Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When pucks get a mind of their own...

Something really crappy happened yesterday.

photo cred: E. Bolté, 24heures. don't worry, we're cool. I give him lineup sheets all the time.

Five overtimes (five periods, actually, but it felt like five overtimes) and no dice. The Montreal Junior lost three consecutive games after being up 3-1 in the series. Gatineau took the series in 7.

And I really do mean TOOK the series. They grabbed it by the horns and never let go. Thankfully I have no problems in hoping Saint John (team #3 in my Q radar if you're counting) puts them in their place. Being the little opportunists that they are, though, the Olympiques should be right on task to give the Sea Dogs more of a pestulent attitude about being the lowest seed in Round 2 than, say, PEI did in Round 1.

As for the Junior, well, I want to discuss one little thing. The goal that got away.

It was a shot from the red line that bounced off the back glass as Jean-François Bérubé was backing up. Somehow the puck got between his right pad and, with the obvious movement pattern, the wrong side of the red line. Poor guy was absolutely furious. I was about ten rows up from the incident and couldn't stop staring at the puck as he kept slamming his stick against the ice. I couldn't believe that that was it. The goal that ended a season.

It fit the situation, but not the game. Both teams fought for almost 82 minutes of play and the Junior players' adrenaline was practically seeping out of their eyes as they threw everything they had at Olympiques 'tender Maxime Clermont. The first overtime should have been it. They were right there. But somehow, Clermont found the puck, even lay on it once and didn't move a centimetre for fear of his life.

As for JF, as angry as he is right now, it'll be a huge building block in his character. No one blames him (or should) for a freak accident like that, and as someone who tends to be irrational in his case, neither do I. If his former teammate Jake Allen found his way out of the events last January to wind up with the best GAA in the CHL (and I have a feeling it won't stop there), I have no doubts that Bérubé will be able to come out in a big way next year.

What I really want to say is that this doesn't just apply to the Q. Bad goals happen, "are part of the game," and really sure do suck a lot, but finger-pointing isn't the way to deal with it. Just a few words to keep in mind for a certain NHL team we happen to love a lot and that's fighting for its life right now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Plus/Minus: because I already made that Phantom of the Opera picture

Hmmm... we've been a little MIA again. I guess we should have told you guys that we're bad at keeping promises. Which reminds me, I've got friends still waiting on a homemade lasagna dinner that I promised, um, two? three? years ago. Maybe I should have got that over with before I became lactose intolerant.
The Habs of this last week remind me of the Habs I knew when I first started watching regular games, what with all the roster changes and everything. It's a little off-putting now that I've become accustomed to the normally rock-solid Jacques Martin rosters, but I kind of feel nostalgic wondering who'll sit out and who'll be in net.

+ To Pat Hickey for writing a touching article about Pat Burns that can only be described as "Dave Stubbs caliber." (I figure the plus for Pat Burns doesn't need to be mentioned, because if you think it's not automatically there, then, um, I'm smarter than you?)
+ to Carey Price's dad.
+ Congrats, Pleks, on 100 goals.
+ Speaking of goals, we saw some pretty good stuff from Gionta this week, and I'm thisclose to throwing another "Giontastic" out there, because that goal on Vokoun was quite, well, y'know...
+ I like it when Dennis Kane shares his many, many awesome stories about being a Habs fan in and out of Montreal, and cutting a CH logo into the grass behind his house might be my favourite one yet.
+ I'm not sure if I'd actually do this at my wedding, but future Senators wife Carrie Underwood has decided to forgo a wedding cake at her reception in favour of cupcakes. Sure, it seems a little trendy, but it's kind of cute.
+ ETA: I can't believe I forgot this, but a huge plus goes out to 30 Rock and Paula Pell, who wrote last week's episode featuring the lamest, most hilarious, Juno-nominated Ottawa Senators hype song as performed by Cheyenne Jackson's character (who is from Ottawa). If you're American you can watch the episode here. If you're Canadian like us, um, no luck. doesn't love us yet.

- Seriously? The likelihood that we've seen good guy Glen Metropolit in a Habs jersey for the last time isn't something I like to think about.
- Travis Moen's face.
- Jack Todd is a great writer. And that's the main reason why it pisses me off that he's still complaining about our goalie situation, as he's been doing for months. He's head counselor at Camp Carey Boo. I would say "it's getting old" but honestly, this act was already old when 2010 started. It's always the same story. Maybe if we're lucky, next week Mr. Todd will talk about Avatar or Kanye West's "Imma let you finish" rant.
- To myself (this is an overdue plus from last week). The Paralympics came and went, and I didn't write a single thing about sledge hockey.

Happy Passover and Easter, dear readers. And happy second-to-last week of the season! I wish you many points and no more injuries. And an excellent new episode of Lost tomorrow!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Think Of Me

I meant to blog earlier, but your day kind of gets messed up when you go to pick up the morning paper, eyes still half-closed, and are greeted with a front-page picture of Travis Moen's busted-up face.

Okay, yes, I know it must probably suck more to be Moen and almost lose an eye and require three layers of stitches, but still, think of the children. And me.

Can someone try to fashion him some kind of Phantom of the Opera thing to wear, at least off ice? I'm sure it's good for misdirection during game time, but other than that...
I think it would work. (Better than my Photoshop skills, at least.) I promise not to sing "Music of the Night" anymore!

Oh, and about that game: funny how a face injury can make a player even more intense than he previously was. Brian Gionta reminded us why he's maybe the awesomest dude ever. RDS' almost mocking comments of Tomas Vokoun were proven right, so I bet his self-esteem is off the charts right now. Oh, and imagine I'm ~czechtacular expressing glee at Tomas Plekanec's 100th career goal (empty net or no).

