Dennis Kane’s Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

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NHL Powers-That-Be Are Not Rocket Scientists May 23, 2008

That sound you hear is the sound of hockey fans all over the world losing interest in the 2007-2008 NHL season.

NHL brainiacs are probably quite intelligent people in many things in their lives. Some might be able to rebuild car engines, others might do complex math equations, while others might be able to fix broken plumbing.

But when it comes to running the show, these same people are really stupid.

It came first when the NHL season was stretched to 82 games. Because already, we know the playoffs are going to go into late spring, early summer.

But now we’ve been waiting since Monday for the first game of the Stanley Cup finals to begin on Saturday. Almost a week later.

Don’t these people understand that with summer comes outdoors stuff? There’s barbeques, beaches, camping, lawn cutting, sitting outside, baseball, campfires, gardens to attend to, things to build, things to fix outdoors, going for walks, sleeping on the hammock.

Hockey goes on the backburner very quickly.

So it’s up to these people to hold our interest because it’s in their best interests. If no one’s watching, then advertisers won’t advertise. Seats won’t get bought. Merchandise won’t be sold. Fans just might go away and stay away.

All because these people, Gary Bettman, Colin Campbell, NHL General Managers and owners, are really stupid.

If they are really forced to stretch this out, then come up with a plan B. Just don’t go away and expect us to stick around. This week, there could have been classic playoff games to watch on regular cable TV. There could’ve been documentaries on the Stanley Cup, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. We could’ve learned more about Evgeny Malkin, Henrik Zetterburg, and Pavel Datsyuk.

They could’ve force-fed us hockey on different levels and forced us to stay interested.

There should’ve been a big build up all week to the final showcase. But nothing. Zero. Except for the usual TSN, Sportsnet spewing.

How can they not realize they’re losing viewers by playing right into summer with big gaps in between? Can they be that stupid? 

It’s fine and dandy for hard-core Detroit and Pittsburgh fans to gear up for the final. But two cities does not make a league, or television ratings.

Surely at some point, these people should clue in. Shouldn’t they?

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Pittsburgh and Detroit Go For The Cup. This Is Good, I Suppose. May 19, 2008

Two real good teams are going to tangle for the Stanley Cup. I’ve got no complaints about this. It’s not like it’s the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricane, or Tampa Bay Lightening. Or even, dare I say, the Anaheim Ducks.

No, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are a solid matchup and two good hockey towns to boot. Pittsburgh had an NHL team in 1925, the Pirates, which lasted until 1930, and the city’s had the Penguins since league expansion in 1967.

Detroit’s been in the league since 1926 when they took over the Victoria BC franchise. The city and team like to call itself Hockeytown, which is a little off. If Detroit’s Hockeytown, then Montreal and Toronto must be Hockeycities.

And if the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit doesn’t start getting more fans in the seats, the nickname might have to be changed to ‘Used to Be Hockeytown.’

This leads me to my second complaint. It’s fine that Gordie Howe is called Mr. Hockey, but isn’t that for others to label the man? My personal opinion is, he shouldn’t be signing autographs as “Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey.” Doesn’t that make him just a little bit full of himself?

Gordie Howe is considered by not all, but many, as the greatest ever. Greater than Gretzky, Orr, Richard, and Lemieux. It’s a judgement call. Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall told me Howe was the best there was.

He doesn’t need to blow his own horn. Let others do that for him. Let others call him Mr. Hockey.

And I say this with the utmost respect for Mr. Howe.

Am I wrong for thinking this? I’m pretty sure Mario never signed as Mario “The Magnificent One” Lemieux, or Orr as Bobby “The World’s Greatest Defenceman” Orr, or Maurice “Hero of a Province” Richard.

This year’s final is a sexy affair because of so many stars involved. Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Staal, Malone, Zetterburg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Lidstrom, Draper. And the guy who played on the original 1926 Wings, Chris Chelios.

It’ll be good. I may even watch some of it.

