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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

History Has Been Made Again.

It is now official.

Brian Gionta has been announced as the Montreal Canadiens 28th Captain. And cheers go up in Montreal. Not to mention a few "whew"s being overheard around the city.

This is Gionta's 9th season in the NHL. He was drafted 82nd overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1998 Entry Draft, playing with the club from the 2001 season, till signing with Montreal at the beginning of 2009.

Even as one of the smaller players in the NHL (Only Nathan Gerbe is officially listed as smaller), he has been known throughout all of his hockey career as a fierce competitor, and a gutsy player. Although known as "Gio" to fellow team-mates, he was also dubbed as the Rochester Rocket by media.

Brian tallied 28 regular season goals last year, and 18 assists in 61 games. He added 9 more goals and 6 assists in the 2009-2010 playoffs over a course of 19 games. But aside from his abilities on the ice, it's his calm and professional leadership that will greatly benefit this franchise as they head into their 101st season.

Clearly leadership will not be the sole responsibilty of the team Captain either. Confirmation has also been made that Hall Gill and Andrei Markov will assist in those duties, as they don the "A" on their jerseys. This will be Markov's 10th year with Les Habitants, and Gill's 2nd.

After a full year without a Captain - the first time in their 100 year history - the announcement was received  without any hesitation by Habs fans around the globe!

Felicitations Capitaine Brian Gionta et Bonne Chance!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Different Kind of Controversy

Simply put: If you have any interest in the Montreal Canadiens, hockey in general, or haven't been living under a rock for the past week, then you've heard the controversy surrounding that coveted spot of goaltender in the Habs camp.


So when the Tweets started flying this afternoon over every other position that the team should have filled for opening night on October 7th, you can imagine how happy I was to get involved in that discussion.

When our attention has been focused on all the play that we've seen since training camp began, right up till our trouncing of the Panthers last night, there is no doubt that we've been witness to some exceptional players with some exceptional drive. Hungry for a place on the Big Team, some of the up-and-comers have made it a tough decision as to who will suit up for the regular season.

As the discussion wound down this afternoon, Scott Schmitz ( Tweet @schmitzysays ) asked me and several others to climb behind the bench, replace JEM, and fill out our opening night roster. So without further ado (and yes I spelled "ado" right - Google it!) ...

1st Line : Gionta - Gomes - Eller

Without doubt, Brian Gionta has proven that he has speed, grit, and determination. He also is a great play finisher having no fear grinding it out in front of the net. Gomes, other than shining on CJAD Radio the other night, managed to do something last year that few players on the team could do with consistency. Cross the blue line and maintain possession. He's got great hands and great vision. A true playmaker. Eller is fresh blood for this team, and he has all kinds of potential. Despite suffering from mono at the beginning of last season, he still managed 57 points in 70 games in the AHL. He's big and makes plays. Add that to the speed of Gio and Gomes - you've got a strong first line

2nd Line : Cammalleri - Plekanec - Kostitsyn

Jumping Kostitsyn on to this line is something that some may question. But when you combine his size with his quick shot, you're looking at a player that could see some of the best growth over last year. Couple that with the fact that Pleks and Cammy can bring his play up a notch as well. Plekanec has already shown in preseason that he's brought his game. One of the best all round players on the team he plays exquisite two way hockey with great hands, and lightening speed. Add to that one of the best and consistent scoring forwards this team has seen in years. Mike Cammalleri has the attitude and the talent that can support AK, and pull this line together to deposit many a puck into the back of the net.

3rd Line : Darche - Halpern - Lapierre

So this is where it starts to get tricky right? Maybe not. Lapierre proved during the playoffs last year that he had actually woken up. We saw skill levels in him that we've been hoping to see for some time. This is his year. He can shoot, dig, cycle, and score He's proven to be a grinder. Halpern is a pure veteran, who can win a face off like nobody's business. With that being said, he'll supply the puck posession off the face off that will feed plenty of opportunities for Laps. Add the play of Mathieu Darche who had a more than decent year with the Bulldogs last year. Darche is the kind of guy that goes out and gives it his best whenever he's on the ice. He doesn't quit. Plus, taking into account that he's a "hometown boy" from St Laurent, he helps the team meet the "French Quota" inhibiting them from becoming a Federalist Team. (Sorry - couldn't refuse)

