Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feb 27, 1960: Team USA’s original “Miracle on Ice” leads to Gold in Squaw Valley

Img214050389 When the term “Miracle on Ice” is used, the automatic reaction is Team USA’s 1980 upset of the Soviets in the semi-finals of the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.

In my opinion. Team USA’s true miracle came 20 years earlier, on home ice, in Squaw Valley, California.

Similar to their 1980 counterparts, the 1960 squad was made from a bunch of no-name youngsters, most of whom were from the Massachusetts and Minnesota area.

They played an 18-game tour prior to the Squaw Valley Games, winning 10, tying 4, and losing 4 games, hardly scaring anyone.

Having won their preliminary group, which included a surprising 7-5 win over the Czechs, Team USA moved on to the round robin medal round.

The American stars on the squad were forwards Billy Cleary and brothers Bill and Roger Christian and goaltender Jack McCartan.

Rogers Christian’s son Dave won the Gold with the Lake Placid team and went on to NHL fame.

On February 25, the Americans beat out Canada, one of the strong favorites to win the gold, by a 2-1 score. McCartan stopped 39 of the 40 shots fired at him.

On February 27, 10,000 fans packed the Blyth Arena for their home team’s next game against the Soviets.

The Americans got off to an early start with a 1-0 lead, but the Soviets responded with two quick goals.  The Christian brothers took over with Roger setting up Bill twice, giving Team USA a 3-2 victory.

The winning goal is shown below.

It was the first time the American hockey team had ever beaten a Soviet squad.

BE024463 Fans jump on the ice after the USA’s 3-2 win over the USSR

The next day the Americans again met the Czechoslovakian team, and trailed 4-3, after two periods.

With the game starting at 8AM, many feel the American were overtired from the night prior.

Oly Hocky USA vs CSR Team USA on route to Gold with a win over the Czechs

The apparent story is that Soviet player Nikolay Sologubov, in a rather surprising gesture given the era, came in Team USA’s dressing room between periods and showed the US players that they should take oxygen to give them more stamina for the final period.

They did so, and trounced the Czechs in the 3rd period, winning 9-4.

With a 5-0 record in the medal round (7-0 for the tournament), Team USA clinched the Gold Medal with Canada and the Soviets earning the silver and bronze respectively.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb 25 1945: The Rocket Eclipses Malone’s Goal Mark

image On February 18 1944, Maurice “Rocket” Richard tied Joe Malone’s single season goal mark of 44 goals. Malone’s record had stood since March of 1918.

A week later Richard and the Montreal Canadiens faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Richard looking to make history and with Malone in attendance at the Montreal Forum to bear witness.

For most of that Sunday night, goaltender Frank McCool and the Leafs defense, led by checking wingers Nick Metz and Bob Davidson, had done everything they could to avoid letting in the historic goal.

But while the Leafs hooked, checked and hit the Canadiens star scorer, it let open scoring opportunities for the rest of the team.

Toe Blake, Bud O’Connor, Elmer Lach and Emile Bouchard all found the back of the Leafs net.

The game not only had scoring and the anticipation of the record breaking goal, but also 18 fighting penalties and a bench-clearing brawl.

The Forum fans anxiously awaited Richard’s moment, rising to their feet each time he had control of the puck and flopping back in their seats in disappointment when it didn’t happen.

Finally, with Montreal up 4-2, with three minutes to play, and in the Toronto end, Blake flipped a pass to Richard and he one-timed it between McCool and the left post.

The Forum crowd erupted and Richard, already exhausted from the harsh physical punishment he had endured all night, was mobbed by his teammates. By the time he reached the Canadiens bench, he had collapsed.

Referee King Clancy retrieved the puck and turned it over to Malone, who would present it to Richard after the game. The feature film “The Rocket” depicted it in a more theatrical style, with Lach retrieving the puck and showing it to Malone and the crowd.

“This Richard is a great hockey player,” Malone said afterwards. “He’s fast, game and powerful. Richard, I tell you, would be a great hockey player in any day, age, or league.”