The thing begins Saturday in Detroit.

 

Psychedelic Pucks, Ilya Kovalchuk, And Gary Bettman’s Erotic Dreams May 18, 2008

Ilya kovalchuk scored in overtime against Canada to give Russia the gold medal in the World Championship.

Wasn’t Ilya Kovalchuk The Man From Uncle’s cool sidekick?

Remember when Kovalchuk, in the World Junior’s a few years back, skated in on a breakaway to Canada’s empty net and waved one arm as he went in?

I’ve always wondered why someone hasn’t smashed their stick across his face since then in payback for such a showboat move.

In other news:

Did you know that Versus TV is thinking about bringing back the tracking puck? Remember it? It was around for a season back in the 1980’s, or maybe it was the 1970’s, when NBC, or ABC, or CBS, decided that American fans couldn’t see the puck very well, so these pucks had a coloured flare on it on TV for these blind Americans.

It was horrible, distracting, and ridiculous. A survey at the time showed that Canadian hockey fans couldn’t figure out why any of this was necessary. The common consensus was that Canadian hockey fans had no problem at all seeing the puck, so why couldn’t Americans?

I read back then that when one of these pucks went into the stands, ushers went looking for them and made the fans give them back because they cost over $200 each.

People still make jokes about these tracking pucks. And now they might be coming back. Imagine.

In other news:

Pittsburgh has taken out the Philadelphia Flyers in a lopsided 6-0 game in a lopsided five-game series. Good riddance to the Flyers.  Flyer fan Frank the Tank says the Flyers are the most exciting team in hockey.

So all we need now is for Detroit to finish off Dallas so we can see Crosby and Malkin take on Datsyuk and Zetterburg.

Anyway, it’s summer, and I’ll watch if it doesn’t get in the way of me going to the beer store, or working, or cutting the lawn, or playing with the cat. I’m still recovering from the Habs.

Cripes, where are those damned Expos?

Pittsburgh and Detroit are exactly what Gary Bettman has dreamed about when his wife rolls over and goes to sleep.  Wouldn’t want a Canadian team in the final.

Heaven forbid. 

And the blog carries on.

 

Mike Ribeiro Two-Hands Detroit Goalie. Maybe He Was Using Sidney’s Stick. May 12, 2008

It’s an interesting study, this Mike Ribeiro.

Let’s first start in the here and now, and work our way backwards.

 

In game two against Detroit, Ribeiro, the Dallas Stars offensive threat, while skating past the Wings’ net, received a butt-end from Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. Ribeiro then turned around and gave Osgood a two-hander across the chest of Osgood. It was, for lack of better words, selfish and stupid on Ribeiro’s part.

 

Now let’s back up a little. Ribeiro was an underacheiving forward for the Montreal Canadiens, and was sent packing to the Dallas Stars for defenceman Janne Niiniman and 5th round draft pick, and he blossomed into a big point-getter and an important piece of the puzzle in Dallas.

 

Habs critics had a field day with this. Gainey was an idiot, they cried. How could he make such a bad decision to practically give Ribeiro away and now the guy’s a star in Dallas? What a mistake Gainey had made, they decided.

 

But Gainey traded him for a reason. There was talk that he was a person who helped separate the dressing room into cliques. He was a yapper on the ice who never backed up his tough talk.

And the instance that showed me he was no Montreal Canadien came when they did a close up of him one night in a game against Pittsburgh, and the the Habs were losing by a goal late in the game. And was Ribeiro all business and focused on the task of tying the game up? No. Instead, he skated over to Sidney Crosby and asked him if he could have one of his sticks.

 

To me, this is no Montreal Canadien. The Rocket and Doug Harvey would be rolling over in their graves about this Crosby stick thing.  Jean Beliveau, I’m sure, never asked Gordie Howe for his stick in a closely-fought battle. Toe Blake would’ve benched him for a month if he did.