All in all, I think our team is ready for the playoffs. (Against a team other than Buffalo, I hope.) And yes, I think they're also ready for June and July to roll around so they can get some rest and avoid errant pucks and skate blades.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No more purring: Game preview 26-03-2010

If you've seen Away We Go (completely forgotten come awards season, wtf, and people were bellyaching about 500 Days of Summer getting snubbed) you might remember the scene where the main characters watch their friends' children go to bed after watching the "Goodnight" song from The Sound of Music. They think that's where the movie ends because their parents always turn off the TV after that, saving them from watching all the evil Nazi stuff.

I kind of wish someone could have done that for me about 55 minutes into last night's game, which was looking a whole lot like a bizarro version of the last Sens game until, depending on who you ask:
a) rope-a-dope time was over
b) Ryan Miller's teammates suddenly realized that they, too, play hockey.

Seriously, if I was a Buffalo Sabre I'd be buying Miller more presents than Tiger Woods' wife has probably been receiving since December.

In any case, the team's going to leave the past behind them to face the Panthers at home tonight. Jaroslav Halak is back in nets and Travis Moen's eye situation seems to be fixed, bringing his grand total of sick days this season to 1.

He probably looks like this though

No word yet on who will sit out now that #32's back in the lineup.
~czechtacular ETA: thank you Mr. Stubbs: "Moen and Lapierre play tonight. Darche, Metropolit and Maxwell healthy scratches."
Rookie ETA: and I was a little, erm, positive in my assessment of Moen's face, as the words "black eye" have never been truer. There goes my Locke joke.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wishin' and hopin': not much time left

Before the puck drops in about an hour, I thought I'd resurrect the Wishin' And Hopin' category that I have made exactly one (1) post in so far. Go me. There are nine games left (we're down to single digits? how did that happen?), and since you probably know most of our future opponents by now, making some guesses as opposed to strict analysis and predictions seems like more fun. What do I want to see in these last few games before the playoffs?
  • My first wish, for a goaltending shakeup, has already been granted as expected. I'm glad to see Martin playing both goalies because the team can't afford to have only one tired Jaro against powerhouses like Miller (this is where I stop typing to shake my fist) and Brodeur. And the playoffs are coming up, so suit up, Big Haircut!
  • A really exciting breakaway goal. Please please?
  • I want Dominic Moore to kick his old team's ass. (That's what you say in these situations, right?)
  • I want to see some wins in regulation time. It's way too late in the season for these guys to play more minutes than they need to.
  • I hope that there are no more injuries or scares, and that Cammalleri and Bergeron are completely, totally, 100% ready to be on the ice again.
  • Have we finally reached the "Don't Stop Believin'" part of the season? It's been a while since we've heard some Journey, and maybe, maybe, if someone at NBC is feeling very generous and not afraid of Fox, they could have the cast of Glee pop up in, say, Detroit and give us a live performance.
  • I could get used to this Monday-Wednesday game schedule for the playoffs, leaving Tuesdays free for the final episodes of Lost. No one had said that last night's would be as incredible as it was, so there'll be a whole lot more to look forward to in the next few weeks!
Oh, and I hope to be proud of my hometown team come the playoffs (but it's extremely likely that that'll be the case no matter what happens).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Plus/Minus apologizes for a weak week in blogging

Last week's Plus/Minus was overdue and below par, and then we didn't write as much as we usually do in a week, and this week's is also a couple of days late, so you probably hate HIHW right now, but HIHW still loves you. See? I'm making this Plus/Minus all fancy and up to standard.


+ To our Hamilton Bulldogs for clinching their division title! Take THAT, other AHL teams!
+ To this guy...
because for some reason this made me laugh really, really hard. Congratulations, Hunter Bishop's cousin! Welcome to the fam.
+ Six wins in a row. Plus an OT loss that gave us one point, so six and a half wins in a row. Go Habs Go!
+ Plekanec's injury didn't seem to be that serious! For once in our lives!
+ To the Habs fan in Toronto who attended Saturday's game wearing a Kostopoulos jersey.

I hate you right now, Regis... what? It's Regin with an N? Whoops...

- Let's be honest, it would have been nice to beat the Leafs. And the Sens.
- Bob Hartley gets the quote of the week: "Une game de hockey c'est comme la vie. Tu sais que ca va être un party mais faut que tu decides quand." (For you people not working in francophone offices, that roughly translates to "hockey is like life, you know it'll be a party but you gotta decide when.") If he never gets another coaching job and tires of being on RDS, he could always try his hand at writing American Pie movies.
- I gave myself a standing obligation to give Alain Crete a minus every time he wears that terrible eyesore of a camel jacket. So here it is. At least he's wearing it less often.
- File this under "words I never expected to put in the same sentence": I'm really glad that Travis Moen didn't lose an eye.
- Ryan O'Byrne, as I've said before, is steadily improving, but in order to really be Fancy New O'Byrne he needs to spend less time in the penalty box.
- Paul Mara's gone. Stupid shoulder surgery.

There's nine games left in the season. Nine games for our Habs to kick a little more ass before the toughest part of the year. Let's get it together, fans, and lose our minds in preparation for the playoffs. I promise I'll try to be here along with you, as long as the Internet permits it.
Go Habs Go!

Friday, March 19, 2010

So... what did I miss?

Lucky for me, there was no game yesterday, because I'm currently enduring a blogger's worst nightmare.

The wrath of angry Ryan Miller fans? No. (I played nice while I was in the States.)
Stuck in an elevator with Réjean Tremblay? Oh dear god no. Let's hope that's avoidable.
Someone stealing my content? Um... maybe a little.