The Forum fans whistled and cheered for nearly six minutes. It would be another 10 minutes after before the game started again, as officials cleared the ice of debris after a makeshift ticker-tape parade.

The puck from the historic moment eventually found it’s way onto the trophy pictured below. It also includes the puck from the end of the 1944-45 season, when he became the first to score 50 goals in 50 games, as well as his 200th career goal.


A little known fact, the trophy is one of several Richard artifacts designated by the Province of Quebec as a cultural item. It cannot be dismantled, altered and muist remain in the province of Quebec. If the current owner elects to sell/auction it, the Quebec government reserves the right to match the selling price if it chooses.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feb 24, 1990: Habs Blast a Record 61 Shots

image These penguins could have taken to the ice on Feb 24, 1990 and the result would have been the same. A 61-shot, 11-1 victory for the Canadiens over Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were another year away from their first Stanley Cup, and missing their superstar player, when the Montreal Canadiens fired 61 shots on goal in an 11-1 rout.

The Penguins had been without Mario Lemieux since he went out with a back injury on February 14. Prior to the injury Lemieux had been on an NHL record 46-game points streak. He wouldn’t return for the rest of the season.

In light of Lemieux’s offensive talent present, the Penguins were still a .500 team with a pathetic defense. Much work was to be done in Lemeiux’s absence, and over the next 14 months, before the franchise would hoist Lord Stanley’s mug.

This night in February proved that, in light of Pittsburgh’s recent defensive improvement.

The Canadiens scored four goals in the first period and had 12 shots on Penguins goalie Frank Pietrangelo before Pittsburgh got their first.

“They were just coming at us and coming at us and coming at us all night long ,” said Penguins coach Craig Patrick. “They dominated us in every aspect of the game.”

Guy Carbonneau opened the scoring in the first period, and added three assists on the night.

“I don’t think anyone hit us all night,” Carbonneau said. “They gave us a lot of room in their end.”

By the time Mike McPhee scored Montreal’s fifth goal, early in the second period. A fan in the Forum crowd was heard playing a rendition of “Taps” on a trumpet.

Stephane Richer and Russ Courtnall each had two goals. Petr Svoboda, Mats Naslund, Shayne Corson and Claude Lemieux rounded out the scoring for Montreal.

The Pittsburgh Press - Google News Archive Search

Phil Bourque snapped Patrick Roy’s shutout bid with an early third period goal. With All-Star defenceman Chris Chelios out of the lineup with an injury, Roy had a relatively busy night making 25 saves against a Lemieux-less offense.

“Everything we did tonight, we did good,” said the Canadiens Jyrki Lumme. “But Pittsburgh was really bad.”

The 61 shots was a Canadiens record for shots on goal, breaking a team record of 59 set on October 12, 1963. Pietrangelo faced every one.

“They had a lot of quality shots,”said Patrick. “I would venture to guess there were 35-40 good scoring chances.”

The sad story for Pietrangelo was that he was not scheduled to start the game. Wendell Young was to be the starter, but both he and Pietrangelo approached their coach and suggested that Young should start the next night against Quebec.

“We were on national television too – ‘Hockey Night In Canada’” said Pietrangelo. “That meant our families and friends were watching. It was embarrassing.

“You read in the papers sometimes about teams giving up 10,11,12 goals, and you wonder ‘How does that happen?’ Now we know. On paper it looks like they don’t have the capability of scoring 11 goals. But obviously they do.”

Other notes

After this game, the Penguins were 4-44-5 at the Montreal Forum. Coincidentally, the Penguins worse defeat in franchise history had come just eleven years earlier when the Canadiens thumped them 12-0 on February 22, 1979.

The Penguins were one shot from the franchise record for shots against (62) set in March 1989 against Chicago.

The Canadiens 11-goal night left the franchise’s all-time tally at 14,999. Eric Desjardins would score No. 15,000 the next night in a 6-5 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Robin Williams on the Winter Olympics

After the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team’s disappointing loss Sunday night, and “Own The Podium” conceding defeat on Monday, I figured we could use a good laugh at the expense of the winter games.

