Tuesday, March 31, 2009


photo taken from AP photo / The Canadian Press

Bob Gainey woke up this morning and made the odd but albeit sound decision not to let the Habs players play in the vintage barber pole jerseys… You know, the ones when last worn, resulted in a bad loss to Boston and two injuries all in the same night? Don’t remember? Then try this. The last jersey Robert Lang wore before his season-ending injury? Still no? Then how ‘bout this. The really ugly ones? Ya those.

Well obviously we can count on the players being happy he made this change… anyone who is the slightest bit superstitious (and a lot of people think hockey players are) wouldn’t want one of those on their backs. First of all, how do we know Latendresse and Lang’s injuries weren’t caused by Boston players who were so nauseous from the spinning multicoloured stripes that they just banged into them, without intending to, and that those almost hallucinatory episodes were the actual causes their injuries? We’ll never know but why risk it a second time ‘round.

Plus, who could stomach wearing one of those awful striped pajama-looking sweaters in general (though I believe Kovalev admitted he liked it when he modelled it a couple of months back)? On him, if I remember correctly, it actually wasn’t bad… but on the ice it looked like there were 5 red, blue and white bees swarming around the puck. Enough to give you a bad headache. Or worse.

So they are instead wearing the ones they wore against the Leafs Saturday night. Not much better luck-wise, but at least they’re a bit more visually pleasing (though my one complaint is that the numbers on their backs don’t stand out enough). Let’s hope the second time’s a charm and that we can somehow come alive against Chicago. Worse comes to worse, if things aren’t going well after the second, we can pull our favourite eye-sores out of the closet and take ‘em for a spin around the rink, until some Chicago player yells “my eyes, my eyes!!”, while we all nod in agreement at home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


It tends to be hard to be inspired enough to write about a hockey club that is doing so poorly. When a team who had been steadily working from October to December, dives into a tailspin, one which spans almost 3 months, it’s a little bit hard to digest. I keep thinking, maybe a bit naively, that one day they will just come out of it, and resume their hardworking philosophy that seems to have been long forgotten. We all thought this would happen at the beginning of March, when Carey Price finally seemed to have found his game again, and Jaroslav Halak was winning games despite facing inflated amounts of shots every night. The team was starting to follow. But then came that game in Dallas, and shortly after Carbo was gone. And the truth is, it was a mistake to fire Guy Carbonneau.

Last night after our horrendous showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who usually bring out all of our emotion, even in the worst of times, Bob Gainey said that the team does have momentum, but it’s in the wrong direction. So what does this have to do with Carbonneau, you are probably wondering? When Carbonneau left, the team was finally winning. The goalies were great, and slowly the team was starting to follow. But as we all know, the firing of a coach usually results in a momentum swing, this time in the wrong direction. What message does it send to the players if a coach is fired when the team is finally starting to find its feet again? We know that not all of the players agreed with Carbonneau’s style of coaching, and I could get into the whole communication debate, but I’d rather not. Was Carbonneau the right coach to bring this team back around? We’ll never know, but my point is not that he shouldn’t have been fired, it’s that he shouldn’t have been fired when he was. We had been in a slump for weeks before he was fired. Why did Gainey wait until the team was turning around to fire his friend? He should have done it earlier, or not at all.

It’s too late to do anything about that now, but something has to be done to jumpstart this team. We’re running out of time. There are 10 games left, 3 weeks, and if Florida didn’t lose last night, we’d be sitting in 9th, 1 point out of the playoffs. Some players care. You can tell by the way they speak about hockey in general, by their body language on the ice, and by the way they analyze their teammates. Case in point: Guillaume Latendresse. After the game last night, he was on the post-game show on RDS. Although the media obsession with him has always driven me crazy, I never realized how smart and perceptive he was. Yes, he talked about a lack of confidence, and that when the other team scores, the whole team deflates. He spoke about his good friend Max Lapierre, who is playing his heart out. He talked about many things we already knew, but he was so insightful (although he really seemed at a loss when trying to explain why some players are playing like they care, and others aren’t). The point is: we can’t say they don’t care.

We have been talking about the horrible defence for months on end it seems, but it’s not getting better. Markov is definitely the team MVP. Without him, we would probably be at the bottom of the standings by now. Hamrlik is great one-on-one, but isn’t as good as he was last year. Gorges plays his heart out, but makes a few mistakes here and there. All Komisarek does is make mistakes. Schneider was great the first couple of games when he got here, but something happened and now he really isn’t playing to his potential. O’Byrne has been alright, but was pretty awful last night. Breezer has his moments, but they are usually followed by defensive errors. This brings up the question: Why isn’t Dandenault out there? We can only hope that Gainey at least gives him a chance, because honestly, what can it hurt?

