Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hamilton Bulldogs Report 11-04-12

Who let the Dogs out?

For those who missed the Rochester Americans vs. Hamilton Bulldogs game tonight, here's what you need to know;

The first period brought no scoring but did entertain with two fights. First, Zack Stortini took on Nick Tarnasky in a spirited bout, both exchanging blows and Stortini ending the fight with the takedown. Both men had bloodied knuckles and Stortini's nose was dripping with blood. In the second fight, Darryl Boyce took on Brayden McNabb. The fight was mostly a dance with a lot of clutching and quick jabs, but neither of the two could register a big blow. Referees separated the two after a missed haymaker by McNabb.

In the second period, it was all Rochester. Leading in shots 10-8, it was Brian Flynn who scored not once, but twice, giving the Americans a 2-0 lead. The first goal came just shortly after Mike Blunden's tripping penalty had expired while Flynn's second goal was scored on a weird bounce that beat Bulldog's netminder five-hole.

The third period was a complete turn of the table, as Hamilton took it to Rochester. I don't know whether coach Sylvain Lefebvre's second period speech motivated the team or if this was the team's plan all along, but something changed. Suddenly, the Bulldogs looked like an NHL caliber team and they took it to Rochester. Out-shooting Rochester 11-5, Blake Geffrion opened the Bulldogs' scoring, beating Rochester netminder Connor Knapp to bring Hamilton within one. Gallagher tied the game at the 12 minute mark with his third of the season, beating Knapp gloveside. Mike Blunden gave the Bulldogs' their first lead of the game after tipping a Nathan Beaulieu shot from the point. Geoffrion added his second of the game when he streaked into the Rochester end and took two shots to beat Knapp. Tarnasky brought the Americans to within one after scoring a funny looking goal after a defensive breakdown from the Bulldogs' Beaulieu/St-Denis pairing but that was as close as they would get.

With the 4-3 win, the Bulldogs improve their record to 4-2-2. Their next game will take place on Wednesday, November 7th, when they take on the Syracuse Crunch.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A few words on Émile "Butch" Bouchard

It is with a heavy heart to type this out - Émile "Butch" Bouchard has passed away this morning at the age of 92. It is unknown at this time what the cause of death is.

Having played for the Montreal Canadiens from the 1941-42 season and finishing his career in the 1955-56 season, it goes without saying that I never had the privilege to watch Mr. Bouchard play. However what will always stick out in my mind are such memories as his participation in the closing of the Forum and the night his number was retired at the Bell Centre when Ryan O'Byrne took off his jersey (he wore #3 at that time) to reveal his new number, surrendering Bouchard's number to the rafters.

In 1966, Bouchard was among nine players to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame, having been a Stanley Cup winner four times while playing for the All-Star Team four times as well. On October 15th 2008, the Bell Centre unveiled it's Ring of Honour exhibition during their 100th season, which payed tribute to their 44 players and 10 builders who are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Both Bouchard and Elmer Lach, the two oldest surviving members, were at the event to drop the ceremonial puck before the game.

As part of the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens, on December 4, 2009, both Bouchard's #3 and Lach's #16 were raised to the rafters, becoming the 16th and 17th members of the Canadiens organization to have their numbers retired. The beautiful ceremony lasted about 85 minutes and concluded with a teary-eyed Bouchard thanking Ryan O'Byrne for surprising him with the changing of his number and handing Bouchard his old jersey. Before Bouchard was helped off the ice, he blew kisses and thanked the Bell Centre crowd.

On June 18, 2008, Bouchard received the National Order of Quebec (L'Ordre national du Québec) presented by Quebec Premier Jean Charest. A year later, he was made a member of the Order of Canada "for his contributions to sports, particularly professional hockey, and for his commitment to his community."

In fifteen seasons as a member of the Canadiens' organization and a big part of their blue-line in the '40s and '50s, Bouchard played 785 games, scoring 49 goals and adding 145 assists for 194 points. In the playoffs, Bouchard put up 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points in 113 games.

We will always remember Mr. Émile Bouchard for his dedication as not only a member of the Canadiens, but for his dedication and passion to the city of Montreal and the true class man we all had grown to love.

R.I.P. Butch.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The #3 pick

As the top 5 envelopes were opened this Tuesday night, the Montreal Canadiens ended up in the exact same position they started at - the #3 pick. As the annual NHL Entry Draft is set to take place in Pittsburgh on June 22nd, I follow the tradition started last year where I give my take on who the Habs could possibly pick up in the spots they hold.