The clip below is from “Robin Williams: Live On Broadway”, an HBO special from 2002.

Keep in mind that this is uncensored, so make sure the kids are in bed before you watch this.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feb 18, 1967: Rogie Vachon makes his debut with the Habs

61587 If I had to choose one goalie who is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and deserves to be, it would be Rogatien “Rogie” Vachon.

Growing up as a kid, I always saw Vachon as the the Los Angeles Kings All-Star netminder with the blank white mask.

Upon paying more attention to the stats on his hockey cards, rather than flinging them against the school walls at recess, I learned that he got his start with the Montreal Canadiens. I later learned the same of Tony Esposito.

In mid- February of the 1966-67 season, the Canadiens were a .500 team. With Gump Worsley injured, and not overly confident in the recent play of Charlie Hodge, Montreal GM Sam Pollock and coach Toe Blake had a decision to make.

Having seen the prodigy’s stellar play during three Apollos games earlier in the season, Pollock made the call for Vachon..

He made his debut against the Detroit Red Wings on February 19. Detroit  was a sub-.500 team at the time, but they still had the firepower of Gordie Howe, Norm Ullman, Alex Delvecchio and the up and coming Paul Henderson in their lineup.

Vachon stunned the Red Wings, making 40 saves (his first of the night on a Howe breakaway) and earning the First Star in a 3-2 Canadiens victory.

35newrogie The rookie stayed on with the big club for the rest of the season, and was called on to carry the team through the playoffs. Vachon did just hat and despite a Cup Finals loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was in the NHL to stay.

He and Worlsey would win the Vezina the following season and go on to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1968 and 1969.

Vachon then found himself in the number one roll with the departure of Worsley, but it would just for one full seasons and the start of another.

At the end of the 1970-71 season, Vachon found himself on the bench for the last 10 games of the season and through the playoffs. Ken Dryden had arrived.

06F Vachon cracked the Canadiens lineup, originally wearing the number 29 and later number 30 before settling on number one. He would be ousted from Montreal when a new number 29 arrived to immortalize the number.

With Dryden now the new goaltending hero of the Canadiens, Vachon knew he wouldn’t see much action in the 1971-72 season. He requested a trade after the first game and soon found himself in Los Angeles, where he shone on the west coast.

As Gretzky did for the Kings in the ‘90s, Vachon did likewise for the franchise in the ‘70s adapting to the laid back California lifestyle. Gone was the clean-cut Vachon and enter the long-haired, fu manchu mustached Vachon.

0210_large Maybe it was the hair, maybe the moustache, but it was mostly the goaltending that vaulted the Kings from a second-worst team at the end of the 71-72 season to a 105 point Cup contender three seasons later with Vachon coming in runner-up to the Hart Trophy.

In the first Canada Cup in 1976, it was Vachon, not Cheevers, Parent or Dryden who played every game going 6-1 with a 1.39 GAA.

While his Canada Cup success brought him back to tthe national TV spotlight, playing on the west coast meant little TV exposure and highlights were far and few between in the pre-internet/cable-satellite TV eras.

That combined with the Kings offensive meltdowns in the playoffs is a key factor in Vachon not being in the Hall of Fame.

It’s a shame, plain and simple.

Rogie Vachon’s Career Statistics

Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Rogie Vachon

I’m not the only one who feels this way:

Todd Denault, author of “Jacques Plante: The Man who Changed the Face of Hockey”, a contributor to and an avid goalie historian, also offers some valid arguments for Vachon’s induction.

Robert Lefebvre a huge fan of Vachon fan, echoes Denault’s thoughts with some more insight.

Some more support form Kingscast

The Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs is another supporter.

Tom Johnson: Hall of Famer hidden in the Shadows


Canadiens Hall of Fame defenseman was born on this day in 1928

Long before Guy Lafleur wore No. 10 for the Montreal Canadiens, a lesser-known Canadiens Hall-of-Fame defenseman quietly patrolled the blueline with the same number.