4th Line : Moen - Boyd - White

There's only one reason that I would hold Moen to the fourth line instead of the third. Because you already have a scrappy player (Laps), and a veteran (Halpern) on the third line. And Moen brings both of these much needed qualities to the 4th group. Sure he's not a huge goal scorer (37 in 443 career NHL games), but he has size, and the ability to keep the offensive zone. Dustin Boyd brings in some size and youth to this line. Definitely lighting up the crowd during the preseason with his drive, alongside winger Ryan White. White has been the brightest light of the youngsters during training camp and preseason play. He works hard every shift, and would be a great compliment to Moen.

In the Box : Maxwell - Pyatt

I like Tom Pyatt. and deciding to put him in the box was a tough one. He showed some great determination in his time with the Habs last year, but I think he still has a bit of growth to go through. I don't know if it might be more fair to send him to Hamilton to get more ice time, but for the moment, I say keep him here and let him learn from the Big Boys. Ben Maxwell certainly has the ability to get the job done, and he could easily fill the skates of Halpern or Boyd if needed. If he stays with the organization - this is the place to keep him.

Thanks for Coming Out!

The name that was a-buzz all afternoon (or should I say a-Tweet). Benoit Poulliot. Immediately after his acquisition by the Habs from the Minnesota Wild (for Guillaume Latendresse), he showed some great promise. But as the season progressed, that flash soon dulled. That has been the only consistent thing about Poulliot, and he's brought it forward with him into training camp and preseason play. I'm not even sure if Hamilton is the answer for him. I think there needs to be serious consideration in finding another organization for him to play with. I know there are a ton of Max Pacioretty fans out there too. And no doubt he'll get his chance to shine. But I don't think he's ready to play at this level yet. A full season in Hamilton should help hone his skills, and prepare him to move to the Big Leagues next season.

So there you have it. I don't think that M. Gauthier is going to call me to replace Jacques Martin, but I stand by my choices. Now I wonder if I'll get to see them come true?

See you October 7th to find out!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Inducing Patrick Roy!

And  no ... I'm not talking about in net this year!

I was blessed a few years back to have the enjoyment of being an integral part in the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction weekend. Oh My - the time we had!

Now I have to tell you ... I am NOT a morning person, so having to be on the ice at 06h00 was no pleasure. Not to mention knowing that I wouldn't leave the ACC till 21h00 that night. But seriously, how often do you get the chance to spend time with the likes of  the Stasny brothers, Borje Salming, Lanny McDonald, Tiger Williams, Eddie Shack et al. Not to mention Habs legends like Larry Robinson and Patrick Roy.

And that weekend brought so many fond memories as well as funny stories.

Let's start with Borje. The poor man flies into Toronto from Sweden that morning, but guess what didn't come with him? That's right .... his luggage. And to a hockey player, luggage does NOT mean an extra long sleeved sweater and a fresh pair of jeans. We're talking equipment here people. No Gloves, No Skates, No Socks, No Shoulder Pads. Not even a jock! Damn!!!

I remember turning to my room-mate, and partner in making the event happen, and saying, "Hey Rick - doesn't your cousin play hockey???"  He responded in the affirmative, and then I asked if he wore anything close to a size 10 skate, like Salming. As our luck would have it ... Size 10 on the nose.

So the good old cousin drove like a mad man down to the Air Canada Center to deliver every single piece of equipment he owned, so that awesome retired Maple Leaf could take to the ice. But if you think that Borje got off easy - then think again. The cousin got 3 autographed shirts for his trouble. And me? I got a smile on my face knowing that Rick and I had supplied a great Swedish defender for the crowd to see.

But halfway through the first period, I had another surprise. During a commercial break, Billy Smith comes blazing over to the bench. For those of you who don't know about Billy, he won 4 Cups with the Isles, was the first goalie credited with scoring a goal, and he has a temper that might make Hurricane Katrina look tame (Kidding Billie).

The Problem? Billy's family is seated in the upper bowl for the second straight year, and they should be sitting in platinum seats. Who's problem is that? Mine. The conversation went a bit like this ...