If it's none of the above, then it's clearly a lack of internet.

So until my wireless fixes itself, I'll be updating from my desk at lunch (as long as I'm still here) and trekking to my basement to use my slow, virus-ridden, battle-scarred desktop.

Things I missed this week:

  • A chance to watch my first full episode of Grey's Anatomy in over a year (what? I promised a friend I'd watch it with her, I swear), bumped by the two-hour midseason return of FlashForward. I haven't yet finished the first half of the season, so my apologies go out to whichever Fiennes brother is on that show. (I'm going to guess it's Joseph.)
  • Some Paul Mara news! Seriously, the last time I saw his name anywhere was in LA, outside the offices of this Paul Marra. He needs shoulder surgery, which will happen on Tuesday, so at least now we know for sure that he'll be out until next season. If the rest of the team don't compensate for his absence with awesome playoff beards, I'll be very disappointed.
  • Guy Carbonneau turned 50, and all the people who love the Habs this season and were bashing everything about last season recently changed their tune and now appreciate the good that came out of it.
  • In case you also missed it, in the same vein is a great article by Brian Wilde about Bob Gainey's contribution as GM.
  • On the "who's dis guy" front, the Habs signed free agent Hunter Bishop, who, apparently, exists. I didn't know teams were allowed to straight-up buy players after the trade deadline, but you learn something new every day. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to find out who this Hunter Bishop is, and whether he has a first name. Two-year contract, and he's is currently with the Bulldogs.
  • I just realized that "Hunter Bishop" and "Hamilton Bulldogs" have the same initials. Someone, quick, turn #HBFTW into a Twitter trending topic!
  • Conflicting reports about Mike Cammalleri's return, which will be soon but not immediately. Probably next week. Everyone seems to agree that he's close to form.
11 games left, busy stretch coming up for the Habs, and hopefully I'll have Internet sometime before the end of the season.

pretend there's a relevant photo of the Canadiens in this space, since I'm working with limited resources here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Domo arigato, Mr. Del Zotto

So just as last night's game was ending, I expressed my confusion at a Habs-Rangers game with so little fights. Then Sean Avery said something to Scotty Gomez and two hockey teams suddenly turned into one giant mound of padded humans. Avery was understandably upset, since in yesterday and Saturday combined he had a hat trick. (He'd probably like thinking of it that way, since he only had eight goals this whole season before the weekend started.) Gomez was understandably upset, because he probably accepted a trade to get away from Douchey McDouche. The Rangers as a team were probably upset after Del Zotto's puck fumble turned into Plekanec's empty-netted short-handed safety goal. (That's a lot of words for one breakaway. Now I understand why people say "shorties.")

I don't know why the Habs always play the Rangers around St-Patrick's Day, but after yesterday (they tend to win on Tuesdays against the Rangers, or just in general this season) I kind of hope it becomes a real yearly thing. The only thing that sucks is not being able to enjoy some crazy Irish punk concert after the game like those damn Bruins probably attend every year.

No Thursday game this week means the city's on its own. Figure it out, Habs fans. Get some rest, Habs players, there's 11 games until the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Original Six, Original Hunger: Game Preview 3-16-10

(Hmm. Taken by yours truly last week)

Concistency, certainly win streaks, are difficult to come by when you're these two teams. There's almost a giddiness you can attach to the feeling when you're in one, in addition to the obvious need to keep it going for the sake of post-season action. The Habs haven't lost since San Jose 5 games ago and the Rangers are in search of a third straight addition to the W column.

The Habs are instilling confidence in their fans in their push for the playoffs (it seems the more I try to be a cynic, the more it works in their favour, so there's a new approach. How about this sentence now:) However, Tomas Plekanec despite his practicing this morning remains doubtful for tonight's game.

Our starting goaltender for the evening, Jaroslav Halak, maintains one thing : “It’s a team game.” AKA no matter who is or isn't playing, let's have at it, shall we? It's brought us good things so far.

"I am a Ranger" sounds a bit too much like "Nous sommes Canadiens," I realized upon my visit to MSG
  • King Henrik Lundqvist is King against the Canadiens, apparently. Interesting fact pulled from Yahoo!Sports: "[he] went 6-1-0 with a 1.86 GAA and a shutout in his last seven home starts versus Montreal." Uh. Those are some numbers.

  • Sean Avery, wouldn't you know it, is +10 in 13 games against Montreal. When he's on the ice, you know stuff happens.

  • Marian Gaborik, Olli Jokinen, Vaclav Prospal (and all that jazz), you know, the petulent goal scorers that seem to wait for me to be watching a game before lighting up the lamp and celebrating in the most annoying fashion.

  • Brandon Dubinsky too, with his 8 points in 11 games against the Habs.

  • Another Brandon (Prust, you knew it was coming) is reaching all-time highs in ice time and not fighting so much. "So what?" you say. There's a reason Calgary's repatriated him every chance they got (and it wouldn't surprise me if they tried again after this season). In addition to his team toughness (and the Rangers already have a lot of that, I didn't mention Jody Shelley yet but there he is) he's got undervalued hockey smarts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Plus/Minus: about a team that's got more energy than I do

This Plus/Minus is a little bit late and a little bit low-fi, and you readers deserve much better than that, but LA happened, then Continental Airlines happened with their red-eye flights and insanely boring inflight movie that bored me nearly to the point of sleep (but not quite, unfortunately), then jetlag happened, then sleep-deprived 18-hour days including work and workouts happened, then daylight savings time happened, costing me more sleep, and now I'm quite sure I have a cold.
So be forewarned, there are no colours, and I haven't proofread. It's like improv! Unscripted! Like Twitter, only longer!
... Nope, there's no way to make it sound fun. Please don't hate me.