 

I was glad when Ribeiro was traded. And I could care less how many goals he went on to score with Dallas. He was never going to be a Montreal Canadien, plain and simple.

 

Sure There’s Interest In The NHL Playoffs. You just Have To Go Looking. May 8, 2008

The NHL conference finals begin tonight when Dallas clashes with Detroit, and tomorrow, when Pittsburgh and Philadelphia get at it. I’m sure there are still a few fans left who care.

Folks on the Canada’s west coast stopped watching hockey more than a month ago, when their Vancouver Canucks imploded and missed the post season.

Folks in Alberta got a few games of excitement in before the Flames bowed out to San Jose, but Edmonton fans could’ve cared less about that anyway.

Folks in Ontario started checking out cricket and full-contact knitting a long time ago, when the Leafs and Senators did what they do best, and that is look feeble when spring rolls around.

And Habs fans in Quebec and elsewhere are still recovering from the disappointment of not seeing their team march on toward the big prize. (me, for example).

A few people in Nova Scotia will continue to watch because local boy Sidney Crosby is still at it.

Fans in Russia will have to work hard to see their boys Evgeny Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk perform because if you’ve ever been to Russia, you’ll know what I’m talking about when it comes to getting games on TV.

Fans in Sweden will see Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterburg, but only if they set their alarm clocks for the middle of the night.

Probably, though, hockey fans in Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Finland are more excited about the World Championships than they are about round three of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And people in the US don’t like hockey, or at least that’s what I keep hearing. You know, on the popularity lists we hear about from time time based on TV ratings, hockey is just after badmonton, bowling, ping pong, tiddly winks, and marbles in most states.

However, Philadelphia has their big-time fans. I know this because I heard from most of them during the Montreal series. Pittsburgh fans will also like what they’re seeing, as do folks in Detroit and Dallas.

Detroit is a big-time hockey city, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have a long and healthy history of the game.

Dallas is a curious one, though. This is football and basketball country. And barrel racing. But somehow, a couple of hundred thousand Texans embraced the game of hockey.

Of course, hockey’s been around for years in Texas, mostly in the form of minor league teams like the Dallas Blackhawks and Austin Ice Bats, or the Houston Aeros of the long-defunct World Hockey Association. So love of the game is there, but how much?

I suppose, when you think about it, when you have a state with a population of 22 million, you’re bound to find a couple of hundred thousand hockey fans, many of whom go to actual games.

Even when the rodeo’s on.

FOOTNOTE:

I know exactly that’s there’s rabid fans in New York state. Faithful reader (which I appreciate so much)Danielleia in Buffalo, for example, loves her Sabres. And years ago, I mentioned the Rangers on a subway in New York City, and some guy who thought I was saying bad things about his team wanted to punch me out.

( I wasn’t saying bad things about the Rangers. I only said I wouldn’t mind going to a game. You have to be careful on New York subways.) 

 

 

Hold On To Your Hats. Habs Fans Are In For A Joyous Ride April 9, 2008

Most of the hockey world has weighed in on the state of the Montreal Canadiens and how they’ll do in the playoffs. And frankly, most of them are wrong, most of them are overpaid, and most of their mothers wear army boots. And some TSN computer-generated program picked the Habs to go to the finals but lose to San Jose.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Milt Dunnell, Elmer Ferguson, and Jim Proudfoot rose from the ashes to offer their opinions too.

And the common consensus, the recurring theme is this – If you stay out of the penalty box so the Habs don’t get to unleash their fierce power play, and if Carey Price folds because of no playoff experience, then Montreal can be beaten.

Montreal is so much more than what people, other than Habs fans, are giving them credit for. It’s a young team, faster than lightening, with a system that allows for quick breakouts, and with a steady defence that includes the duo that some oppposing players have said recently is the best defence partnership in the league – Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek.