"Iain, WTF!!! Why is my son in the upper bowl? Get them down in to Platinum man! Go to my leather jacket and get out my cell phone. Dial the last number that called me. It's my son. Then arrange to meet him and bring him and the family to seats behind the bench!"

You got it Billy. So here I am walking through the mezzanine of the ACC leaving a message for Billy Smiths son, listening to them page him over the system to meet me at the gate ... Unreal! I'm on Billy Smiths cell phone!

But I guess my fondest memory of that weekend was when they introduced the four new members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. I vividly remember standing behind the bench next to Patrick Roy as they showed the video hi-lights of his career. I stopped watching and turned my back to the ice, watching 18,000 plus people stare down towards where I stood next to Roy. It was overwhelming. Despite the fact that Patricks daughter and boyfriend were groping one another on the bench, oblivious to the 36,000 eyes looking their way.

And just as he stepped to the ice, Patrick turned to me and shook my hand. I felt honoured. Despite the fact that he was still an arrogant man, and didn't care who's hand he was shaking ... I was next to The King! Sharing history. And it took every effort for me NOT to smack hiss ass on his way out onto the ice.

So that's it - in a very large nutshell. My weekend with the boys. Yes, after the game we went and mingled with players and fans alike. Even the Nylons were there to entertain. It all ended by 23h00 and we dragged our butts to our cars and made our way back to the hotel.

But for me, it didn't end there. It became a hockey lovers dream come true, that would forever live in my memory.

And now - apparently - in my blog!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Controversy, Frustration, and Aggravation! Welcome to hockey in Montreal.

Do I blog tonight, or don't I? That was the question.
I guess you know the answer ... you're reading it.

I have spent the past 24 plus hours doing several things. I've gone shopping to make sure I have groceries for the next week. I've seen the finishing touches on this years wine as the grapes went from crushed, to pressed, to barreled. Heck - I've even had a nap. But the thing that I concentrated on most? Cooling off after the last two Habs games.

But let me explain a little bit. I wasn't upset because we got hammered 6-2 by the Ottawa Senators. I wasn't even annoyed that after tonight's game, some very silly media called our 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild a "Romp". No ... it actually wasn't the team that annoyed me. I'm not looking for the pre-season perfect record. As I've stated in previous blogs, mistakes will be made, and corrected.

What really annoyed me (and I mean REALLY), was the Tweets that were flying during the pasting that we took from Ottawa.

There is a reason why this hockey franchise is always the center of controversy. Because the fans (and media) of Le Bleu Blanc Rouge supply it.


I may say a few things here now that offend some Habs fans. That's ok. You can curse at me in the comment section, or just leave this page and not come back. I'm fine with that. I'm not looking for blog followers that can't agree to disagree. I also, am not looking for followers that just agree with everything I say either. The beauty of this world is that people are entitled to an opinion.

So here's my opinion. After all ... it's my party and I can cry if I want to!

Montreal's defensive squad in front of Carey Price has been a bunch of chokers. Spacek looks like his middle name should be "Waivers" because he has consistently coughed up the puck. There also has been a real lack of offense when he's between the pipes. But that doesn't excuse your #1 goaltender from failing to make important saves.

I have heard every form of support and excuse in the book about this. One Tweet last night asked "Why can't the team play in front of Price?". My response is ... because he doesn't play behind them. In his defense last night, I also heard a ton of people (including media) barking about his numbers while winning with the World Juniors, the Hamilton Bulldogs, and his rookie year with the Canadiens. But that is what's known as history. I know he has a great past, but it seems that his performance since then has been lackluster at best.

Now please don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who keeps comparing him to Halak this year. That fiasco is over ... time to move on. I'm also not someone who doesn't support him. I want him to succeed. I'm just trying to be realistic in calling a spade a spade. I'll criticize Auld for his performance in the "Romp" tonight too.

But when someone calls me a "Hater" just because I think that Price has some work to do ... well that's mildly unfair at best. When someone blocks me as a Tweeter follower (like that will change my life), because I don't show a love fest for Carey Price ... well that's just juvenile. And all the fans who keep making comments like "I just want to give Carey a hug" ... What does that have to do with hockey? If you have a crush on the 23 year old man - Fine - but lets keep this about hockey.