I had no choice but to yoink this from Habs I/O, as it's just the cutest thing ever aside from kittens

+ 6: Habs winning = happy Montreal.

+ to the gentleman who coined "KilimanJaro": my favourite pun right now.

+ to the Bell Centre DJ's sense of humour: playing the Tragically Hip's "Courage" as injured Tomas Plekanec made his way off the ice during the Tampa game... somehow, the lyrics "It couldn't come at a worse time" seemed to fit pretty well.

+ Andrei Markov, in general.

+ For the next week or so, I say we call #31 "Big Haircut." I'm so happy I could cry.

+ Kathryn Bigelow has finally proven, once and for all, that ladies can play with the big boys. And that's what this blog is about: reminding people that girls kick ass. (Also, hockey.) So suck it, James Cameron. (I'm putting a minus within this plus for Alec Baldwin, who I'm a huge fan of, but if he really for some reason felt the need to congratulate Kathryn Bigelow by smacking her ass, he could've at least waited until the telecast ended.)


- I usually hate people who whine after a player gets traded, but there aren't as many people lamenting Matt D'Agostini as there should be, so here's my two cents: I'm going to miss 36 because his trade (to the Blues, no less, one of the more forgettable teams in the league, no?) marks another step in the dissolution of a boys club that I happened to love. Dags, Kyle Chipchura, Greg Stewart, and Carey Price won the Calder Cup together and brought some much-needed rookie energy to the Habs last season and the year before. They were all good friends off the ice, and the fact that they're the same age as me made them seem relatable, I guess kind of like the way that francophones like seeing Habs that are quebecois pure laine. They were a little group that I could root for within my favourite team, and while I don't like it when teams are broken up into cliques that eventually lead to conflicts, it was kind of nice to have a little core of guys that I could relate to, that would've been at my elementary school if we were all born in the same city. But now that little group is gone, leaving only Carey. Don't get me wrong, both he and I love the players that are on the Habs' roster right now, but it's not quite the same as it used to be for me. (Not to mention that people complained about D'Agostini's productivity this season, somehow forgetting that he was gone for over a month and suffered a pretty serious concussion... everyone remembers that Andrei Kostitsyn wasn't so dynamite after his head injury last season, and everyone knows how he's doing now, a year later. So if D'Agostini happens to tear it up next season in St. Louis, I'll hate to say I told you so.)

- Did Maxim Lapierre really deserve a four-game suspension for his hit? It warranted punishment, definitely, but four games seems like an awful lot when compared to other nasty hits and their accompanying sanctions. Looking at you, Aaron Ward. And you, Mike Richards, who almost killed a dude (but I guess a lifetime of playing for the Flyers is punishment enough). Sure, Ovechkin got punished for a hit that turned out to be a lot more damaging than he meant to, but it's just further proof that

- To the wonderfully classy and intelligent gentlemen who showed up to the Oilers game in blackface and Afro wigs, with "Subbanator" written on their jerseys. Words cannot describe their stupidity, and I'm glad I'm not the only person who thinks they need to wear blackface a little more often so than passersby can throw eggs and other objects at them. (Props to Mike Boone for this gem: "Either bar those schmucks from the building or rename it the Jolson Centre.")

- What's with that suit jacket, Mike Cammalleri?

QMJHL playoffs underway: in which czechtacular attempts (and probably fails) to withhold bragging about her own team(s).

I would definitely have bored you with this subject earlier, but the playoffs is the time of year that piques the most interest among followers so I've tried to give myself more hope. Plus, I like to think my game previews are rather efficient in giving you the whole What You Need to Know with side bonus details sprinkled in over top. I will attempt, but by no means promise, to be equally brief here.

The format used in the Q is new to even me, but each division forms seeds and plays within itself before merging onto a single scene and playing much like the conferences in the NHL do. In other words:

West Telus: Rouyn (1) vs. Val D'Or (4) (hey, that'll be pretty simple in terms of voyage!) and Montreal (2) vs. Gatineau (3)
Telus Centre: Drummondville (1) vs. Lewiston (4) (don't ask me, I didn't decide Maine could be considered 'centre'.) and Victoriaville (2) vs. Shawinigan (3)
East Telus: Quebec (1) vs. Bathurst (5) (this one's a weird one. Bathurst got more points than Baie-Comeau, who is actually in the East Telus division whereas Bathurst is in the Atlantic. But the Atlantic has six teams whereas every other division only has four, and the two worst teams in the whole league are cut from the playoffs. Still with me? I hope so.) and Rimouski (2) vs. Chicoutimi (3)
Atlantic Division: Saint John (1) vs. PEI (4) and Moncton (2) vs. Cape Breton (3).

And thennnnnnnnnnn (in my best Chinese takeout from Dude Where's my Car? accent) whoever emerges from the first round as the top seed overall plays the last seed overall and so on. The lowest-ranking "favourite" is Montreal and the highest is Saint John. Thus, barring upsets, those two would face each other in the second round (and I would be forced to bring my notes and books to the Verdun Auditorium in studying for finals because there's no way I'd miss that).

So who should we be looking out for?

The aformentioned Sea Dogs took over the league this year with their 22 game winstreak earlier in the year enabling them to sit atop that first seed throne. They form a stable hybrid of youth and veterans, and boast two champions from Drummondville's squad last year in sniper Mike Hoffman, drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the fifth round last draft as a 19 year old, and goaltender Marco Cousineau, playoff MVP of 2008-09 and Anaheim Ducks prospect. Workhorse defensemen Yann Sauvé and Simon Després provide an influx of offense in addition to their future-NHLer poise/defensive mad skillz (I know, I sounded almost credible until that point) and European forwards Stanislav Galiev and Tomas Jurco each finished with strong numbers in their rookie campaigns.