Our offense is lacking just as much, as it seems that only Plekanec, Lapierre and Latendresse are capable of scoring. A lot of goals are determined by timing, but it seems that as a team, we are just off lately. We can’t complete passes, we don’t know where the other players are on the ice, we are moving too slowly at times and too fast at others. All this adds up to a team who just isn’t a contender.

It is something that at this point is no longer about technique, it’s all mental. We have all the skills, (just watch Kovy’s DVD). We have the talent. We know we are able to have the drive… but where is it? It’s in players like Kostopoulos, Lapierre, Latendresse, Higgins, Markov, Plekanec (excluding last night’s game) and Pacioretty. They want to win, and are working for it. I don’t think that the rest of the team doesn’t care. I think it’s just that they are discouraged. Gainey told the media he wanted 3 points this past week. The team got 1. When you don’t achieve goals, it discourages you even more. He needs to tell them to forget about the rest of the season; that they need to imagine that they are starting fresh and have a new 10-game season starting now. 6 games at home, 4 away. Only 4 of those teams are in the playoffs as of now. For most teams, that would be a good thing. For the Canadiens, it’s hard to say. When you beat teams like Detroit and San Jose, and then lose to the Islanders and Atlanta, can you really say it will be beneficial to play the latter teams?

Only time will tell. But if the Canadiens don’t stop coasting, they can forget about the playoffs. In their centennial season. What a nightmare.

That’s not to say they can’t do it. For all we know they could win the next 10 games and be primed for playoff hockey. But a change needs to happen, and since Sergei Kostitsyn was just called up from the AHL, we can only hope he brings along with him the same hope and drive he did last year at this time. Because without a little hope, there’s not much anyone can do to help.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poker Face

I was thinking today about how many questions I had and have heard about the Habs and what their future holds, so I figured I’d take note of a couple and leave them all open for speculation and discussion. We may be an inconsistent team, one that doesn’t always work to its potential, but we really have wonderful players, most, if not all, of whom are really happy to be in Montreal, and who really have a lot of heart. So keeping that in mind, keep it positive!

Why was Jaro Halak not smiling when he was awarded the Molson Cup this month? And will he ever get a chance to prove himself, or is he destined to become another Scott Clemmensen, playing a couple of games a year while another star goalie gets all the ice time and credit?

Where did Carey Price’s mind go for the past 6 weeks and whose was playing in his absence?

What happened to Maxim Lapierre when Guillaume Latendresse left?

Did Bob Gainey make the right decision to fire Guy Carbonneau?

Will Gainey borrow one of Carbo’s many lucky ties for the playoffs?

Will Don Lever ever spend an entire game behind the bench?

Is Kirk Muller really feeling like Carbo’s spy as certain media members have been suggesting?

Will the next coach be bilingual? Does anyone but the media care?

When will the fact that Saku Koivu won’t speak French in interviews finally be let go?

What happened to Mr. #2 in the league in hits and blocked shots, All-Star defenseman Mike Komisarek?

When are the media going to realise that when they make fun of other teams (like the Islanders last night) for having a defenseman as their lead point-getter, that they are just making themselves look like idiots, since Andrei Markov, DEFENSEMAN, is in fact the Canadiens’ lead point-getter?

When will Andrei Kostitsyn come out of the clouds long enough to stay focused for an entire game?

What was it about a suspension and a forced break that made Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev turn back into their 2007-2008 selves and where can everyone else get some?

Will Brisebois ever play his 1000th game, or is he doomed to stay at 999?

How do some members of the French media believe that they are credible when suggesting that Guillaume Latendresse will be able to amass a point per game, after getting less than 30 points in each of his previous seasons?

Was it the right decision to take Chris Higgins’ “A” and give it to Mike Komisarek?

Did Dandenault ever really want to leave Montreal? (He seems to be all smiles now!)

How odd is it that the first two players RDS interviewed after Carbo was fired were Maxim Lapierre and Steve Begin? Am I missing something or do they not realise Steve now plays for the Stars?

How wonderful is it that Gregory Stewart actually stands up for his teammates?

That being the case, has Georges Laraque been replaced? And why why why did Gainey give him a no-trade clause?

Does Tom Kostopoulos ever stop working?

Are Max Pacioretty and Matt D’Agostini here to stay?

Why does Glen Metropolit remind me of Michael Ryder? (Had to throw a personal one in there!)

How did Mathieu Schneider’s presence ignite our powerplay, even without his being on the ice?

How did Sergei Kostitsyn single-handedly force his own return to Hamilton?