"When I first came up we would play a lot of exhibition games all around Quebec, even during the season. They would introduce the players in the order of their numbers, and of course Rocket was number nine,” said the late Tom Johnson in Dick Irvin’s book “The Habs”.

“The cheer he got would last a long time. I always say I used to skate out at the end of the Rocket's cheer. They could never hear my name, so not too many people in those towns ever found out who I was."

While many always remember Doug Harvey as “THE” defenseman of his era during the ‘50s and ‘60s, Tom Johnson was certainly no second banana. Though as not as fast a skater as his counterpart, Johnson made up for it with his excellent stickhandling, passing abilities and defensive play.

A standout junior player in his native Manitoba, Johnson was signed as a free agent by Canadiens GM Frank Selke in 1947.

He got his first taste of the NHL in the 1947-48 season, playing just a single game.

His debut was not a memorable one as fans, and even coach Dick Irvin, questioned Selke’s prospect, noting his poor skating abilities.

With the likes of Harvey, Emile Bouchard, Hal Laycoe, and Ken Reardon already in place on the Canadiens roster, it would take three seasons in the minors for Johnson to earn his spot.


Johnson worked hard with the Montreal Royals and Buffalo Bisons and once he finally cracked the roster to start the 1950-51 season, he’d be there to stay for the next thirteen.

“Irvin is the steadiest defenceman in the league today,” Irvin said during Johnson’s first full season. “He’s one of the reason’s we’re still in the battle. And what’s more, he’s a future All-Star.”

An All-Star he truly would be, as he played in eight All-Star games, and was named as a First-Team All Star in 1959 and a Second Team All-Star in 1956.

Many would say that anyone paired on the blue line with Doug Harvey would flourish, but Johnson was not just any player.

“I was classified as a defensive defenceman. I stayed back and minded the store,” Johnson said. “With the high powered scoring teams I was with, I just had to get them the puck and let them do the rest.”

In light of being in the shadow of his teammate, Johnson’s near flawless stay at home play gave Harvey and the rest of the Canadiens the added defensive conscience to carry the puck up ice on an offensive charge.

''Of all the great players I covered in Montreal in the 1950s, I don't think there was anybody who played with more pain when he had to,'' said legendary Canadiens reporter Red Fisher on Johnson’s durability.

''He'd take shots in his knees. They were ripped up, and he'd come out and play. Injuries didn't matter to this guy. He'd never make any kind of a big deal about it. This guy came out and played like no other player did. I admired him a great deal for it.' ”

He proved just how good he was in the 1958-59 season. With the perennial Norris trophy winner Harvey injured during part of the season, Johnson carried on in his absence, and won the Norris for his efforts.


Johnson appeared on this Feb ‘58 SI cover alongside Jacques Plante

There was also a bit of a dirty side to Johnson’s play as he had a reputation, and dislike from many opponents, for using his stick in scuffles.

Johnson played on seven Stanley Cup winning teams with Montreal, including their five consecutive Cups from 1956 to 1960.

His tenure in Montreal would come to an end during a team practice in March 1963 when Johnson collided with rookie Bobby Rousseau, fracturing his cheekbone and injuring his eye. He would not return for the rest of the season.

In a summer that saw teammates Jacques Plante, Don Marshall and Phil Goyette traded to the New York Rangers, and unsure whether he would recover from his injury to play again, the Canadiens opted to leave Johnson unprotected in the off-season waiver draft.

2055450373_34b3d7240cThe rival Boston Bruins took a chance on the star rear guard, and picked him up for $20K.

“We figured Tom was a good gamble,” said Bruins GM Lynn Patrick, who had suffered and recovered from a similar injury. "

“Naturally I regret leaving the Canadiens. After all I was there for 13 years,” Johnson said. “But I’m glad of the opportunity to play in Boston. I think I’ll like it there.”

Like it he would as it would turn into a 30-year relationship between Johnson and the Bruins.

In his second season with the Bruins, on February 28 1965, the skate of Chicago Blackhawks Chico Maki severed the nerves in his leg. Johnson was forced to retire as a player, but stayed on with the Bruins front office as an assistant GM.