The Moncton Wildcats made a flurry of moves to bolster their roster and inform the rest of the league they're serious in their bid to re-live the days of the Keith Yandles and the Martins Karsumses and even the Josh Tordjmans. (Excuse my nostalgia, but it's the first President's Cup run I followed in its entirety.) Goaltender Nicola Riopel, despite only having played about a third of the season, has come up with some solid wins between the pipes for the Wildcats, and Nicolas Deschamps, acquired from Chicoutimi, finished tied for first in the league in points (there is some debate he can snatch away the "tied" part and claim the Jean Beliveau trophy from Sean Couturier but I'll bite my tongue about that for now).

The Victoriaville Tigres are the darkhorse of this top-4 it seems, but have also had a very strong campaign under bench boss Yanick Jean. They threatened Drummondville for tops in the West Telus Division for a time and also made several statements with their acquisitions over the Christmas break. They will look to surprise everybody with their efficiency in both kinds of special teams and capacity to upset the big guns on every squad.

(I've waited as long as I possibly could before claiming bragging rights, so keep that in mind.) From worst to first to second isn't too shabby for a Voltigeurs' squad that last year had Yannick Riendeau, Dany Massé, and the aformentioned Mike Hoffman doing all their scoring. 17-year old Sean Couturier (might) have the scoring title in just his second campaign. The Phoenix/Bathurst native is on his way to turning lots more heads en route to what looks like a top-3 position in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Chris DiDomenico is back from the broken leg he suffered during the last playoffs and has fared very nicely since his return. Habs' prospect Gabriel Dumont has the goal-scoring title in the Q with 51, and teammate/future teammate Philippe Lefebrve didn't fare too badly himself with 26 goals and 29 assists. Meanwhile, in nets, once crucified by Canadian hockey fans for bringing back silver (oh, the horror), Jake Allen now boasts the lowest goals-against average in the QMJHL and the CHL at 2.20 and has convinced his teammates and surely the rest of the league that he will be the go-to guy in the bid to bring Drummondville another title. I have a myriad of other Jake-isms for you, including his almost-record shutout streak of 188 minutes and 47 seconds, but I suspect you get the idea.

*photo cred:, my Sea Dogs Newsletter that joyfully brightens up my inbox each Friday, and Journal L'Express Drummondville.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So we meet again: Game Preview 3-13-10

Because player-specific bullet points get redundant when you play teams more than 4 times a year, I'm cheaping out on you tonight and giving you a skinny:

Boston has played three games less than Montreal and are only two points away from tying them at 7th place, but have just learned the severity of Marc Savard's injury (he's out for the rest of the season). However, they have only brought one win out of the rest of the season's matchups between the two teams and you have to imagine that something's gotta give in that situation. Montreal barely squeaked out a W against Edmonton the other night and by no means want to make this as close (or as freaky-deaky) a game as that. Rask faces Halak in goal, Maxim Lapierre returns from suspension, Zdeno Chara is the NHL's version of Lurch, and insert other game fact here.

Oh right, and the "any excuse to show my German side" tag gets its use here:


(Making an "overuse of caffeine" tag, stat)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oil spill: Game Preview 3-11-10

Hmmm... today marks the first game that the Habs play against another Canadian team since the Olympics. This would probably be more interesting if they hadn't already kicked it with half of Team Canada over in San Jose. But anyway, here we are, facing the Oilers, aka the team whose name is a tongue-twister for anyone whose first language isn't English.


The Edmonton Oilers occupy the basement of the NHL, otherwise known as the perfect recipe for disaster if the Habs stick to their usual route of taking teams like them too lightly. Aside from the Canada connection, they're probably the first not-too-threatening team that Montreal has met since the Olympic break, so hopefully the Habs will keep their game faces on. One thing that worries me is that the Oilers have won their last two games against the Habs, even though, um... you know.

It's a slippery slope when someone named Rookie has to write about the Oilers:

  • Their head coach is Pat Quinn, a fact that I have known for longer than three minutes. I wonder if he'll get any attention from Habs fans.
  • The Oilers are down a few good men, which might give the rest of the team a chance to shine (like Montreal's better games a few months back) or it might be as detrimental as expected (like Montreal's not-better games a few months back). Sheldon Souray is still broken as a result of what would have been an awesome fight, the Bulin Wall needs reinforcements, and those are just two of the guys they've lost for the season.
  • Ethan Moreau (not a doctor) probably won't play, and the unlucky Patrick O'Sullivan is also doubtful, but they might be back by the end of Edmonton's four-game road trip.
  • Mike Comrie recently got engaged. I guess planning a wedding will help Hilary Duff pass the time.
  • Wait, they also have a Pouliot? Is that going to be confusing? I hope not.
  • One guy that I would have recognized on their roster, of all people, is prospect Ryan O'Marra, who played three games in November but got sent back down to the minors and hasn't been in an Oilers game since. Sucks to be me.
  • As far as prospects go, this will be Chris Minard's first game as an Oiler. He was just called up from the Springfield Falcons. Insert Simpsons joke here.
  • Tonight's goalie, Devan Dubnyk, has played 8 NHL games this season. One of them was a tie.

They probably wish they had cloned this guy

On the Habs side of things, the same skaters will be on the ice, no change in lineup, and Jaro's our boy tonight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where did the money go?

Every time an NHL player is suspended, he doesn't receive any pay for that duration of time. Now that the Habs are down one guy because of Maxim Lapierre's four-game suspension, I thought I'd go for another round of sleuthing and find out more about these fines.

