Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Habby Habs Fans! Go Figure!

Your stereotypical happy Habs fans!
My mother decided Easter was a good time to head to Halifax and visit Bro and Da Nephew. This left me all alone to watch the series opener versus Tampa Bay and Montreal.

My stress tweeting is only slightly less insane than my actual game watching. Luckily my extended family came to the rescue and gracefully put up with me for the remainder of the series until Mom got home to reign me in.

Oh who am I kidding. They're Habs fans too! We all went nuts together.

Here are some errant thoughts on the series now that Montreal has swept Tampa Bay out of the post-season.

1. I don't know who is skating around in René Bourque's jersey, but THIS is the player I was excited to get in exchange for Mike Cammalleri and the who usually burned us when he was wearing a Flames sweater.

2. I've been hard on Lars Eller this year but I'm thoroughly enjoying the crow he's serving up, complete with a cherry on top. Yum yum! Also same for Michel Therrien, who morphed into a better coach than I was willing to bet he'd be. Not much I love more than being wrong when it comes to this team.

3. Carey Price has been good but he'll need to be better. They all will going into the second round. I remember when the team had "too much rest" going into the Eastern Conference Finals versus Philly and like most Habs fans once burned, remember it forever.

4. No updates on Alex Galchenyuk's health? Why not? And who sits when he does get healthy? What about Travis Moen? See this is when I'm glad I'm not a head coach or a GM. Mostly.

5. Agree or disagree with GM Marc Bergevin's roster moves, how do you not love him? He's like the biggest kid in the candy store lately, first with the Bergy Shake and now with the Bergy Kangaroo impersonation.

6. I want Detroit to win. Yes, I realize that for a lot of fans Boston is the rival they always want to trash but frankly I'm not a fan of goon hockey, major hypocrisy (Brad Marchand needs a new acting coach) and I've had enough of these yahoos. Detroit would make a better matchup for me because they'd be less inclined to act like massive schoolyard bullying assholes.

7. My father was on a bus to Veracruz in Panama and called Newfoundland when he got a cell signal just to ask what the game score was. Unfortunately he called my grandmother who neither knew nor cared, and lost the signal before he called the cousin's house where I was watching the game. He said this morning he got off the bus and the first damned thing he did was check the score, after which he texted me a huge YAY!

8. Da Nephew (age 4), who recently told his father that he preferred the Toronto Maple Leafs, "It's okay Daddy I can like a team and you can like another team," has been pulling for Montreal, confidently and accurately predicting that "we would win". This is a serious relief to his father and to the rest of us who are concerned about his young psyche being forever tainted by the Maple Leafs. When Da Nephew fell asleep after the first period (as is his habit) he protested heartily when his father carried him to bed, claiming not to be tired. He didn't want to miss the rest of the game.

9. I don't understand Hockey Night in Canada anymore and I've lost a great deal of respect for it, particularly over the past year. The Ron McLean anti-French referee commentary aside, why is it pretty much standard for this network to be so anti-Montreal Canadiens? Why is it acceptable for the CBC to be so unable to give this team its well earned props? This is why people pay extra to subscribe to RDS or Sportsnet or NHL Centre Ice. How bad it is that a taxpayer funded network gets so little respect from a lot of hockey lovers in a nation that lives and dies for this sport? Glen Healy is quite possibly the absolute worst for this. Wherefore art thou, Bob Cole?

10. I have little to no patience for the bullshit NHL referees pull during the regular season and even less so during the post-season. Case in point: In Game 3 Tampa Bay had a goal called off that in truth should probably have counted and might have changed the outcome of that one game. In Game 4 they got one allowed that shouldn't have been. The NHL referees consistently like to gift out what I call "pity fuck make up calls". How about calling a spade a spade instead and moving on and trying not to do it again? Yes it was a bad call in game 3, but giving Tampa Bay a make up goal in game 4 did not make up for anything. All it did was highlight the consistently craptastic refereeing in this sport, and that more than anything is what causes the fans to become jaded, regardless of team affiliation. Other than not allowing certain officials to officiate post-season games there is absolutely no accountability by the referees and this is truly mind-boggling and becoming more an more unacceptable.

11. About the oléing thing... at the Centre Bell it's (mostly) not about taunting the rivals. I've been there and to me it's more about enjoying the team, the moment, the atmosphere, etc. Usually I'm pretty liquored up too, so there's that. But when you are home and the team still has 40 minutes left to play it gets pretty damned annoying. I can promise you this though: it's not going to stop anytime soon. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

12. Two hangovers in four games. I'm getting too old for this nonsense!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Ghost and the Darkness - Version 2.0

Just once... just once I'd like to have some confidence in the coaching staff for the Montreal Canadiens. I honestly can't remember the last time that was the case.