The team has depth, youth, speed, experience, leadership, closeness, passion, a spirited fourth line, a coach-of-the-year candidate, great fans, spiritual guru Jean Beliveau, and a city of hockey ghosts who have been waiting for years for something like this to happen. The team led the league in goals scored, had the best power play, and got stingier as the season wound down when shorthanded. And if something happened to Carey Price, the team can call on Jaroslav Halak, who was the American Hockey League’s top goaltender three years straight before being called up to the big club.

We’re going to take it one series at a time, beginning with Boston. And if Montreal can go all the way this year, I believe this would be the most special Habs team since the 1970’s. More magical than both 1986 and 1993.

Hold on. It’s going to be great!

In games played tonight, Wednesday night:

Pittsburgh shut out Ottawa 4-0, which is really no surprise since Ottawa’s been in a nosedive for awhile now.

The Rangers went to New Jersey and went away with a 4-1 win which is a bit of a surprise because the Devils are usually pretty stingy (and boring) at home. I’m hoping for the Devils. I don’t want to see Sean Avery any more.

Colorado and Minnesota are tied 2-2 late in the third, and Calgary’s beating San Jose 3-1 early in the third.

But I’ve got to get to bed. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Toe Blake Said, “Predictions Are For Gypsys.” March 10, 2008

As the team comes home to Montreal after their sort-of good, two wins, two losses, California and Phoenix roadtrip, they only have a day and a half before they clash with the New Jersey Devils. So while they’re getting massages from their wives, helping with the kids’ homework, and resting those weary bones, it gives us a little time to ponder the future.

Have a look at the standings and see if we can kind of figure out just who might play who in the playoffs, which are coming up fast. First though, notice how many goals Montreal has scored? It’s fire wagon hockey! (Cont’d after stats)

GP W OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10
1 New Jersey Devils* 69 40 23 6 86 180 159 22-12-1 18-11-5 7-2-1
2 Montréal Canadiens* 70 38 23 85 223 197 16-12-5 22-11-4 6-4-0
3 Carolina Hurricanes* 71 37 29 79 216 221 21-12-3 16-17-2 7-2-1
4 Pittsburgh Penguins 70 39 24 85 206 192 19-10-5 20-14-2 5-3-2
5 Ottawa Senators 70 38 25 83 223 209 20-12-3 18-13-4 3-5-2
6 New York Rangers 69 36 24 81 183 169 22-13-1 14-11-8 8-0-2
7 Boston Bruins 69 36 25 80 183 191 18-13-4 18-12-4 6-2-2
8 Philadelphia Flyers 69 35 26 78 212 197 16-13-4 19-13-2 5-2-3
9 Buffalo Sabres 69 32 27 10  74 209 201 17-13-4 15-14-6 4-4-2
10 Washington Capitals 70 32 30 72 203 209 17-15-3 15-15-5 4-4-2
11 Florida Panthers 71 32 31 72 190 200 14-13-7 18-18-1 5-3-2
12 New York Islanders 70 32 31 71 170 204 17-16-3 15-15-4 4-6-0
13 Toronto Maple Leafs 70 30 30 10  70 196 216 16-14-5 14-16-5 6-3-1
14 Atlanta Thrashers 70 30 32 68 186 230 17-15-3 13-17-5 1-5-4
15 Tampa Bay Lightning

Anyway, if New Jersey, for example, keeps playing stingy hockey and Martin Brodeur continues his great goaltending, they stand a good chance to finish first. If Montreal finishes second, they’d play Boston.

However, Boston’s been faltering lately and Philadelphia could overtake them.  Pittsburgh’s coming on strong. The Rangers are heating up. Montreal, of course, is in the thick of it, could very possibly end up in first, and I’m mighty proud. Ottawa could get back on track at any time.

So what this means is, I know absolutely nothing about who’s going to play who. Even Buffalo, now out of the race, could find themselves back in it if Philly slumps and the Sabres put together a decent winning streak.

So as much as I wanted it to look like I knew how this was going to play out, I don’t know a thing. It’s too tricky, too unsure. You just never know. Toe Blake was right.

I’m going back to sleep.