Per the NHL, Lapierre's salary, like every other fined player, goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

What does this fund do, you ask? Well, I did some research, and found this message board thread to be most useful. Not all NHL players in history were as rich as some of the superstars we're watching right now, so retirement might be a little rough for them, especially if they live in the States and need any kind of medical care, so that's one pretty big thing that the Fund helps out with. Pretty useful, considering anyone who works as hard as a hockey player probably deserves to be looked out for.

Another mystery solved! (In case you didn't know already.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh now we're back again: Game Preview 3-9-10

Having completely missed the last two games due to a pressing need for a weekend vacation (also the fact that ESPN is not exactly one's RDS, now, is it) I'm feeling a little inadequate and at a loss of words to blog with right now. However:

The Canadiens had two big wins after their falling-apart episode on Thursday night, the most recent being a comeback shootout win against Anaheim on Sunday. That extra point shoved them back up into 7th spot in the East, and while tonight's opponent sits at 11th, all they need to catch up are four points, two of which they would love to get tonight.

Tomas Plekanec seems to be shaking things up again after a brief post-Olympic quiet spell (in which he said "nothing to see here folks, carry on" and snapped a shot past Jonas Hiller to cap the comeback). I'm just sitting here clutching my jersey waiting for an extension, which is apparently supposed to get done sometime "soon."

Not going to delve into the goalie situation, but the general feeling is the same: we shouldn't be worried about who's stopping what, just that the pucks stay on the right side of the red line. Now Tampa!

Bolts (not the animated movie about the dog, no)
  • Steven Stamkos is ridiculous and so is his point-streak (29 PTS/16GP).
  • Steve Downie is taking a more disciplined approach this season, so the tendency to depend on him as the wild child penalty-taker shouldn't be at play as much as it has been over the course of his career.
  • The "homeslices" that I shouldn't need to name at this point (26, 4) are also on their usual point-scoring tears and the fact that this is a Bell Centre game should only add to their motivation.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

And the winner is...: Game preview 07-3-2010

Hopefully the Habs did not get distracted by beautiful celebrities after their brilliant win in LA last night, because they'll have to travel a whopping half-hour to pay the Anaheim Ducks a visit on Oscar night. (Technically in California it'll be 5:00 PM, which is still daytime, but I won't split hairs about it. It'll be primetime in Montreal, so that's good enough.)

What will RDS say now?

Is the outcome of this game Up In The Air? Will the Ducks behave, as they sometimes do, like Basterds? Will the Habs play with the same kind of Crazy Heart they've had lately? Will Jacques Martin dress like A Serious Man?

By the way, yes, puns is what happens when Rookie previews a game, especially around Oscar time. I should've warned you.

  • On the Habs side of things, I'm a little worried that fatigue might set in, especially for the players who had major ice time yesterday
  • The Ducks in general might be quite hungry, and angry and violent, after losing two out of their last three games, including a shutout in Phoenix.
  • Jonas Hiller was great at the Olympics, and Ducks management clearly had enough faith in his abilities to trade Giguère away, so maybe we should be worried about that or something.
  • If you put a jersey on an Oscar statue, it kind of looks like Team Canada forward Ryan Getzlaf, who has as many points as Tomas Plekanec. (But clearly our Pleks wins, with a better haircut and extra turtleneck points.)
  • Hello, Mr. Chips: Part one of the former Habs revue is going to be about Kyle Chipchura, who as far as I can tell has been playing more in Anaheim than he was in Montreal. Whether he got more ice time because he got better, or if he got better as a result of the bigger ice time he needed, isn't a question that I can answer. But at least he's probably got less haters.
  • Oh captain, my captain: If I was home the picture on this post would have been of my old Saku Koivu T-shirt. It's the first Habs shirt I ever owned, purchased right before the first hockey game I ever went to, and the screen printing is cracked and the cotton shrank to the point that my wearing it would just look funny, but there's no way I'd get rid of it. I'd have worn it if I was going to the game, despite my confusion at all the people this season who busted out their Kovalev jerseys for Sens games. Since he hasn't been replaced, I still kind of consider him my captain and I miss him a little.
I've got an Oscar party, which prevents me from going to the game (shame, because I've got a friend who I just found out recently moved to Orange County) but I wish I could be there.

Dethroned: A game review

Pictures to be posted soon!
So, tonight was my first away game, and I think I know how to pick 'em.

(By the way, I really thought I had hit "publish post" on a game preview I wrote this morning, but alas I did not. Smartphones with data plans accepted so that these horrible oversights never occur again.)

How could I go to Los Angeles and be in town the same weekend as the Habs and NOT get tickets to watch them at Staples Center? I would have probably wanted to see a hockey game anyway, but somehow I was slightly less compelled to watch the Kings or the Ducks take on the Colorado Avalanche. Sure, I don't really get to see much of the Avs, and maybe Matt Duchene's rookie season will be something to talk about for a few years to come, but I couldn't settle for Colorado when Nos Glorieux were coming to town. (Sorry, Avs-loving friends.)

I was especially looking forward to seeing the Kings' gold medallist Drew Doughty and star player Anze Kopitar, who is beloved by one of my friends (who also loves Ovechkin and Avery, so I'm never too sure about trusting him). They didn't disappoint. I'd be happy to have them as Habs... which is not to say that I'm unhappy with our current roster, because obviously there was a lot to be happy about tonight.