This entry is about the #3 pick. I will do research over the next few weeks on the remainder of the Habs picks and once I come to a decision, I will update this entry.

1st round - #3 overall

Mikhail Grigorenko
6'2, 191 lbs

Quite possibly the centre that the Montreal Canadiens have been starving for, Grigorenko has just about everything that is needed to have a very susuccessfulareer in the NHL. A playmaking centre that has great hockey IQ, excellent vision and major offensive upside. One belief was the "Russian factor" playing into things but he has quickly put that to rest, scoring 85 points (40 goals, 45 assists) in the QMJHL as a member of the Québec Remparts, coached by former Habs great Patrick Roy. Another negative detail is that some believe Grigorenko has a tendency to be lazy at times. Still, this big centre is likely to draw a lot of interest by the Habs. Then again, so is another big centre.

Alex Galchenyuk
6'1, 185 lbs

If the Habs want to take a different route in terms of playing style but still want a centre, Galchenyuk could be their guy. Known as a goal scorer with a slick wrist shot, smooth skating and great poise, Galchenyuk has a great future ahead of him should he meet all the expectations that he faces. In his first year with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, Galchenyuk put up 83 points (31 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games. He would miss the next year due to injury but returned for the playoffs, scoring two goals and adding two assists in 6 games before being eliminated from the playoffs.

Filip Forsberg
Right Wing
6'0, 176 lbs

If the Canadiens opt to draft a winger instead, their best choice would be Forsberg. He possesses great speed, smooth skating and solid offensive ability. He may not be the biggest guy out there, but he is definitely strong for his size and maneuvers well in tight spaces, using his speed as well as his great stick-handling to get around players. He also has the confidence to carry the puck through the neutral zone and make things happen once he enters the offensive zone. Over time, he will need to fill out his frame, but that should and will come in time. For now, he will continue to entertain in Sweden as he is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Leksand.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

P.K. Subban - A player worth the wait

One of the toughest things for a coaching staff to accomplish during the course of an NHL season is to teach an offensive defenseman some defense. Any coach in the NHL will echo those exact sentiments.

The Los Angeles Kings have that task with Drew Doughty as do the Winnipeg Jets with Zach Bogosian. The Montreal Canadiens also have this task with 22-year old P.K. Subban.

Yet here we are today, ready to trade him away.

It started with a disappointing start to the season, in terms of both offensive numbers and defensive errors, and has now translated into disputes between Subban and Randy Ladouceur. As seen on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Subban made a poor decision defensively that led to a Pittsburgh goal. As he sat on the bench taking an earful from Ladouceur, like any 5-year old child would do, P.K. threw his arms up and attempted to make his point known. Really, he should have taken the verbal punishment and try to be better.

Then two days ago during a practice, Ladouceur again was on Subban’s back, shouting at Subban to wake the **** up. I was not in attendance so I can’t comment on the incident. Maybe he was joking around with the guys while others were working hard. Maybe he was balancing his stick on the palm of his hand. Either way, Subban was at practice for forty minutes before Ladouceur had enough with P.K.’s demeanor.

Some fans have since called for Subban to be shipped out of town. If we follow that direction and trade away a youthful talent every time there seems to be a problem or a kink in the road of his development, the Montreal Canadiens might as well trade away all their draft picks and just acquire people every year to fill in gaps.

Case in point – Every single player, both young and old, has problems they need to work on. As talented as P.K. is, he is not perfect and he knows that. If he needs to be sat down for a game like he was earlier this year or a veteran needs to step up and have a long conversation with him, then so be it.

I will end this with a quote from P.K. himself that will hopefully wake everyone up.

"I have a great relationship with Randy and I'd hate for you guys (the media) to ruin that," Subban said. "I'm a young guy and I need to be coached and that's what he's doing.

"Let him do his job and I'll play the game. He's probably going to tear a strip off me again this year. Maybe a couple of times."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Ode to Habs Fans

There is a saying in life: "With the good comes the bad."

As I walked down the street of Saint-Denis with my son sitting on my shoulders and my wife holding hands with our daughter, we celebrated a Montreal Canadiens playoff series win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. We chanted "Go Habs Go," slapped high fives with random strangers walking the opposite direction and witnessed residents stuck in traffic, leaving their cars to hug one another.