Perhaps it was the whole Roy debacle and I've resented the Habs brass ever since, be it behind the bench or in the front office. Perhaps it's the years of the Ghost and the Darkness (Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin, respectively).

BTW I actually like that movie even though I don't like Val Kilmer or Michael Douglas as actors. Go figure.

I remember blogging back in 2010 about how we'd own Jacques Martin longer than we should if the Habs went on a Cinderella run. They did and we did and then surprise, surprise we were suddenly able to draft Alex Galchenyuk and the Ghost and the Darkness passed into the team's history.

I'm not going to get into fancy stats or whatnot as there are plenty who can cite them chapter and verse and tell you the Habs are not really doing well when the numbers are crunched. What I'm going to tell you is that one day before the puck is about to drop versus Tampa Bay I look at the line combos Michel Therrien is icing and my first reaction is large strings of profanity and a mini-twitter rant.

Here are the forward line combos this morning:

Pacioretty - Desharnais - Vanek
Prust - Plekanec - Gallagher
Eller - Bourque - Gionta
Wiese - Briere - Bournival

Right off the bat I have to wonder why Marc Bergevin ever bothered to sign Daniel Briere, and why Briere ever bothered to lace them up for the Habs. Here is our proven playoff performer slotted in on the 4th line, after a season where 5 minutes a game for him is the norm.

Oh but wait, I'm told. Wait and see what the "real" lines are tomorrow. Are you kidding? So that means we are one day from puck drop and practicing with "fake" lines?

Not sure how that's supposed to inspire any confidence or faith that the coaching staff knows what it's doing there.

I love Prust but putting him on the 2nd line makes it a shut down line. Plekanec will wear Stamkos and while Gallagher tries to avoid interference penalties at the net I guess Prust can score all the goals there? Yeah... right.

Briere and Bournival both did fine on Plekanec's wing. I don't get why they never get to stay there. I don't get why Briere has spent the bulk of the year in the coach's doghouse, and I really don't expect it to change suddenly after 82 games.

Also, if I'm UFA this year and I look over at proven playoff performer Briere's season with Montreal my first reaction is "fuck no". Briere (and I'm not a fan of his nor have ever pretended to be) has been treated like dirt by the head coach IMO. How is that attractive to outsiders looking in?

Meanwhile the third line is the Black Hole line.

Lars Eller (who arguably belongs on the 4th over Briere) and René Bourque can't find the back of the net even with floodlights and a rocket guidance system. To shut down the third line you just have to ride Gionta.

Looking at these practice line combos today, all the Bolts have to worry about is shutting down Montreal's first line. That's it. Montreal will get lucky once in a while with the other lines, but there are no real consistent threats there.

Then there's the powerless play, which is now at a whopping 0-23 which I think is the worst it has been in about a decade. Before that it had another long stretch of ineffectiveness. Contain Subban and you contain the PP.

And yet, somehow, the Habs coaching staff can't figure out how to overcome that.

Meanwhile the Tampa Bay coaches have got to be salivating over this. All they have to do is contain the first line, get one or two past Carey Price, and they're golden.

And yes I have no doubt that Therrien will do the blender thing and switch up the lines. The problem there is that he usually makes it worse.

Last game when Bournival did well on Plekanec's wing his reward was to get dropped to the 4th line. Because why have speed and scoring ability on the 2nd anyway? Yes, let's put a grinder in there and watch Pleky try to do it all himself.

@RobertB_Rice has repeatedly pointed out how that with a deeper team than the Canadiens have had in a long time, Michel Therrien has done arguably less with the Habs than Jacques Martin did with a lesser squad.

And you might want to check out Cowhide & Rubber by @kyleroussel on this coaching thing too.

I don't care if the Habs win the Cup, I don't want Michel Therrien to continue on as head coach. I have a multitude of reasons for this, not the least of which are his usage of Subban, the team's treatment of Beaulieu, and the regression of Galchenyuk.

The bottom line is this - I dislike and distrust Michel Therrien even less than I did Jacques Martin and that is no small thing.

Yes the Habs will get into the post-season again (and rightfully so) under Therrien, but how did Martin get so far with such a weaker team? He had bigger holes, far less talent up front, and somehow got to the Eastern Conference Finals.

I really want the team to win the Cup or at the very least make a strong showing in the post-season. I love them and I cheer for them when they win and my heart breaks for them when they don't.

But if it means an automatic contract renewal for Therrien, please forgive my hesitation.

We had a Catch 22 with Jacques Martin and now we have another one with Michel Therrien. Once was enough for me with that nonsense.