Monday, December 11, 2006

Buffalo at Montreal

The Hate Is On

It is an indisputable fact that the longest and most bitter rivalry in hockey is Montreal/Toronto. As far as Montreal was concerned, Boston was always a close second but it seems that these days, the relationship has lost its zest. The new number two is the Habs versus the division rival Sabres. Unlike the acquiescent Bruins, Buffalo has always given Les Glorieux fits since their NHL expansion year of 1970. Now, Lindy Ruff’s team is the poster child for the new NHL. With team speed, four-line depth and an elite goalie still to enter his prime, The Sabres are realistically vying for their first Stanley Cup. If the first 4 meetings between Montreal and Buffalo were any indication, a playoff meeting between these two teams would be THE series to watch.

As stated in my earlier comments, the upper tier teams bring out the best in the Habs. Saturday’s “Vintage sweater night” 3-2 Shootout loss was certainly one of the best Canadiens’ efforts of the season showcasing their team speed, defensive depth and quality game planning by rookie coach Guy Carbonneau against the league’s longest standing bench boss and Jack Adams trophy winner in Ruff. The Habs only Achilles heel on this and most nights was their scoring finish. Sergei Samsonov still appears to be frustrated including a game clinching shootout stop by Ryan Miller. Alex Kovalev was unable to finish what would have been one of the year’s sublime goals after spinning around the Buffalo defense in full flight during the overtime and firing wide. Les Canadiens were unable to cause early damage on a four-minute power play and that seemed to be ominous even with the score still tied at 0-0. When Mrs. Pescatore who attended the game with yours truly states that will come back to haunt them, you know the players thought it as well. Cristobal Huet turned in another solid performance and had no chance in all the shootout goals including a five-hole beauty by local product Daniel Briere and a Rolstonian slapper by Tomas Vanek. Kovalev provided the lone goal with Koivu being the other Montreal forward to be denied.

The regulation time scorers were Michael Ryder on a rebound (what did I tell you, Mike?) and Sheldon Souray who left the latter stages of the game with a wrist injury. The severity of which is to be determined today. Sabres goals belonged to Novotny and Roy.

The Fine Print

The Habs collected a point on a night when most Eastern Conference contenders lost. Chris Higgins is having his full team practice today and is expected to see game action this week. Mark Streit played another strong game as he was a strong fore-checking forward, played defense on all the special teams and shifted permanently to defence late in the game with the absence of Souray. I wonder where the nay Sayers who challenged the usefulness of Bonk and Streit and the Captaincy of Koivu are hiding these days?

Count me in one of those who prefer the Sabres’ old Team Swedenesque jersey to current Barney Rubble’s toupee/QMJHL style jersey they now don.
Montreal’s next game is at home on Tuesday December 12th against the Boston Bruins. Boston won the last meeting 6-5.

The Newby Lexicon:

Word Or Phrase:
“Rolstonian Slapper”

When some demented mind, left alone on a shootout breakaway decides on a slap shot when only 15 feet away from the goalie. Causing much debate on goalie safety and a possible new endorsement deal between the NHL and Depends Undergarments for net minders. Named after the pioneer of this new phenomenon, Minnesota Wild forward, Brian Rolston. Akin to punching your kid brother in the face to wake him up for Saturday cartoons.

See You At The Game!

On a serious note, I extend my best wishes To Habs’ Vice President and GM Bob Gainey whose daughter Laura is currently lost at sea after being washed overboard this weekend. The rescue search continues. Mr. Gainey has taken a leave of Absence. I remember watching Ken Dryden’s 1991 CBC documentary Home Game, which spent some time at the Gainey home on the day of a game and witnessed how sweet and funny Mrs. Gainey was and how the whole family enjoyed each other at breakfast, even mocking the patriarch’s lack of scoring prowess when compared to his pre-teen son Steve. To see the tragedy that has befallen this family in the past few years is sad. Our thoughts are with the whole Gainey family.

1 comment:

Captain Crunch said...

I agree, I mean how much can one guy take. His wife in 95 & now this. My thoughts & prayers are with him.