Friday, 12 February 2016

Game 56: Canadiens 4, Sabres 6

Canadiens Express notes on the 6-4 loss against the Sabres tonight.

As always, my gratitude to Gary Bettman for making it so that I don't have to waste a full night watching hockey, I can watch this condensed, accelerated broadcast, the 'I don't really care anymore' version.

--As a rational, thinking fan who knows when opportunity knocks, I want the Canadiens to place high in the Draft Lottery.  Which means that when we face a bottom-feeder like the Sabres, a dreaded competitor of ours for Auston Matthews, we have to find a way to outgaffe them, to fumble away the game.

Even when it will be unseemly to lose, since they played last night in Philly and had to travel back to Buffalo.  We can't lose our resolve in situation like these, weaken, and pounce on a wounded foe.  We must lay down.

--But when I hear a Sven Andrighetto slapper ping off the crossbar, and see the red lamp glow, I can't help but jump off my couch and cheer.  Beauty pass by Max, and one-timer by the erstwhile IceCap.

--Justin Bailey was a star at a pre-draft combine held by the Canadiens the year he was drafted.  The story went that some coaches and scouts knew his father, who had played in the NFL, had a prolonged chat with him on the ice and shook his hand before he left the ice.  They reportedly loved his combination of skill and size.

That's the kind of talent you can accumulate when you stockpile draft picks like the Sabres have.

--The transparently obvious conspiracy theory last year was that Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth was too competent, and wasn't piling up the losses to boy-genius Tim Murray's satisfaction, so got shipped out of town for inferior goalie Chad Johnson and a third-rounder.

That diminished goaltending assured the Sabres their guaranteed 20% odds in the lottery, from which lofty perch brainiac Sabres GM Tim Murray felt he couldn't possibly lose out on Connor McDavid.

--Seeing Chad Johnson operate, I can see that the Sabres pro-scouting isn't deficient.  That young man will indeed lose you a lot of games.

But we shouldn't bring that up, the Sabres' problem is obviously that they don't score enough, and it's the only aspect of their ineptitude we should discuss.

--We're not going to discuss it, but those were some dribblers that Ben Scrivens let through.

--Bad luck for Mark Barberio tonight, one shot on net which should have found mesh but stayed out, and he got caught flat-footed on the early breakaway goal by David Legwand, held the blue line and didn't recognize the incipient threat.  I suspect the coaches' ire on that play will be targeted on Tomas Fleischmann though.

--Andrei though, that was a beauty giveaway in our zone, on the fifth Sabres goal.

--P.K. Subban still has a long way to go yet in terms of his self-control and maturity.  When we start playing, when we're five years old, we're told that the refs are part of the playing surface.  He knows that.

I get that he's frustrated, that it's a bitter way to give up an insurance goal, but honestly, that's not why the Canadiens lost.  They lost when they couldn't capitalize on their scoring chances.

P.K., refs have a long memory.  You're a leader on this team.  You wear the 'A' on your sweater, and will need to approach referees in the future to argue your team's case.  You have to cultivate these relationships, not burn bridges.

--On L'Antichambre, Jacques Demers, Guy Carbonneau, Denis Gauthier and Gaston Therrien didn't have much positive to offer beyond Sven Andrighetto and Alex Galchenyuk's play.  They felt that the loss was inexcusable, and P.K.'s reaction to the bad bounce was childish and unbecoming.

--I posted recently how we've slowly, in drips and drabs, in a series of perfectly reasonable decisions and roster moves, frittered away a lot of our size and toughness.  Travis Moen, René Bourque, Jarred Tinordi, Zack Kassian, Brandon Prust, all traded away, and not really replaced, and we're back to a Jacques Martin-era lineup, a slew of undersized speedy forwards who get pushed around by the Blues and Bruins and Sens.

Jacques Demers made a similar point with respect to leadership.  He agreed that Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta were too highly-paid to remain on the team, they had to go, but that the team sorely misses their leadership.  He expounded that during the game, Josh and Gio were frequently seen talking to their young teammates, giving them their marching orders.

Marc Bergevin felt that his young leadership corps was ready, they needed to take over from the old guard.  It may be that this was a faulty assessment.  Their loss, along with Brandon Prust and Manny Malhotra, may not have been replaced by Max and P.K. and Gally.  There may be a vacuum on the team where Prusty and Gio were before.