How did Ryan O’Byrne feel playing the Islanders last night, after tying up the game for them at our last meeting (scoring now-Penguin Bill Guerin’s easiest goal of his career)?

How is Hamrlik so good one-on-one yet having such a tough time with everything else?

Will there ever be anything negative to say about Josh Gorges?

How has Alex Tanguay, a French-Canadian from Quebec, been able to fly under the media radar so far?

Will Bouillon return this season?

Will Lang return the next?

Will any of the UFA 10 be back? What about the RFAs?

Or will we be stuck making a line with the only forwards we have signed now: Laraque-Lapierre-A. Kostitsyn (with Pacioretty and Sergei Kostitsyn looking on from the press box)?

Will Kovalev lead us into the playoffs?

Will we even make the playoffs?

Will this year be known as the overrated centennial season or the season the Habs stepped it up at the end to prove they deserve to be a contender even after a hundred years?

Will Montreal ever see another Stanley Cup? Will Captain K?

There’s no use making this longer than it already is, but I think there is one more question valid enough to ask, one that tops all the others:

Will the Canadiens be able to come together as a team and prove themselves, like so many Canadiens’ teams have for the past 100 years, or will they settle for something less?

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So we’re playing Buffalo, the Jaroslav on the other team scores, making it 3-0, and all of the sudden everyone’s really missing our Jaro, who is out with the flu.

The burning question in everyone’s mind is what happened to Carey Price? How did he go from being the most loved 21-year-old in Montreal (though Guillaume Latendresse was giving him a run for his money, at least in the French media) to playing the worst hockey probably of his career?

Being a psych major, I have been thinking about this a lot. Is it his age? Is it a motivation problem? Confidence? Lack of practice (or the right kind of practice)? Not knowing how to deal in stressful situations?

I think it’s actually all of the above, though some points stick out more than others. Here’s my breakdown of the situation:

1) Carey is one of the youngest goalies we’ve had in a while. Huet and Theodore (in the last few years anyway) were older and had more experience. Don’t get me wrong, age isn’t everything. Price is pretty mature and has always showed how calm and collected he is, but right now something isn’t clicking in that department. When I would watch a game that he was playing in at the beginning of this year, it seemed as though he exuded a sort of “calmness” over the entire team as well as myself. How many goalies can do that? Not many. But now, that’s gone… and with it the team’s confidence in their goalie.

2) He doesn’t seem motivated. I think he really cares about what happens, and that he wants to play, but his lack of confidence is affecting this. Jaro is playing well, and seemingly taking his job out from under him, and normally this should cause him to elevate his game, but that’s just not happening. Something is missing there.

3) His confidence is just completely gone. He seems shaky and nervous about a lot, which he never did before. They showed him before the game, in the dressing room, and normally the guys are smiling or just sitting calmly, but he looked so nervous and stressed that it made you wonder if Halak was the only sick one on the team.

4) His practicing techniques have been an issue of late, because it seems when he gets nervous, which has been a lot lately, he goes down onto his knees too early, and people have been saying he should work on this more. He needs to somehow find a way to realize that he shouldn’t go down too early without making him think about it too much. Maybe some mental image or focusing on someone… But I don’t think he has a problem with technique or skill. He works hard, and that’s the most important part. He also needs to realise he had skill and technique before he started playing like this and that obviously didn’t just disappear overnight.

5) He had a good way of dealing with stressful situations before… or rather it came naturally to him, since his personality allowed for it. But now that something has changed, he needs to find a way to adapt, and someone, either Rollie Melanson, one of the other coaches, or maybe a sport psychologist, should be helping him with this. Self-talk (what he should be thinking in these situations) is important, and if he doesn’t know how to do this properly, it can really affect his game in the long run.

So there you have it. Price has a lot to work on, and I think the Canadiens’ management knows this, and I think that they are responsible for some of it. They need to help him get out of this funk. I had said that he had to come back to a winning team, and now that he has and is still not playing his best, I think I need to rephrase what I had initially said: He needs to come back to a team who is winning because they are playing well.

In the past 4 games, Jaro stole the show. To be honest, I don’t even know how much better the team has been playing compared to when they were in their slump except for the fact that Plekanec and Kovalev woke up, our power play has started to click, and that we finally have solid goaltending. Our defence is still pretty shoddy, and though our forwards are working hard, they aren’t producing as much as they can. We can be a better team than the one that has been playing, but it’s so rare that everyone is “on” at the same time.

Carey needs to get back on the horse and realise that he’s got what it takes. People believe in him for a reason. He just has to learn not to give up on himself.

P.S. A little off topic but: Why Luc Gelinas, during the intermission, wished Derek Roy luck for a hat trick, is beyond me… That’s just asking for trouble!