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970, and Johnson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the same year, despite apparent protests on his dirty playing style for fellow member Eddie Shore.

tj-2 Johnson behind the Bruins bench- Montreal Star photo

He took over as the Bruins head coach in June of 1970. Johnson now found himself coaching the man who was in the process of surpassing his former teammate as the game’s greatest blueliner, Bobby Orr.

After seeing his team ousted by the Canadiens, and a kid named Dryden, in the ‘71 playoffs, Johnson’s team won the Cup back in 1972.

When the team got into a mini-slump the following season, despite a 31-16-5 record, Johnson was fired by GM Harry Sinden.

His career coaching win percentage of .738 (142-43-23) is the highest career winning percentage (min. 100 games) for any NHL coach.

He remained with the Bruins in his assistant-GM position and later became vice-president of the team. Through the late ‘70s, Johnson had his scouts keep tabs on a young midget and junior player named Raymond Bourque.

Sadly Tom Johnson died of heart failure, at age 79, on November 21, 2007.

"If we are all allowed an ultimate friend, mentor, confidant and teacher, Tom Johnson was all of those to me," said Sinden. "The Bruins and all of hockey have lost a great person."

Legends of Hockey -- The Legends -- Honoured Player -- Johnson, Tom -- Statistics, Awards & Career

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ken Mosdell’s Habs Record Scoring Mark

kennymosdell2 So who would be the first player that comes to mind when asked, “You holds the Habs record for most shorthanded goals in a game?”.

Richard? Lafleur? No, shorthanded goals…Gainey? Jarvis? Carbonneau?

While Guy Carbonneau does hold the franchise records for shorthanded markers in a season and in a career, the single-game mark belongs to the late Ken Mosdell.

Known as “Big Moe” to his teammates, he was one of the NHL’s best checking forwards during his career in Montreal (1944-56). He was always called upon in penalty killing situations, or to shadow the oppositions best players.

He also had a scoring as attested by his 132 goals in a Canadiens uniform and often filled in when the team’s top-line centres were injured.

“He had a lot of class, in fact he was in a class all by himself,” said longtime teammate and friend Maurice “Rocket” Richard, who was his roommate for thirteen seasons in Montreal.

“He was never a great player, but he was a good centreman, a good penalty killer, and a good playmaker, especially on the power play.”

Mosdell’s record-setting game came on February 17, 1949.

The fifth place Canadiens were struggling at the time, playing below .500 hockey and having just a tie in their last seven games.

Their opponents on the night were the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were on a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2).

Mosdell opened the scoring in the first period,with a shorthanded goal, at 4:38 and was followed seven minutes later with a goal from Gerry Plemondon.

Mosdell would score his second shorthanded goal of the night in the second period at 7:32.

Bill Durnan turned away all 19 Toronto shots for his fifth shutout of the season for a 3-0 victory.

For the Canadiens, it turned their season around. Durnan was about to embark on a record-setting shutout streak the following week, and the Canadiens went 10-2-2 to finish in third place. They would succumb to the first-place Detroit Red Wings in a seven-game playoff series.

For Mosdell, he had tied an NHL record for shorthanded goals in a game. It would be tied by many others, but remain unbroken until 1991, when Theoren Fleury would establish a new benchmark with three.hendo36078134

Other facts on Ken Mosdell:

  • Mosdell was on the last New York/Brooklyn Americans team before they folded in 1941. When he retired in 1959, he was the last active player remaining from the Americans.
  • Missed most of the 1947-48 season when he broke his leg in a collision with another player during a softball game. The other player’s name was Sam Pollock.
  • Often filled in for an injured Elmer Lach, centering the “Punch Line” with Toe Blake and Maurice Richard in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
  • Though he was playing in the minors during the 1958-59 regular season, Mosdell was called up by the Canadiens, for three games, during the playoffs to replace an injured Jean Beliveau.
  • First Team All-Star (1954), Second Team All-Star (1955) and played in five consecutive All-Star Games (1951-55).
  • Won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens (‘46,’53,’56,’59)
  • Honoured by the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum on “Ken Mosdell  Fan Appreciation Night”, Feb 19, 1955. He was truly in good company as Bill Durnan, Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, Elmer Lach and Emile Bouchard were the only previous recipients.