--And Guy Carbonneau wondered "Was Carey Price the only real leader on this team?"

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Game 55: Canadiens 4, Lightning 2

I watched the condensed version of the game on RDS' "Canadiens Express", thanks to Gary Bettman's love of lucre being much greater than his love for hockey, but also because of a sense of foreboding I held.

I'm a pompom-waving positroll, but I had a bad feeling about this one.  I thought we were going to get blown out, that Ben Scrivens would be shelled all the way down to the ECHL, that the season was going to puncture, finally, and deflate completely.  

So I didn't have the stomach for a full game, kind of like a Republican Party primary season debate, just give me the lowlights, and I'll be on my way.  No stream for me, thank you.

Because my mind is made up.  I have some very concrete certainties about how this season is going, and how it's going to go:

a)  Carey Price will come back too  late for us to claw ourselves back in the playoff race,
b)  our GM is aware of that, and has decided to ride this down to the bottom of the standings, like Major Kong in "Doctor Strangelove",
c)  our players are aware of this, they know they're not making the playoffs,
d)  they've made themselves heard, they've spoken on how they feel about the coach,
e)  some players, and I have to believe Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec are among them, have taken their foot off the gas pedal, 
f)  the GM has spoken too, and he's not going back on his word about his coach finishing the season,
g)  but he's going to clear house in the off-season, with the Canadiens and in St. John's, with lots of coaching talent available to choose from,
h)  the GM is going to convert some of his assets into draft picks, and
i)  the GM is going to not mind having a crack at the #1 pick, but he'll keep a close eye on players who don't put out maximum effort and don't play with pride.

So with a solid 4-2 win over our division rival and would-be nemeses, all these best-laid schemes and prognostications are in peril.  I'm resigned to a losing season, and this three-game win streak is most unwelcome.  I wants my lottery pick and I wants it this year!

So I'll take the win, graciously, thank you very much, but can we get back to the business at hand, please?  

Tomas, can you ease off by at least half, please, and play like you've got your new contract signed and in your back pocket?  

Andrei, can you skate desultorily, wondering why you bother, and not intercept all these passes like a cobra striking?  

Nate, you're trade-bait, cut it out with the visor shattering and the shot blocking, will ya?  

Mr. Barberio, I'll accept you sticking it to your old team, but we've pronounced you a third-pairing option, can you please not overdeliver on this and upset the applecart? 

Mister Scrivens, you're supposed to be the final nail in the coffin of our GM, according to the pitchforks and torches posse, can you commit a few more blunders per game, please?  Because right now your saves are more than cancelling those out.

With that housekeeping out of the way, we admit we did decide to surf this wave and enjoy the ride.  It was fun to see Ben Bishop's bigness not be enough, to see him discombobulaterize before our very eyes.  

And keeping an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard and highlights, Kate Beirness was nice enough to show me Nazem Kadri get knocked around by Mark Giordano and probably earn himself another suspension, and the Bruins get shellacked by the Kings 9-2.  A good night all around.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Game 51: Canadiens 2, Flyers 4

Watching the game on a pretty good stream, all things considered.  Thanks onhockey.tv !  Thanks Gary, way to earn a contract extension!  Genius move, raising revenue by jacking up the price.  Capitalism works!  Everyone gets a bonus!

A now routine loss by the Canadiens, 4-2 to the Flyers, with all the moral victory overtones, lots of effort, came close there for a while, bit of bad luck, hot(ter) goalie on the other end, valderi, valdera, ...

--For the first time since 2012, I was watching and kind of hoping we don't win.  When Jeff Petry tied it up, I got excited, got on board, I hate losing to the Flyers.  But realistically, in the long-term view, I want to improve our draft standing, that's all I want out of this season.  Not just to improve our lottery odds in the first round, but to protect our slot in the second, the third round, etc.

Watching the Draft the last two years, it was agony waiting for our turn to pick, and then to pick again, especially when we didn't have a second-rounder the last two years, having swapped them for Thomas Vanek and Jeff Petry.  All these great prospects still on the board, being picked off one by one, well before we get our turn.