Brian Gionta's surprise goal 22 seconds into the game brought Habs fans to their feet. (There were quite a few of us.) I'm guessing that he was what caused most of the Staples Center to be eerily silent for most of the first period. It was the quietest hockey game I'd ever been to, with the exception of this one douchebag who booed the Habs but didn't cheer the Kings at all. Benoit Pouliot deserved to be first star of the game.
This is what the game's three stars look like in Los Angeles... if I had access to Photoshop I'd have put a little puck or something in place of the film camera.

Jaro Halak played a smart game, knowing exactly what he had to do and where he had to be. Scott Gomez was extremely visible during his significant ice time (which pleased the adorable little girl I saw with "Go Habs" rubbed off one cheek but a very clear "#91" still painted on her other cheek). Travis Moen was the Canadien with the most shots on goal. I'd especially like to single out Ryan O'Byrne, who played a great game. Maybe I said too much about him at the beginning of the season, when he was still being criticized for his less-than-stellar turn last year, and maybe I noticed more than other people did tonight since I was on his side of the ice for the first and third periods (EIGHTH ROW, right behind the press photographers, oh yes that's right) but he was fantastic. He used his size and played aggressively. He delivered some really big hits.

As for what it's like to be a Habs fan outside the Bell Centre... um... let's just say I appreciate my fellow fans a little bit more than I used to. Because the Habs fans around me were pretty great, and some of the Kings fans... weren't so great. I already mentioned the douchebag a few rows behind me whose support of the Kings consisted of wearing an LA jersey and booing the Habs. Some of the Americans were also sore losers, apparently dissatisfied with Team USA making it to the gold-medal game. They booed their own defenceman because he played for Team Canada. I might hate it when Habs fans boo a former Canadien, or a self-goal, but booing Doughty was ridiculous. The contests didn't really get the audience involved - I guess I'd take the Kiss Cam or the Make Some Noise contest over seeing someone be handed a prize on the Jumbotron or watching the ice girls. If I wasn't before, I'm now most definitely certain that there's no place for ice girls in this sport.

There are more LA Kings fans than I expected, but as usual, like any unhappy fans, they left two minutes before the game ended because their team lost. I guess it's not as big of a deal if your 100-level tickets cost one-third of what they'd cost at the Bell Centre. As for the Habs fans? The post-win hoopla was a little more subdued on the ice and in the arena, so maybe it's not quite as fun as cheering on a winning home team, but there was just enough chanting and celebrating outside the game to make a Habs fan feel at home in the City of Angels, without making the Kings fans too sore.

All in all, it was a great game to be at. It's just a shame that everything goes by that much more quickly when you're close to the action, and I don't know when I'll get to see the NHL from the eighth row again. Even if I don't, I'm good for a while.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

City Of Angels...

... was apparently a terrible movie, but I only sorta liked Wings of Desire so I'll pass on the modestly reviewed remake. That was kind of a clumsy way to start a post about Los Angeles.

The LA Kings site coined "Hockeywood," which is cute

Last season I had this crazy theory that whenever I was out of town during a Habs game, the team lost.
- The season started well enough until the Anaheim Ducks came to town while I was up north for the weekend, and my friends and I heard bits of the game on the radio, and found out that our team ultimately lost.
- Everyone remembers the unfortunate post-All Star skid. I listened to a slightly dejected Carey Price being interviewed on the way to the airport a week after the All Star Game, managed to see a few scores on ESPN during a week in the sun (or the coldest February that Cuba has ever seen), then came home to find out that the Habs hadn't won a single game the entire time I was away, and that a few players had been felled by injuries.
- I went to Ontario for a long weekend a few weeks after that, and found out via Czechtacular that the Canadiens lost their Thursday night game in OT. That Saturday's game was Martin Brodeur's famous "I kick you, Patrick Roy" record-breaker win, so obviously the Habs lost. Ironically, I was at a Hamilton Bulldogs game while that happened, and they beat Manitoba in a thrilling 5-1 win, with the Moose's only goal scored by '93 Cup winner Mike Keane.

By that point I was starting to be thankful that I didn't have the kind of job that required any sort of business travel.
It also took a while but I realized that last season wasn't indicative of the best the Canadiens have ever played, so it's more than possible that these were just unfortunate coincidences.

Still, it's for this reason that I was slightly worried about planning a trip to Los Angeles that would end after the Olympic break was over (it's a bit disheartening to come home and find out your team lost five minutes out of baggage claim). So far, though, les boys have been doing alright. Just to be sure, though, I made sure to stay in California this weekend. It's the Habs and the Oscars, after all. I'll be at Staples Center tomorrow to try and reverse the curse. I mean, if I'm not in Montreal but I'm close to the Canadiens, it's good juju, right? It has to be.

The Staples Center only allows posters and signs smaller than 11x17", which sort of ruins my plan for bringing a huge poster to my first away game in hopes of getting some RDS face time. They don't allow any signs on sticks either, so taking a page out of the Team Canada fanbook and printing up a giant Andrei Markov head is a no-go.
Still, poster suggestions are welcome if I can get my hands on cardboard and markers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blood in the water: Game Preview 3-4-10

It's no secret that the Sharks have been true to to their name this season. Well. Pretty close to it, anyway. Sitting at 89 points in 63 games, they reign over the sea of the Western Conference with only the Chicago Blackhawks in their way of top seed (same amount of points, but Chicago has two more wins). Not to mention they have about half of Team Canada's gold-medal winning roster in their ranks. The Canadiens, in addition to their usual western roadtrip habits, have not been able to win at the hp pavilion this decade (may I just take this opportunity to point out that a 21 year old Marco Sturm was in that November 23rd, 1999 game).

I had to.

However, both teams are 5-4-1 in their last ten games and there are no wild cards at play since neither team made changes (aside from Matt D'Agostini's departure, good luck, Dags) at yesterday's trade deadline. If there was a time for our beloved Tricolore to pull out a surprise win, tonight's matchup would be it.