It was one of those surreal moments in life. It felt like a movie that you didn't want to end. All one could do was stop, take it in and appreciate what was taking place.

In another part of the city of Montreal; on Sainte-Catherine to be more specific, a riot ensued. Property was defaced, store windows broken, looters making off with whatever they could get their hands on. Complete pandemonium. In the end, at least two-dozen people were arrested and two officers were hurt.

This incident is just one of many reasons why Adam Winer dubbed the fan-base of the Canadiens one of the worst in America, this March, in GQ Magazine.

Some of the other reasons listed: Habs fans booing Patrice Brisebois to the point of sickness, booing Carey Price in a pre-season game, rioting after a first round series win against the Boston Bruins in 2008, and booing of the American National Anthem.

Can I defend the people that did this? No, I cannot. Simply put, it happened and I am ashamed that the people involved in the incidents mentioned above are tied in with the same fan-base I find myself in. The issue I have is receiving the same label as the few bad apples that brought all this attention on us.

Rewind back to April 19th, 2002. After missing most of the season due to a battle with cancer, Saku Koivu skated onto the Bell Centre ice. What happened next is a moment nobody will ever forget. For eight minutes, the fans in the Bell Centre stood, cheered and chanted his name.

Staying on the subject of Koivu, how about his return to the Bell Centre after signing with the Anaheim Ducks? When number 11 in white took his first few steps onto the ice, the fans began to cheer once again. He was playing an away game, but to Koivu this was more of a welcoming back to his home. After the Ducks went on to beat the Canadiens, Saku was called out as the second star of the game. The fans once again stood on their feet and gave him a standing ovation.

February 19th, 2008, during a regular season game, the Canadiens would fall to a deficit of 5-0 against the New York Rangers. After scoring two goals to bring the lead down to three, the Canadiens would send their home crowd into a frenzy as they scored two quick goals, coming within one. Koivu would carry the puck into the offensive zone but lose control, only for it to land on the stick of Andrei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn sent a pass to Alex Kovalev and when the puck crossed the goal line, the crowd erupted.

Even after watching their team trail by five goals, just over five minutes into the second period, the fans never gave up on their team. Nobody left the arena. Sure they sat there and they pouted, but they stuck with it and didn't give up on the Habs.

As a blogger, a fan of another team or simply just someone that doesn't watch much hockey, it is easy to see all the negative without ever seeing a glimpse at the positive. The general public is more interested with how many cars were burnt and how many people spent the night in lock-up.

As a fan of this team, I see the bad and the ugly and I recognize it for what it is. I see fans booing their own players, national anthems and making fools of themselves. At the same time, I see the good for what it is. I see little children in the audience, cheering on their favorite players while wearing the player's name on their jersey. I see pools and pools of fans parading in the streets with maturity and class.

Sensationalism and negativity will always sell papers, however, a few over-hyped incidents should not over-shadow the passionate fans that has cheered on the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge for over one hundred years.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Northeast Division

With Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges signed up for the season, Erik Cole added into the top six mix, filling in quite a few needs, and throw in Peter Budaj as Price's back-up, and we have ourselves quite a nice looking team.

Today, we take a look into the Northeast division and see how the other four teams did at free agency, this year. Who did they sign? Who did they let go? Most importantly, are the Montreal Canadiens able to stand with these teams, battle it out and come out on top? Or did the other four teams improve well enough, to give Montreal a tough season to battle through.

Boston Bruins - (46-25-11)
In: Benoit Pouliot, LW; Joe Corvo, D
Out: Mark Recchi, RW; Michael Ryder, RW; Tomas Kaberle, D; Shane Hnidy, D

The Boston Bruins have done exactly what is needed to remain a Cup contender, and possible repeat team, this off-season. They have kept most of their team's core, save for Recchi to retirement, rental Kaberle as well as Ryder, to free agency. In return, the Bruins signed Benoit Pouliot, who previously played for the Montreal Canadiens and veteran defenseman, Joe Corvo, who previously played for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Benoit Pouliot was quite the surprise, as he isn't viewed as Bruins type player. Although he can be fast and have an accurate wrist shot, he tends to be inconsistent a little too often and he is not very tough either. I'm sure David Krejci isn't too pleased either, after the one punch KO he suffered at the hands of Pouliot, last season. Perhaps he could have a turnaround season this year, and on a one year contract at $1.1 million, it's not going to cripple the Bruins.

