Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taking Superstitions Too Seriously

I've never been someone you could call overly superstitious; except when it comes to hockey. If the Habs go on losing streaks, I'll do just about anything, including switching beer brands, what channel I watch the game on, where I sit on the couch, which bar I watch the game at, etc. So after having success in the first 2 games of the conference quarter finals against Boston, I thought I knew the winning formula.

So on Monday, as I prepared to head to the Bell Centre, I wore the necklace I believed to be lucky, I called my dad to ask him which shirt I should wear (on Saturday he advised I wear my Cammalleri shirt, and who should score the first Habs goal but none other than #13!), I went to Mclean's pregame to have Guinness and chicken wings, and yet the Habs lost.

As I made my way home, I was racking my brain trying to decide what I had done differently. I had worn bleu, blanc, rouge war paint rather than the CH crest temporary tattoo, could that be the reason? Is it because I was AT the game, rather than watching from Mclean's? And then, I realized something important: maybe, just maybe, I have absolutely no control over how the Habs play, and perhaps their loss had absolutely nothing to do with me?

I know it's tough to swallow, Habs fans, but don't let your superstitions get the best of you! Try to enjoy the playoff run, and don't beat yourselves up!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MTL Stand Up

Annakin Slayd's latest - MTL Stand Up <3

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 Playoffs Preview

The first round of the 2010-11 NHL Playoffs starts tonight (and it couldn't come sooner! Being deprived of hockey for a few days was not fun). I thought I'd preview each series in the 1st round, who I think will take the series and why. Here goes!

Eastern Conference:

Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers:
I'm going to have to pick the Caps in 5. Coach Bruce Boudreau has made adjustments in the way his team plays in order for them to achieve playoff success. If his team doesn't make it past the 1st round, he could be joining Clouston, Richards & Crawford in the fired coaches club...

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Pittsburgh Penguins:
Bolts in 6. Despite an excellent start to the season, the Pens haven't fared so well in the latter half, in large part due to losing their star forwards Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin. It doesn't look like the 2 will be joining the line-up anytime soon, and Marc-André Fleury's lackluster season leads me to believe they'll be eliminated in the 1st round.

Montreal Canadiens vs Boston Bruins:
Habs in 6. Call it homerism if you must, but the Habs are 4-2 versus the Bruins this season. The Habs have overcome so much this season, it's a miracle they're in the playoffs at all (many counted them out after the loss of Markov & Gorges. Oddly enough, the blueline has been one of the Canadiens strengths this season, in large part due to the acquisition of James Wisniewski & Brent Sopel, not to mention to heroics of Roman Hamrlik & Hal Gill, and of course, the extraordinary break-out rookie season had by P.K. Subban). Along with a goalie having a career season (Carey Price), and a healthy dose of underdog syndrome, the Habs have the recipe for success.

Buffalo Sabres vs Philadelphia Flyers:
Sabres in 7. I think this will be one of the most exciting matchups in the east (after Habs/Bruins, of course). I would love the see the Sabres take out the Flyers. If that is the case, and the Habs knock off the Bruins, I think the Habs would breeze past the Sabres in the conference semis, making a 2nd straight conference final appearance.

Western Conference:

Chicago Blackhawks vs Vancouver Canucks:
The Canucks won the President's trophy this year, they have 2 of the leagues leading scorers in the Sedin twins, blah blah blah. As much as I love seeing Canadian teams in the playoffs, I think the defending Stanley Cup champs will knock them off in the first round. I think the Canucks will give them a run for their money, looking to avenge their loss to Chicago last year, but the Hawks will emerge victorious in this repeat matchup.

San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings:
I'm thinking Sharks in 4. I haven't seen too many experts or analysts or fans pick the Kings. I'm jumping on that bandwagon, and going with San Jose.

Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes:
Red Wings in 5. It's really beginning to look like the 'Yotes won't be in Phoenix for very much longer. I think this failed first round will be the final nail in their coffin. Move them to a better hockey market, already! Bettman, I know you hate Canada, but I thought you loved money? I promise, you'll make some if you move the team to Winnipeg or Québec City.

Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators:
Preds in 7. Why not? Would be fun to see them make their 1st second round appearance in franchise history (don't get overly excited, their franchise has only existed for 12 years).

Well, there you have it folks. My first round preview. Now grab a beer, sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Special Team Woes?

