The puckbunny stereotype is one of, if not the biggest pet peeve the authors of HIHW could ever claim to have. While they are no strangers to crushes on hockey players (what did you want them to do? Cut off their estrogen?), it's the on-ice skills that reign above all. They know you think they're just saying that, but it's one of the rules they swear by in their day-to-day hockey enjoyment.

Bleu blanc rouge, but no pink. Continuing in this theme: HIHW are not big fans of the post-lockout eruption of "women's apparel" that contains appalling amounts of pink. Neither of your star bloggers here would be caught dead wearing a belly shirt or a bejeweled trucker hat, or anything with vinyl and sparkles on it, just because it was available at the Bell Centre Habs Zone. ~czechtacular in particular remembers her numerous trips to the Zellers' children's department in search of a boys' extra-large hoodie. (Another bonus of that: only $12.97!!) The Rookie will admit that her big sister owns a pink Habs T-shirt, and that she was present at the time of its purchase, but she disapproved of it strongly and will make sure that it is the last pink shirt to enter her house.

11 > 27. Might as well put this at the forefront of the Habs'-specific issues. The "every other year effort" motto does not fly here. The ladies at HIHW are willing to concede that Alex Kovalev is one of the most skilled players in the league, but he was prone to take a few too many nights off last season, which is not a first for him. This did not prevent a rally from being held in his name to persuade management to do everything in their power to keep him on the roster this summer, however, and for this HIHW is less than supportive. Even with the circumstances that unfolded surrounding his departure, and who might be to blame for it, he somehow manages to retain some support in Montreal, even more than others he left behind in 2008-09 trainwreck (notably someone ~czechtacular holds dear to her heart). Meanwhile, Saku Koivu had no such rally, and he did more for the fans of this team than most could ever claim to have appreciated before his time ended here. And his community involvement is only the half of it, as much has been said about it already. Much has also been said about the amount of injuries he has had over the course of his captaincy and the so-called "inability" to be a consistent player. At HIHW, consistency is not a number. It is not measured in goals, points, or plus-minus. It is what is brought to the table night in and night out, regardless of the stat-sheet. Saku was a hero, he brought all he could and more, and now he's gone to the West without so much as a protest or even a blink of an eye. He took a lot of heat for the most ridiculous reasons here in Montreal, and with that in mind HIHW doesn't blame him for leaving. They just wish it wouldn't have come to this, and that more fans shared the same opinion.

Here, no one's shy to drop the gloves. Fighting has its place in the NHL, and also in the hearts of ~czechtacular and Rookie. Bonus for the small, gritty fighters who don't seem to stand a chance but manage to hold their own, or even beat the odds and win. Bonus as well to the "less traditional" fights that break out (Spezza vs. MARKOV? Seriously?) and spur all hockey fans into a frenzy. ~czechtacular's first YouTube subscription was to the hockeyfightsdotcom channel and she regularly checks up on her faves, as well as some of the fights from the eras she was too young to appreciate. Rookie's pacifistic tendencies make her choose her fights a little more carefully (she's been known to follow up "Hit him!" with "But be careful!") So when, um, push comes to shove (HA!) these girls would rather see fisticuffs than a filthy, unprovoked hit.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Canadiens cage Penguins, 4-3

Hello dear reader(s), and welcome to Hab It Her Way! Thanks for coming, grab a snack, put your feet up, make yourself at home. You - and we - probably deserve a real inaugural blog post, but with a great preseason game tonight, and a pretty good vantage point inside the Bell Centre, I thought I might as well give you a rundown of the game (and I'll post some pictures soon as well).

It was definitely a close one, but it felt great to be there when the 3rd period came to a close and everyone celebrated. To be honest, it felt awesome just to be at a game again, see the pregame video on that mind-blowing big screen and watch our players (old and... mostly new) do what they do best.

Overall, Carey Price made some pretty impressive saves, and our new acquisitions (yes, I'm aware that right now about three-quarters of the team is "new") have definitely proved themselves. My biggest qualm, however, is with our power play. It just wasn't really there tonight, even though the players who make up our special teams are exceptional and have been performing quite well lately. It's only the preseason, though, so the team's got time to work that out.

It was a decent line-up tonight, although I would have loved to see some prospects that weren't in the lineup, most notably P.K. Subban, whose talent and personality served him well on Team Canada and are going to be a great addition to this year's Hamilton Bulldogs. I'm also a Ryan White fan after seeing him pull out all the stops one night in Hamilton last season, but I guess I can't be too picky when cuts start happening. My favourite new-this-season player, Mike Cammalleri, got his share of ice time (and a penalty, what?) and I was definitely happy about that. Cammalleri's been the brightest light in this offseason of change for me personally, and it definitely looks like my anticipation wasn't for naught.

I'd also like to give a shoutout to the hilarious guys sitting to the left of me tonight, who have to be credited with gems such as these (their opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Czechtacular and the Rookie):
"Scott Gomez is a sexy bitch!" (Yes, a heterosexual man screamed this as loud as he could.)
"Latendresse, tabarnak!" followed by "Latendresse, I hate you but right now I love you" when he scored
"Go-Mez Go!"
"Go Rick Nash!" (I don't know where that one came from)
"No one go near Crosby, he's going to cry again!"
... I'd keep posting their amusing Crosby taunts, but this is a blog, not a Tolstoy novel, so take my word for it when I say they were hilarious and sometimes creative.

Tonight's best dressed award goes to the gentleman I saw in a Brett Favre T-shirt, with an honourable mention to the girl who repurposed her old Higgins #21 shirt into a Brian Gionta shirt with the help of a scrap of paper, a marker, some scotch tape and two safety pins.
She definitely chose the right day for arts and crafts!
Worst dressed: Some guy who had the nerve to wear a Mats Sundin Maple Leafs jersey, and trailing his young Habs-supporting son behind him. Poor kid!

After a game like this one, I'm pretty optimistic that the season will be a solid one. I'm not going to make any guesses about the season as a whole, but I'm glad that the parts are in place.

Stay tuned, Habs fans!