We already have the Wild's second-round pick from the Josh Gorges trade with the Sabres two summers ago, let's draft high in each round, and stockpile more picks by trading off perishable assets.

--I'm getting tired of getting dummied by other teams, especially our division rivals, and by the Flyers.  Why is it always us getting beaten up, injured by other teams?  Like Kyle McLaren on Richard Zednik.  Eric Gryba on Lars Eller.  Ryan Malone on Chris Campoli.  And on and on it goes...

Tonight, Radko Gudas, a thumper who fits in very well with the Broad Street Bullies, lowbridged Lucas Lessio, one of the bigger players on the ice on our side.  Again, we lost out on the exchange, it didn't look good for our boy, hyperextended knee in slow mo made me queasy.

Even when we have big guys who are supposed to stand up to those guys, we get owned.  Colton Orr takes down George Parros.  Milan Lucic spaghetties Alexei Emelin's knee.  Milan Lucic destroys Mike Komisarek, repeatedly.

We used to have guys to stand up to the goons.  We'd have our own goons, or at least big tough guys who could play who'd make the other side think twice before stepping over a line.

There's a perfectly good, logical explanation the GM can make for Jarred Tinordi being traded, for Zack Kassian being exiled, for Mike McCarron being kept in St. John's, for Tom Sestito not being claimed on waivers, for Trevor Gillies not being signed and parked on the bench, then unmuzzled and unchained when appropriate.  Except that after this string of very reasonable moves, we're now quite small and inviting targets.  Again.  And as Denis Gauthier explained on L'Antichambre, when you're not headed to the playoffs, when things aren't going well, players don't really want to get involved in these battles, these scrums, if they don't have to.

In sum, we're back to where we were in 2012, losing game after game, and Habitants tip-toeing skittishly, avoiding eye-contact, Jakub Voracek assaulting powerlifter P.K. Subban with no real response from anyone.  In 2012, eventually, Pierre Gauthier had to throw in the towel and claim Brad Staubitz off waivers to quell the carnage.  I now wonder what Marc Bergevin, who avowedly wanted to size up this team, will do.  He has to do something, to deal with this specific issue.

--Sucks being Lucas Lessio.  The kid was flying out there, wasn't doing bad at all.  I hope it's just a mild hyperextension.

--And since you ask, hell yeah I want Brandon Prust back, now that he's being waived.  I don't know if the GM should necessarily claim him outright, but maybe trade him for a no-hope prospect, one-for-one in terms of contracts, and get the 'Nucks to keep some salary.  Right now, they're desperate to be rid of him, the experiment really didn't work for them.

Our team isn't right.  I don't think he'll necessarily get our guys back winning, but I sense he'd right things in the dressing room, and impose some sort of order out on the ice.  Bobby Farnham wouldn't act so frigging tough with Prusty out there.

--My favourite site these days, http://nhllotterysimulator.com/ , required four spins of the wheel for us to land the 3rd overall, with the Hurricanes first and Flames second.   On the tenth try, we got first, the Canucks second and 'Canes third.

And that's before they adjusted the odds, after we lost and the Leafs won.  I want our odds to be so high that we all pout like Tim Murray in June, when we don't land the first overall pick, and figure with those odds we shouldn't, couldn't possibly lose.  Like, 20%, that's guaranteed to turn out, right?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

John Scott, after wandering the desert, reaches the All-Star Game.

The NHL has a way of setting itself up for failure that's charmingly all its own.  In general, it dumbs down the sport of hockey, favouring plumbers and defensive play over its spectacular stars and fan-friendly wide-open end-to-end action.  It has as its Commissioner a lawyer who grew up a basketball/NBA fan and has no passion for the sport he should cultivate.  It operates in secrecy and opacity, and can be relied on to make baffling, inexplicable decisions on the short and long term.

All of this is exemplified by the John Scott saga.  Mr. Scott is what's euphemistically known as an 'enforcer' in the NHL, a 'policeman', a strong man who will by his mere presence, by the implicit threat of his size and strength, enjoin opponents to play by the rules, and not cross any lines.  While this should be accomplished by the referees who officiate games, and by the League office if anything extreme occurs, the NHL has evolved a role for a player or players to perform this disciplining of others.