To pick up the slack left by Kaberle and Hnidy, is Corvo. A solid defenseman that can move the puck quite well and also join the rush. He is also a Cup winner, which is nice. One thing about his game that may be a little suspect is his ability to turn over the puck on a consistent basis. However, there are plenty of defenseman on the Bruins roster to pair with Corvo, to take away any risk of Corvo's defensive decisions.

Sabres - (43-29-10)
In: Christian Ehrhoff, D; Robyn Regehr, D; Ville Leino, C/W; Ales Kotalik, RW
Out: Steve Montador, D; Tim Connolly, C; Rob Niedermayer, C; Mike Grier, RW; Craig Rivet, D; Patrick Lalime, G

When Terry Pegula became the new owner of the Sabres, everyone knew changes would come. One of those changes expected, was that for the first time, the Sabres would spend a lot of money. Boy did they ever. With Ehrhoff, Regehr and Leino, the Sabres are pretty much up against the cap. However, the plan was to make this team better and the Sabres have achieved that goal.

Leino may be over-payed, but I expect him to challenge for the number one centre spot. Yes, he did play wing in Philly, but he also played centre in Finland and could possibly revert back to his natural role. With Connolly headed over to the Maple Leafs, the number one spot is open for the taking. The only question will be, will he be able to live up to number one expectations?

Regehr and Ehrhoff also make for a very good defensive core. With both of them in the line-up, their blue-line is now much tougher and has a lot more experience. Another strong factor is that Ehrhoff will now become the guy on the powerplay unit that sets everything up, while Regehr can work for the penalty kill. So in the end, they have made their defensive squad AND their specialty teams better with these two players.

Senators - (32-40-10)
In: Zenon Konopka, C; Alex Auld, G; Nikita Filatov, LW
Out: Ryan Shannon, RW

The Senators weren't as active as most other teams during free agency, and with good reason. At this moment, there is a surge of youth on it's way in Ottawa. I was heavily impressed with guys like Bobby Buttler and Erik Condra, and along with a few others, have all received one-way offers. They got a chance to display their talent last season and looked very good with the big club.

Zenon Konopka, a guy that I hoped the Habs would pick up, will make the bottom six of the Senators a very intimidating force. His ability to hit, work along the boards and drop the gloves will be much appreciated. He is also a capable 4th line centre that can play 10+ minutes a game and can, on most nights, win the majority of the face-offs he takes.

As for Alex Auld, he is a solid back-up. He didn't have to see much action last season with the Habs, but when he was called upon, he looked very good.

Finally Nikita Filatov will have his moment to redeem himself and show the Sens management that he has what it takes. He can easily evolve into a top 6 forward for Ottawa, but at the moment, he has a lot to prove before he is given that shot.

Maple Leafs - (37-34-11)
Additions: Tim Connolly, C; Philippe Dupuis, C; Matthew Lombardi, C; Cody Franson, D; John-Michael Liles, D
Subtractions: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G; Tim Brent, C; Brett Lebda, D; Fredrik Sjostrom, LW

One team that I thought really improved this off-season, was the Maple Leafs. By stealing Franson away and adding Liles, their blue-line will be a force to look out for. Captained by Phaneuf, along with youngsters like Schenn, Aulie and Gunnarsson, the Maple Leafs defense looks fantastic on paper. If Komisarek can revert to his old days in Montreal, where he would lay big hits and not turn the puck over, once every shift, then Toronto will be set.

The addition of Lombardi and Connolly adds a lot of depth to their centre spots. The only issue for them is health, as both have suffered some pretty terrible injuries. However, if Connolly can stay healthy and play up to his expectations, Kessel and Connolly will be the major one-two punch that Burke has been looking for.

On paper, this is the prototypical Burke-type team. Now it's time for them to transition a good team on paper, to a good team on the ice.

Monday, July 25, 2011


When it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, their fans attempt to remain optimistic by taking a "glass half full" approach. While I tend to do somewhat the same, I also glance at the "glass half empty" side of things, in order to have a more realistic approach to things.

This year, with the addition of Cole into the top 6, Gorges coming back for another year and Auld being replaced by Peter Budaj, it has led fans to believe that this may be the most complete team the Habs will ice in the last five seasons. With Cole's size and even strength production and Budaj possibly playing more games than Auld, to give Price more of a "relaxed" season, the Habs have indeed improved in some ways.