I want all you true Montreal Canadien fans to look back at the fantastic history of our franchise. Consider the greats like Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, and Georges Vezina. Do you think that any single one of those men said that they wouldn't lose sleep over the loss of a preseason game? Do you think that the attitude that they held was not to go out and achieve the best at all times not just for the fans but for themselves?

Look at the history of one of our greatest players of all time. Look at The Rocket. How many times was the organization prepared to get rid of him based on injury and lack of performance? Yet he rallied!!! He had incredible passion - not to mention a day job! There was a drive there that I'm not sure we're seeing in the likes of Carey Price.

I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that many people can come back to me by the end of this season and say "Hey Iain - What the hell were you thinking when you thought Price didn't have the drive?". And I'll accept that defeat with a great big grin on my face, because that will mean success for the team.

But in the meantime, let this coddling end. Stop offering hugs and condolences. We didn't do that for the greats of the past. Instead we demanded. And look where it got us.

24 Stanley Cups.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pre Seaon : Take Two ... and Action!

 So ...

I woke up this morning and realized that I was within hours of the second pre-season "love-fest" of the year. Sadly, I awoke extremely tired. I had spent the previous night reading HI/O commentaries, and hundreds of Tweets about the inability of the Habs .... no wait - let me correct that ... THE inability of Carey Price ... to ensure that we took game one of the all important PreSeason series. Not to mention all the "impeccable" break downs from TSN and RDS. Besides that - Se7en was on and I LOVE that movie.

But when I woke I felt weak. Even nauseated. But the Blog must go on!

I immediately made myself a nice breakfast sandwich, and ensured that I poured my coffee into my coveted 100th Anniversary Montreal Canadiens mug. Then I proceeded to check Twitter for inspiration ... anything to keep my mind off the upcoming festivities of hosting the Ottawa Senators.

But as the afternoon progressed, I began to feel that old surge of excitement. You know that feeling. Remember how you felt back in May of last year? Knowing we could win, but still on the edge of your seat in case there might be a loss to contend with.

But a loss was nowhere near in the books. Regardless of the fact that  Mike Fisher opened the scoring at 4:17 of the first, there was a buzz in the building, and a greater buzz on the ice. Yes ... the defense looked a bit stiff, and PK clearly over-skated his man on the Fisher scoring play. But as we like to say here in Montreal; c'est la vie. It seemed like there was something special happening with the likes of Eller, Gomes, and Gionta flying through the neutral zone into Sens territory. Puck control seemed better, and there just seemed to be a more positive feeling on the ice from minute one.

And then the team-manship came out. Pacioretty came across the blue line and took a bit of a high (dirty?) hit, and without hesitation, Ian White dropped the gloves in his defense. The message was clearly sent. No one messes with us without repercussion.

But it didn't end there. As if perturbed with his own performance on the "D", PK took a a beautiful feed from a stop and go Gomes, back to the point for the one time slap shot. Goal!  We're tied at one. The beauty of the game was in the details though.

White and Boyd finished checks over and over, and proved their place on the line. Gionta and Gomes left no doubt as to why we brought them here on long term contracts as they continued to be playmakers throughout the night (Despite the fact that I STILL can't get used to Gomes being #11). Eller was the man who had all eyes on him, and he did not disappoint. Taking a different role of winger  - as he usually plays center - he drove hard to the net, and kept himself busy cycling the puck in the corners. It's just a matter of time before he get's his initial NHL point.

The biggest surprise, and joy, came from Andrei Kostitsyn, as he took advantage of a Chris Phillips turnover and potted it into the back of the mesh!

All in all - a real team effort that without doubt, eased the nerves of many Habs fans that took the first game FAR too seriously.

I can only imagine what this team will be like once we see all our "A" team players together on the ice. With their support, and the support of the TRUE fan base in Montreal, the young and upcoming players will easily be engulfed into the layers of this franchise. And then the team will shine.

I was so encouraged tonight by the whole team effort. I was also encouraged by the fact that Cammy said  "It looks easy from up here!" as he watched on from the media booths high above the ice sheet at le Centre Bell. Maintaining humour early on in Montreal is essential.