There was a time when this might have made sense.  Before the games were all televised, with a dozen HD cameras trained on the ice surface, it was common for players to wait until the (lone) referee had his back turned to commit acts of violence on an opponent.  While the ref might miss the infraction, the victim's bench wouldn't, and his teammates would make sure to exact a price, and it wasn't a mere two or five minutes spent in a penalty box.

Nowadays though, with video available during and after the game of any and all transgressions alleviating any chance that something will be 'missed' by the two refs, and with inarguable evidence of the health risks associated with head trauma, it's transparently obvious that the 'price' is too great to bear.  To allow a player who commits a slash or crosscheck to be subjected to a pugilistic interlude by an enforcer is no longer tolerable, if it ever was.

So John Scott's role in the League is disappearing.  His breed are dying out.  They ply their trade in the AHL if at all, and even then incidents such as the KO of Brian McGrattan occasion more revulsion in the average fan than used to occur.

John Scott always stuck out like a sore thumb, and not just because of his great stature.  Seeing him play live, he looked completely out of place, a tanker among corvettes, routinely several strides behind the play.  His presence on the ice was a joke, more so than oddities are in other sports.

Kickers and punters play an accepted role on football teams.  The odd one-batter lefty reliever, or the corpulent designated hitter in baseball also raise some eyebrows and catcalls and chuckles, but again their contribution is central to the outcome of the game.  The NBA has had some freakishly tall players who do nothing but block shots and play defence, whose athleticism is questionable, but they affect the final tally on the scoreboard.

NHL enforcers operate on the periphery, in the margins of the game.  Their contribution is at best psychological, motivational.  Studies have shown that the accepted wisdom, that they can give one side a change in momentum, that they can turn a tide with a bout against another, similar enforcer, is at least very difficult to demonstrate, to quantify.  Because that's been what they've been relegated to: sideshow head-to-head tilts against the other team's enforcer.  The policing function has largely disappeared.

To be impolite, enforcers have become a joke, and with the fan voting campaign to put him in the All-Star Game in Nashville, the NHL was punked, with Mr. Scott as the butt of the joke.  Legions of hockey 'fans' ridiculed the league by voting in the worst hockey player they could find on a roster to its showcase event.

Because they could.  Because after the Rory Fitzpatrick 'Vote for Rory' campaign, and the Zemgus Girgensons campaign, the NHL still didn't understand that the voting process was deeply flawed, that more deserving players were being left aside for joke candidates.  Maybe the League reveled in it.  Until the fans doubled down, and showed that it's not always true that any publicity is good publicity.

Gary Bettman could have stepped in and as the Commissioner invoked his powers to protect the interests of the League, nullified these votes and made the clear statement that the All-Star Game was for the Crosbys and the Ovechkins, not a freakshow.  Instead, it tried to work in the shadows, by going against its usual practice and not publicizing fan vote tallies, by appealing to Mr. Scott to withdraw himself from consideration.  Something which once cost Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg one-game suspensions, deciding not to attend an All-Star Game.

But the NHL kept bumbling and stumbling, with the way it kept silent when John Scott was demoted to the AHL by the irked Coyotes, and then traded to the Canadiens and immediately assigned to their AHL team.  Until it, in the face of a social media firestorm, belatedly stepped forward and assured everyone that John Scott was in the All-Star Game all along, there was never any doubt, the fans had spoken.  Why had there been this furor, for days on end, it wondered?

So now we're being fed an all's well that ends well storyline, of John Scott as the underdog and the people's champion, never mind his take on the Players' Tribune.  While we didn't buy his good guy act, after years of seeing him be a bully on the ice, after the Phil Kessel incident, we've been mollified by the charm offensive from the player and the league.

Except we won't be watching.  The saboteurs who spotlighted John Scott have done their job, shown the league and its 'showcase' event to be a farce, and while it was worth a few yuks, it won't be worth hours of our time this weekend.

[Further reading from Bruce Arthur.]

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Game 48: Canadiens 3, Leafs 2 (SO)

The powerhouse Canadiens defeated the milquetoast Leafs by a decisive 3-2 margin, which was never in doubt, and confidently decided in the shootout.