As we head into our final regular season game of the year, I want to start off by saying how much I have thoroughly enjoyed the Montreal Canadiens 2010-2011 season, missing only 2 of 82 games played. I’ve watched or listened to just about every game, I’ve read thousands of blog posts and articles, I’ve written opinions and analyses on games, and I started attending practices in Brossard. Basically, I'm the quintessential Habs fan.

A lot of critical Habs fans always manage to find cause for concern. Of course, the easiest thing to pick apart is the efficiency of the special teams. While I can agree with my fellow Habs fans that up until the last few games, P.K. Subban wasn’t getting the minutes I would have like to have seen with the man advantage, our power play isn’t THAT terrible. Stats can’t lie, and our power play is currently 8th in the league with 55 power play goals in 287 power play opportunities, for a 19.2% efficiency rate.

While aiming for mediocrity is no way to play a team sport, it’s important to realize that the Habs power play is not ALL that bad, comparatively speaking. Habs fans accept nothing but the best from their beloved Canadiens, and that’s okay, but I think it would do Habs fans some good to watch other teams in the NHL play as well. I think they would realize that you can't score on EVERY power play, and that our boys do a pretty decent job of trying to do so.

What alarms me is that the Canadiens have only 212 goals for, the worst of any team in the playoffs. Their 55 power play goals mean that 25.96% of their goals came on the power play. That being said, the main cause for concern shouldn't be restricted to power play goals, but goal scoring in general. You can't win games if you don't score, no matter how extraordinary your goal tender is. The Habs need to capitalize on all scoring chances, and yes, their power play opportunities, if they want to be a force to be reckoned with this post season.

The other end of the special teams’ spectrum is the penalty kill. The Habs currently sit 7th in the NHL with 84.2% efficiency. The fact that the Habs Habs are 2nd overall in minor penalties with 358, behind only Pittsburgh with 369 has caused many to speculate that there is some sort of conspiracy to screw over the Habs. I don’t quite buy into that, simply because the Habs are such a small team. In order to compete with larger, tougher teams, the Habs need to hook, grab, etc. If they didn’t, they would get scored on. What would you rather be complaining about?

In light of the "referee conspiracy", everyone complains that for Montreal to draw a penalty, the opposing team has to commit a blatant crime on the ice. However, the Habs are 15th overall in power play opportunities. While it's not spectacular, there are several teams below that have had far fewer opportunities, teams that were able to secure playoff spots no less.

I think it’s important to evaluate one last aspect of the game, and that’s shorthanded goals. Montreal is 27th in the league with only 4 short handed goals. As the playoff picture shapes up, take note that our potential opponents Philadelphia, Pittsburgh & Boston are 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively in short handed goals, with 13, 13 and 11. When the Habs are on the power play, they can’t allow the opportunities that our opponents will surely capitalize on.

All that being said, it’s time to get excited! Stop whining, and enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Game Review - Habs/Blackhawks

The Habs have clinched a playoff spot in what had to be one of the most exciting games of the season. Their 2-1 OT victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks was definitely one for the books.

The 1st period was clean, with the first penalty coming later rather than sooner. Crawford, the Hawks rookie netminder (and a native of my hometown, Châteauguay) completely stood on his head despite self-professed pre-game jitters at the prospect of playing in front of his friends and family at the Bell Centre. If he was nervous, it didn't show, as he managed to stop all 12 of the Habs shots on net. Price stopped the Hawks 9 with relative ease.

Cammalleri was in fine form, opening the score board early in the 2nd period. His goal was soon after answered by Hawks Patrick Kane, who tied it up a few minutes later. The latter portion of the 2nd was heavily dominated by Chicago scoring chances, as they outshot the Habs 14-12. It was clear the boys in the bleu, blanc, rouge needed to regroup.

The 3rd period was do or die. Carey Price was absolutely outstanding, stopping all 20 Hawks shots, including some spectacular, gravity-defying saves that enabled his teammates to generate scoring chances in front of him. Crawford continued to keep his team in the game, stopping 9 Habs shots.

As the game headed into overtime, it became a matter of who wanted it more. The Hawks were fighting to keep their playoff dreams alive, while the Habs were looking to clinch their playoff spot. PK Subban drew a penalty on Jonathan Toews early on, and fired a one-timer from Kostitsyn that Crawford had no chance of stopping. The Habs won 2-1, and clinched their playoff spot.

As playoff season approaches, and the magical air surrounds us, remember that anything can happen in the post-season. I dunno about you, but to me, it feels a little like '93 this year...

Video: "Feels Like '93" by Annakin Slayd