So tomorrow we head up the 417 to Ottawa, to complete our back to back series against the Sens in Kanata. Rest assured, there will be as many Habs fans on hand as there will be Sens fans. And Carey will get his second start, and an opportunity to show he has what it takes. Hopefully the team in front of him will show up as they did for Auld and Mayer tonight. And hopefully Ottawa fans will show Price more class than he faced with his own fans here in Montreal.

All I know is, it's great to cheer on the best hockey organization that was ever built. And it's even more exciting to see history in the making even in pre-season.

Ole Ole Ole Ole!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finally .. The Puck has Dropped!

So here's the deal.

For at least 4 weeks, I've been counting down the days till hockey would once again return to Montreal, and our beloved Habs would take the ice. No longer would I be on edge and easily agitated. The blood would once again course through my veins. Between RDS, RIS, CBC, and TSN, my addiction would once again be fed on a regular basis, and all would be right with the world. And I have no doubt in my mind, that you the reader, are completely empathetic to how I felt. Like me, you bleed Bleu, Blanc, Rouge.

Now, don't think for a minute that I went Hab-less over the summer break. After all - it was a shorter break than usual; thanks to our boys taking us well into late spring with a hair raising, and inspiring Cup run. They shut up all the naysayers and hockey experts who professed only 4 games of playoff hockey for the 8th place Eastern Conference Habs. First it was "Bye Bye Ovie", yet still the experts couldn't keep quiet about how Washington was one thing, but certainly Crosby and the Penguins would be something of a different animal. Then it was "Farewell Syd the Kid!" and the hockey world was once again in shock.

I will never forget the celebrations on my balcony, shouting out in unison with my fellow Hab lovers, while the cars passed by honking on St-Joseph below. It was true bliss!

Fast forward to yesterday.

Habs shirt on, hat to accompany it. Flag hanging and towel at my side. Pre-season or not, the fix was about to begin, and the excitement about seeing the boys again flashed through my body. And then, less than 2 minutes after the puck dropped, the worst possible thing happened! They got one past Price!

By the end of the first, we looked shaky, but not terrible. Sadly, two more pucks slid through the crease and over the goal line, and the hurt was on. The fans started mocking Price, and even booing him. Funny how no one booed Spacek for the cough up at the blue line that lead to the goal.

I'll admit, even I wasn't thrilled with the performance, and I know I tweeted my frustration on many occasions, but the reality of it all seemed to slip under the radar. By the reactions by both fans and media, you would have thought this was game one of the Stanley Cup Final. All night people blew it out of proportion, and that easily flowed through to today as well.

But what about all the good things that happened in that first pre-season game? What about the seemingly increased speed of Hall Gill. How about Lapierre opening our years scoring from a pretty feed from Plekanec? Not to mention the fantastic heads up play from Cammy to Pleks for the second goal of the night.

Did everyone miss the young talent that took to the ice in the form of Tinordi, Palujash, and Leblanc? Did we also forget that half the squad wasn't even on the ice? Did most people also remember that this time last year - no one cared about pre-season hockey? I guess we should send nasty messages to Cammy for scoring so many goals in the playoffs last year and taking us so deep into the playoffs. If we hadn't had such a great run, we'd all have sat back and waited for October 7th - when it actually matters.

So let them get the cobwebs out. Let them get the rust off the skates. Let the new guys and the veterans learn to play together. Let pucks slip over the goal line. Because now's the time for that to happen. Mistakes will be made, and mistakes will be corrected.

Let's just make sure that mistakes are forgotten.

Tomorrow's another game, and we get to see what kind of fun Gionta, Gomes, and Eller can put together. And yes, Price isn't scheduled to start, but he never was. The management isn't making a statement - just maintaining the original roster so that everyone gets tuned up.

Forget about yesterday, and remember what it means to truly be a Habs fan. We don't just love the game, we own it!

A la prochaine!

Welcome to Bleu, Blanc, Rouge!

Hey Everybody!

Thanks for coming over for a visit of the first ever post on BBR!

I've done the personal blog thingy before, but never something like this - so bare with me. I just figured that since I now have been reading and listening to other fans about our beloved Habs, it was time to get my two cents worth in as well.

So this is just the welcome post ... I hope you come back often and share your thoughts.

Cheers - E