1)  Mike Boone, in his "About Last Night":
That a collapse didn’t happen – and that Lars Eller, one of the team’s few recent bright lights, won the game in a Shootout – may have been a sign that perhaps the Canadiens have turned the corner.
Anyone who accuses The Headmaster of being too negative and critical needs to reconsider.  He can perform Maybelline magic on any old porcine varmint.

2)  More from Mike Boone:
The Leafs had an 8-5 shot advantage in the middle period and got a goal from Nazem Kadri – the most dislikable Toronto player since Darcy Tucker.

He's on target when it comes to Mr. Kadri though.  Although we both failed to hold him accountable for all the dives and pratfalls.  And so did the refs.  And so will Daddy Campbell.
Un Canadien errant    JANUARY 23, 2016 AT 8:45 PM

Loathsome Nazem Kadri. I guess there wasn’t anyone in the vicinity to spear or slewfoot, he wasn’t otherwise engaged, so he found time to score a goal.

All that’s left is to compare it favourably to a John Tavares goal, and his night’s work is done.

3)  "My grandmother, Big Mama, said to me repeatedly 'Tavis, baby, be careful of stoopin' so low that you can't get back up'."--Tavis Smiley

The Canadiens need to heed Tavis Smiley's grandma's advice.


4)  I hope Marc Bergevin folds his hand and waits for the next deal. See what kind of assets he can amass by trading away vets as rentals.

I don’t dislike players like Brian Flynn or Tom Gilbert, I don’t want to ‘get rid’ of them, but if they’re attractive for teams looking to load up at the deadline, then by all means, let them go.

Torrey Mitchell is signed for two more years, so he might not necessarily work as a rental, and again I like the guy, but I have to wonder if Gabriel ‘Pitbull’ Dumont wouldn’t be able to give us the same kind of play. Right-handed shot, can play centre or wing, has some snarl, isn’t malhotrabad on offence. Maybe it’s not an either-or situation, maybe we can use both, Gabriel gets called up after the deadline as a swing-depth forward.

Tomas Fleischmann, Mark Barberio, Paul Byron, any expiring UFA contract, if they net a draft pick, they’re for sale. Come one come all to Marc’s Ka-Razy Rental Sale. Damaged, floor-model RFA’s on hand too, ready to go. We have a like-new Devo demo, barely used, still not broken in, can be had for a song.


5)  http://nhllotterysimulator.com/

The Leafs won where it counted.  It took two draws for them to get the #2.  Three draws for us to get the #3.

The Sens got first overall on the first draw, Oilers third.


6)  More Tavis Smiley: "I was on one of the Sunday morning shows, and within hours (Donald Trump) had tweeted about me, based on his not liking what I'd said about him on this show..."

"So you probably said some facts...", interjects Trevor Noah.

BREAKING NEWS: Milan Lucic says it wasn't his fault.

He tried his best to defend himself.  He didn't do anything wrong, it was just a mean wefewee picking on poor wittle Miwan.

But the League didn't buy it, suspending him for a whopping one games.  Take that, you out-of-control menace.

Not to make excuses for him, heaven forfend, but these kind of incidents result from the pervasive, continual slashing that happens in the NHL.  Everyone's always slashing everyone else, it's meant to replace defence and positioning.  If you're not slashing your guy, you're not covering him.

Playing along the boards, guys don't necessarily try to play the puck, or steal it away from someone else, they just slash and slash and hack at the other guy, the other guy's stick.  You have to make a 'strong play', not stickhandle.

In the scramble in front of the net, there are crosschecks, slashes, a thicket of hockey sticks being used against one another.

So Kevin Connauton, in the process of doing his thing, conducting his business, matriculating the puck away from his goalie, hacked at the King standing there, and got him in a sensitive spot, probably his bony wrist, where the lightweight gloves they wear nowadays offer no protection.

Ape Milan goes apespit, but was the Kevin Connauton slash especially grave, or even noteworthy?

Not according to Daddy Campbell's rules (emphasis mine):
Rule 61 – Slashing

61.1 Slashing - Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an
opponent, whether contact is made or not. Non-aggressive stick
contact to the pant or front of the shin pads, should not be penalized
as slashing. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an
opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s
hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play
the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.

61.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee
based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player
who slashes an opponent.