That's the "glass half full" approach. The other side of the coin leads to many question marks, from the top six, all the way down to the goaltending duo. Here are some questions that I ask myself, and of course, the answers won't be given until the season starts and we see for ourselves.

Erik Cole
His even strength scoring and physical play is very much welcomed in Montreal. The question is, can he continue the way he played in Carolina, or will we see Edmonton's version of Cole? How will he adapt to the change, from playing with Staal feeding him the puck, to Plekanec?

Mike Cammalleri
There is no doubt that Cammalleri can put the puck into the net. His wrist shot is a beautiful thing to see and whenever he has the puck on his stick, fans look for the puck to hit the back of the net. Question is, can he do it at a consistent rate? He is prone to goal-less droughts and with Cole now playing on the other wing, Cammalleri may not see as much puck as he normally does.

Scott Gomez
Nobody can debate just how bad of a season Gomez had last year, not even Gomez himself. Remaining another year in Montreal, can he redeem himself by having a better season? He has the ability to rush the puck into the offensive zone and possesses good vision as well, but can he get back on track and keep up the pace?

Max Pacioretty
The time Max spent with the Habs, there was no doubt that this kid had something special in him. An ability to score goals, strong on the puck and good checking ability, Pacioretty can become the power forward type player that the Montreal Canadiens have been looking for. The question mark over his name is, how will he come back after suffering a terrible neck injury?

Bottom Six
With guys like Desharnais and Eller at the centre position, and White, Moen, Darche, Kostitsyn at wing, is this the right approach to how a bottom 6 should look? White, Moen and Kostitsyn can all play a physical game and back-check well enough and Darche compliments any line well enough to be in the line-up. Eller and Desharnais both play their positions well and can add a touch of offense as well. There's only one problem; Who becomes the 13th forward. Currently the Habs have 12 forwards signed. With nobody alternating in the bottom 6, will the Habs take a peek into free agency or is the 13th spot saved for somebody in Hamilton?

Andrei Markov
I'm just going to knock on wood right now, before I continue. Andrei Markov is probably one of the biggest question marks in the Habs line-up, going into this season. Not because of his skill level, because there is no doubt that Markov is a great defenseman. The problem is his health. You have to believe that he won't get hurt for a third straight season, but there is always that chance. Can Markov make it through an entire season without going down to injury? Can he remain on top of his game, coming back from a second straight year of being side-lined?

Josh Gorges
Another injury hovering over one of the Habs defenseman. It's no secret that Josh Gorges was playing injured for quite a few seasons. Wearing a brace to be able to skate, Gorges finally had to bow out to his knee problems and get it fixed up. Now Habs fans are wondering, will he come back just as good, if not better?

Alexei Yemelin
What can we expect? I'll admit, I haven't really seen anything from Yemelin's play as of yet, so I can't really comment on it. All I am wondering is, how will he adapt to the NHL style of play and will he live up to all of this hype he is receiving?

Yannick Weber
Can we expect Weber to finally prove to Martin that he can hang with the big boys? He did well as a bottom line forward last year, during the playoffs and he has quite a hard shot to add to the Habs powerplay, on the point. His defensive game is a tad inconsistent but he can still play well. His offensive threat is what makes him valuable to the team, but will it be enough to earn him a regular spot on the roster?

Hal Gill
One more year, but does he have enough gas left in him. As fans, we all know what Gill is good at, as well as what he is not good at. Don't look for a big booming shot on the powerplay, or for Gill to go on an end-to-end rush. What Gill can continue to add is his excellence on the penalty kill and his smooth work down low and against the boards. His value to P.K. Subban's progression is also what earned Gill another year. Can he keep it up, with Subban and with his own play?

Carey Price
After last season, there is no doubt Price can be a top 10 goaltender in the NHL. Possibly even a top 5. Can he continue into this upcoming season? The first two years that Price played in the NHL were quite solid, but then he fell down a few paces. You can argue that it was the goaltending controvery, lack of confidence or anything else, but the fact remains that he still had an off year after two decent years. Can we expect Price to have another strong year, even better than last season? Or will Price's confidence turn and cause him to lose his edge?

Questions are a form of doubt which causes fans to re-think a situation. I have my doubts going into this season but I also have hope as well. We shall see soon enough!