The two teams last met a year ago, and Jaroslav Halak stood on his head as the Canadiens took the Bell Centre meeting 3-2. No word on a starting goaltender as of yet, but indicators might point to Carey Price making a second straight appearance as he wasn't too shabby in the 4-1 win against Boston on Tuesday and Halak is still recovering from his Olympics.

Bigger leads are better against the Sharks, as they nearly pulled out a win (or at least a point) against New Jersey after being down 4-0, a.k.a. defensive hockey won't cut it here tonight.

Some Jaws-related pun that I can't think of at the moment
  • Ottawa native Dan Boyle is a sneaky little playmaking defenseman, responsible for 12 points, mostly assists (but you know he can score), against the Canadiens over the course of his career.
  • Russian backstop Evgeni Nabokov is looking to rebound from the last two weeks he spent in Vancouver. Sharks' coach Todd McLellan was recently quoted as saying the team's confidence in their goaltender hasn't faltered, and you can bet he'll be ready to prove them right.
  • Devin Setoguchi manned the near-comeback against New Jersey with two goals.
  • In the "predicting who will score for Team Canada" mission I inadvertently gave myself, Dany Heatley was always the one who kept me from being right 100% of the time (I had a ridiculous accuracy rate going for the round robin).
  • Of course there's also Jumbo Joe Thornton, but don't forget little Joe Pavelski either.
  • At this rate, there should probably be a bullet point for the entire team.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And we're back! Game Preview 3-2-10

This is the situation I will hereby refer to as The Clump: the ugly, unwanted stress that comes with six teams jostling for three spots in the playoffs. The Canadiens currently have 64 points, and tonight's opposition, 65. Boston has a handful of Olympic returnees, as do the Habs.

Tonight's matchup question: which team has the bigger Olympic hangover?

As mentioned on the Team 990 this morning, a major issue for the Habs is the fact that they will seemingly never have games in hand from here on out, and any losing streak will mark their playoff chances pretty negatively. Basically, this is a less-than-agreeable time for a roadtrip, much less one to California after this game. Los Angeles is no longer a freebie with their remarkable season, and despite Anaheim's struggles, they have quite a bit of fight left in them. San Jose, uh, well. No need to elaborate. Yet the Habs seem to play better against teams with better positions in the standings, so they have the power to surprise as well.

Bruins and stuff
  • David Krejci's wakeup call has been the Olympics, where he played brilliantly before the Czechs' elimination. He should be en route to continue that pace, barring a complete meltdown.

  • Mark Recchi seems to be Mr. Clutch for the Bruins as of late, and there's the ex-Hab factor in here as well.

  • Marc Savard. Usual pain-in-the-butt scoring qualities that I may have eluded to previously.

  • Marco Sturm was the thorn in the Habs' side the last time the two teams faced off.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A truly golden Plus/Minus

The training camp rosters that entertained us this summer, the team announcements that kept us talking during the holidays, the pre-Olympic predictions... all is said and done and Canada's gold medals have been handed out, to both our hockey teams and a slew of other very hardworking, deserving athletes.

+ an awesome Salt Lake City rematch for Canada and USA's hockey teams at the gold-medal games. And again, Canada came through. (Ironically, I watched from Montreal when they won gold in Salt Lake, and I'm in the States this week to see them win in Vancouver.) I had my doubts about our men's team, but clearly I had nothing to worry about because they took care of business. And the rest of the world can say what they want about our women's team, but they're 3 for 3. I'm proud of our golden girls. I think everyone knows whose game this is.
+ Speaking of golden girls, how about our Wednesday medals in bobsleigh and speed skating? One day, four medals, nine amazing women. I couldn't be happier for Clara Hughes.
+ To setting a new gold-medal record for the Olympic Winter Games.
+ To all of the fantastic athletes who represented Canada (and the other participating countries) and gave all they could for their countries.
+ To Alexandre Bilodeau and Jenn Heil who followed the example of Clara Hughes in previous years and made significant donations to charity: $25,000 each! That's more than the grant that they received with their medals.
+ Now I'm very, very glad that CTV acquired the rights to the Hockey Night In Canada theme. The closing ceremonies' hockey segment was so cute! (And yes, a little bit off-putting with the jazz hands.)

- to the west coast NBC affiliates who cut off the end of the closing ceremonies to premiere new reality series The Marriage Ref. Seriously? I'd rather see a performance by Nickelback and their tacky airbrushed guitar. I guess Americans will get enough of the Olympics after their already-famous medallists show up on Jay Leno.
- to the speed skater who skated over a cone (presumably not by accident) and pulled a hissy fit when he found out he'd been disqualified.
- How can there be scandal surrounding women's hockey? Instead of whining about whoever they want or threatening to cancel the event because every gold medal game comes down to Canada-USA, why doesn't the IOC do something about it?
- ETA: One reason why I'm glad the Olympics are over (other than the President's Choice Blue Menu commercials) is because of something I don't really hear from NHL commentators but that I heard an awful lot during the last two weeks was said after a player missed a shot on goal: "he didn't pull the trigger on that one." I know it's called "shooting" the puck, but taking the terminology any further is a bit disturbing and honestly quite unnecessary.

This week, we go back to normal. All there is to anticipate is the impending trade deadline (GMs have wasted no time so far) and the playoffs (which is still a big thing, I'm aware, don't worry). Countrymen will again be separated and teammates will be reunited, and superfan Mr. Canada will have to put away his posters until late spring. As for the Olympics, well, you've got four years to learn Russian and two years until settling for swimming and track.

My name is Rookie, and I'm a Canadian.