61.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee
based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player
who slashes an opponent. When injury occurs, a major penalty must
be assessed under this rule (see 61.5).

61.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match
penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately
injured his opponent by slashing.

How are referees supposed to interpret this, control it, when Don Cherry blowhards that they should "let them play"?  That they shouldn't 'inject themselves in the game'?

On the one hand, it wasn't particularly aggressive swinging of the stick.  Certainly didn't seem exceptional, taken in context with all the other slashing.  Was he trying to non-aggressively make contact with Milan's pants or shin pads and miss?

He did swing his stick at an opponent and make contact, but it certainly wasn't a forceful or powerful chop.  Nazem Kadri wouldn't have bothered diving if he'd been slashed that softly, even he would think that wouldn't sell.

The Coyote defender tried to slash the stick of the Bruin so he couldn't control the puck.  That's par for the course in hockey.  We used to do that all the time when I was growing up, you just had to make sure it wasn't too hard, or else it would make too loud a sound and then the ref would penalize the decibels.  Nowadays, guys stare at you murderously if you do that in garage league play, because there's a good chance you could have snapped their $200 stick.  But in the NHL?  Play ball!

No, the only thing that made this play anything but routine is that it gave Milan an ouchy, and he don't like ouchies.  They smart.

Of course, Milan, in his worldview, is allowed to spear opponents in the crotch, willy-nilly, and then rely on the fact that they wear a cup to sleep good at night.  It doesn't hurt since they wear pro'.  But you caught me where my pro' didn't pro'tect me, so here's a right cross to the kisser from behind.  Justice shan't be denied.

Did Milan get a penalty for attempt to injure though?  Because that's definitely in the books.  And that never gets applied.

The NHL is too busy getting 4K cameras mounted on the boards to ensure a player isn't a millimetre offside at the blue line.  That's the big emergency that's plaguing the league.  Ensuring a streaking talented player doesn't get a chance to score too easy.  We have to give those defensive five man teams 'standing up at the blue line' a fair shake.

Gary Bettman is too busy trying to get John Scott out of the All-Star Game as a favour to his Coyote buddies, then backpedaling and covering his tracks and convincing us that there was never an issue, John Scott was an All-Star all along.  He's not mad he and his garbage league got punk'd by the fans, not at all.  And if you'd stop interrupting him and letting him finish, he'd evade and smarmily lecture the subject to something else, please and thank you.

Game 49: Canadiens 2, Blue Jackets 5

I'm Canadiens Expressing it on RDS, since the full broadcast was blacked out for the good of "our game".  Thank you Gary Bettman.  Actually saved me some aggravation, got through this 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets much more expediently, mercifully.

16:30 -- Great play by Andrei Markov, staying at the offensive blue line and derailing a zone exit by the Blue Jackets, intercepting a pass as he so often does, baiting an opponent to try sliding the puck past him, then striking with his stick like a cobra.

It's been tough watching him lately, not sure what's been the matter, but I think too many are writing him off too soon.  Andrei has many gifts, and one of his greatest, his sense of the game, his hockey I.Q., his anticipation, his dekes and feinting, his passing, those won't fade.  His brain is still able to process the game at an elite level.  All we need to do is manage his minutes, the situations he's put in, so that he's 100% when we need him, like on the powerplay.

16:15 -- Great backcheck by Daniel Carr.  David Desharnais had a good one early on too, foiled a 3-on-2, intercepted a pass and put a stop an incipient threat.

11:15--Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly, three righties on one line.  Not more than a couple seasons ago, we didn't have enough righties up front or on the blue line.  Now it's almost the reverse.

10:45--Knee-on-knee by René Bourque on Torrey Mitchell, on a classic attempt at a face-on bodycheck.  Those never work, the intended victim sees the hit coming, veers aside, and then the defender often feels like he can't let his opponent go by him unimpeded, so the knee comes out.

That play should be an automatic major.  And I guess if it was, the refs would never call it, the consequences being too great, likely to attract the wrath of Don Cherry.  I love the NHL.

And René, ease off buddy.  Keep those assaults directed at Torts.

9:21--Brendan Gallagher, on a 5-on-3, banks one in off Gregory 'Sonny Boy' Campbell.  Couldn't happen to a nicer worthless plug.

7:40--Lars Eller rips a shot, pings it off the post.  Someone check it for a dent.

I'll ask again: was he sulking the entire start of the season?  He looks transformed, goes towards the net with the puck.  Awesome.

5:20--On the Blue Jackets' tying goal, you could play the classic circus music, or "Yakkety Sax", with all the Canadiens running around.  #1 line didn't look great, with that puck pinballing around until it was fired in Mike Condon's net.

Second Period

17:15--I have to agree with Pierre Houde and Marc Denis, Torrey Mitchell doesn't look completely recovered from that shot he took off his foot.

11:24--P.K. ties the game with a blast from the red line that fools Columbus' rookie goalie.  And then takes an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a shove at an oncoming Brandon Dubinsky.

And Gally has to be the more mature one here, who tries to calm down P.K., talk him down, get him under control.

I'd be really mad, and go off on a rant about P.K. normally, except that it's frigging Brandon Dubinsky, a player who makes a living elbowing Sidney Crosby in the head.  And getting slurped by play-by-play guys as being "tough to play against".  Unless the refs called the penalties, then he'd be really easy to play against.

I'll say it again: so much of this nonsense occurs because the NHL insists that player benches be on the same side of the ice.  At every stoppage, every line change, a Brad Marchand or Chris Neil or Steve Ott or Brandon Dubinsky gets to 'instigate' with a push or a slash or shove or whatever.  And it's not hockey.  It gives the goons and the rats more of an opportunity to ply their trade.

Every arena that comes on line should separate the benches, have them be on opposite sides of the rink.  

But 'Daddy Campbell' is in the business of selling hate, so...

Third period

10:54--I've seen Jeff Petry shrug and look up at the sky/ceiling in frustration after a goal a little too often for my liking lately.  Blue Jackets, the worst team in the league, with their valiant coach unavailable, along with both of their goalies, take a 3-2 lead.

1:12--Cue up "Yakety Sax" again on that extra-skater goal.  

0:25--Cam Atkinson completes his hat trick to make it 5-2.

Monsieur Bergevin, please fold your hand on this season, monetize some of our expiring contracts/assets, swap them for picks and prospects.

I don't like this team anyway, that is a soft touch and an inviting target for bullies.  It was fun when they raced out to a 9-0 start and were roadrunnering every other team, but it certainly feels like that was the blip, and this anemically-scoring squad is the true identity.

I'd point out that our rookie goalie posted a .833 SV%, while their rookie chipped in a .941, but I'm starting to feel it's no use.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Grammar Minute 4

Grammar rant: The Albany Devils play-by-play dude used the phrase “answer back”, which I loathe, it makes me shudder.

It’s such a redundancy, like ‘free gift’, or ‘good goal’, in hockey parlance. Either it’s a goal or it isn’t a goal, Mr. Referee.

And a team, after being scored on, can be said to need to ‘answer’ with a goal of their own, to reply with a goal, or score right back. But not ‘answer back’. For that usage to be correct, maybe, you’d need one team to score, then the other to answer, at which point you could say the first team now needs to answer back.

It’s like ‘re-aggravate’. It’s such a sportscaster move, to add syllables to a word and assume that makes it more cromulent. A player gets hurt, and then makes the injury worse a while later. He has aggravated the injury, made it more grave, or re-injured it. If he then re-injured it again, maybe you could say he re-aggravated it, but it would be just as correct to say he aggravated it, again made it worse.

There, all done now. Don’t we all feel more better?

Still more Jarred Tinordi recriminations.

(23 January 2016)

I’m still stewing over this.

Let’s say you have a fleet of taxis out on the road, 24-7-365. You’re making good revenue, but there are good and bad days, rainy days where you get a sales spike, Christmas time when you can barely keep up, summertime when everyone’s on vacation. But you keep hitting your numbers, and skillfully making a little extra so that everyone nets a bonus, year after year.

Except that your fleet maintenance manager is ragging you to pull cars off the road for a couple of days apiece, he needs to check and replace some ball joints here and there, he’s noticed a few shocks leaking and sagging, other things are cropping up he wants to stay on top of. He says it’ll save money in the long run.

You reply with a classic P.J. O’Rourke line you use often: “Save money in the long run!? Why don’t you save us some money right now?!” You can’t have cars not cruising around out there, not bringing in revenue, you can’t take the hit, it’ll make it really hard to hit the numbers, to make budget. The best you can do for him is to bring in units when you absolutely have to, to do a quick oil change, and if he can get around to a couple things then, great, but otherwise you direct him to put the cabs back out on the street A.S.A.P.

So you’ll eke out another year or two of marginally better revenue, because every cab will be out there 364 days a year or thereabouts, you’re missing a couple of half days for the necessary maintenance, but otherwise you’re really squeezing that lemon.

Until you start having your cabs blow gaskets and throw rods, and have to redo the whole front end or some you have to junk because the rust got in there, and you now have a fleet of unreliable cabs that are breaking down on you and are regularly out of service and customer aren’t happy and neither are drivers, and you’re now facing an earlier than anticipated requirement to replace your fleet.

My tortured analogy is what I think the Canadiens mishandled with respect to Jarred Tinordi. When push came to shove this year, we didn’t ease him in the rotation. We didn’t accept that by doing so, even if we weren’t icing the very best, most-markoved D-corps possible, and even if we were marginally less likely to bring back two points, we’d be better off in the long run. We kept riding P.K. and Andrei, we avoided taking the small hit to give the big lug games, icetime, and get him going. We were strictly short-term oriented, vs. the more reasonable, successful long-term. We kept putting the cabs out there, squeezing the lemon.

NHL abashes into the only decision it corner-painted itself into.

(January 21, 2016)

That sound you heard just now, that was the NHL backpedaling out of the edifice of lying it was trying to erect.
NEW YORK – John Scott will captain the Pacific Division team at the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Nashville, the National Hockey League announced today.
Scott, elected to the Pacific Division captaincy in fan voting while a member of the Arizona Coyotes, was traded Friday to the Montreal Canadiens of the Atlantic Division. The resultant change in division, and Scott's subsequent assignment to the American Hockey League, created a unique circumstance that required review – the result of which was a determination to maintain the status quo for the All-Star weekend in order to preserve all parties' pre-existing expectations, including Scott’s desire to participate.

There's lots of blame to go around, everyone and everything got sprayed by a Glendale skunk on this one.

Marc Bergevin made a poor decision by trading Jarred Tinordi for a handful of beans. He shouldn’t have touched John Scott, involved himself in any manner with that clown of a terrible player, with that whole gong show.

That Gary Bettman didn’t have the cojones to come out and invoke his power as a Commissioner to negate the trolling/voting campaign for John Scott, for the good of the game, that’s another instance to add to the sorry legacy he’s left, like the goo a slug tracks on the ground. He chose to go for the underhanded backroom double-dealing approach instance, as is his scurrilous habit.

That Don Maloney wanted to be rid of this embarrassment, wanted his moribund franchise to be represented by someone else than one of his mistakes as a GM at the All Star Game, that was his issue, we didn’t need to get dragged into it. We didn’t have to get involved in his efforts to get Shane Doan off on his farewell tour.

Now for both of these guys to pretend that it was a hockey trade, that there were no other considerations, that the League didn’t have its finger in the air checking which way the wind was blowing before making an arbitrary decision on whether the allow John Scott to appear in the game, it’s a bunch of baloney.

And I don’t buy John Scott as the regular Joe good-guy who’s a victim in all this. He’s a target, a pawn of this Punk’d campaign because he’s a terrible player, a joke that shines a spotlight on how poorly the NHL is run. And contrary to many other enforcers, he has a tinge of nasty, he’s a bully who does pick on players who have no interest in tangling with him. It’s not just the Phil Kessel incident, it’s every time he’s on the ice he’s slashing and crosschecking in a scrum, with an adversary he towers over and who did nothing to attract that attention.

To believe Don Maloney when he says he had no ulterior motive beyond strict hockey reasons for trading John Scott is to be credulous. The Phoenix GM wanted to wash his hands of this mess, fine, but he wears this one, he shouldn’t micturate on my leg and tell me it’s a bracing spring shower.

Marc Bergevin should have held on the Jarred Tinordi instead of giving up on him. And he should have clamped and duct-taped several ten-foot poles together and stayed clear of the John Scott mess.