Friday, February 12, 2010

P.K.Subban’s Learning Curve with the Canadiens


UPDATE: P.K. Subban will make his debut Friday vs. Philadelphia in place of the injured Andrei Markov!

In light of his recent call up by the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, defenceman P.K. Subban knows that is just a step in the long process of being a full-time NHL player.

With both Andre Markov and Josh Gorges questionable for a pair of home-at-home games against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Canadiens made an insurance policy call for the 20-year-old.

Subban and the rest of the Hamilton Bulldogs had just arrived in Cleveland, after a five-hour bus ride, when he got the news.

“(Bulldogs coach) Guy Boucher pulled me aside when we got off the bus,” he said. “He said he wasn’t sure if I’d be playing or not, I’m not too sure still but I’m just happy to be here.”

Subban wasn’t exactly amongst strangers upon entering the Canadiens dressing room. Several players on the team’s current roster either started the season in Hamilton or were sent down at some point.

“I’m already learning,” he said watching how the Canadiens prepare for a game. “Everything’s learning and if the team needs me tonight, I’ll be ready.

“My mindset, when I got sent down in September, was to get better and improve. I’ve played 50 games in the AHL now, and I’ve learned a lot”

Subban emphasized how life in the pros, away from the rink, is also part of the learning experience, giving high praise to Boucher, his coaching staff and his Bulldogs teammates for their work to get him in the right direction.

“Becoming a pro means living on your own, and being responsible,” he said noting he no longer has the benefit of a billet, like he did in the OHL. “I’m becoming a man now.”

A third-round pick by Montreal in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Subban was third in Bulldogs scoring with 39 points (11-28-39) and a +29 plus/minus rating. Seven of his goals were scored on the power play. Subban is also third amongst AHL defensemen for points.

“P.K. has performed well in the AHL. His stats speak highly and he got the call,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. “He’s adjusting and learning the pro game down there and he’s responded well.”

“We’re very happy,” added Canadiens GM coach Pierre Gauthier.“He’s growing as a person and a player. He’s going to be an exciting, and very good player in the NHL” 

Subban also knows understands his pre-Olympic call up, and where he stands with the Canadiens.

“The focus has to be on the team,” he said. “We’re so close to making the playoffs with 20 games to go, and that’s the most important thing. The team’s best interest has to be winning. It has to be that. It can’t be anything else.

“It’s about getting mature and learning things on and off the ice,” he said. “You have to be a sponge and accept that information, and if you don’t then maybe I don’t get this opportunity.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gauthier Makes His First Move: Acquires Moore from Panthers


It took just three days since taking over as GM of the Montreal Canadiens for Pierre Gauthier to make a trade move.

The Canadiens acquired forward Dominic Moore on Thursday, from the Florida Panthers, in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2011 entry draft. The team press release can be found here.

Moore has eight goals and nine assists in 48 games for Florida this season, averaging just under 15 minutes of ice time per game.

One of his best attributes is his faceoff play, where he has a win/loss record of 55.8% this season (54.1 % last season).

By comparison, the top four Canadiens centres, Scott Gomez, Glen Metropolit, Tomas Plekanec and Maxim Lapierre, have win loss percentages of 50.6, 50.4, 48.0 and 47.2 respectively.

image A third-round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Moore is making $1.1 million this season and becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Maxwell demoted: The Canadiens, in the same press release, returned Ben Maxwell back the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday.

Frolov deal in the works?: There is also a rumour abuzz that the Canadiens could be looking to acquire Alexander Frolov from the Los Angeles Kings. Names floating to go the other way are Matt D’Agostini, Yannick Weber and Glen Metropolit.

P.K Subban called up from the Bulldogs: The Canadiens have announced the call up of prospect P.K Subban from Hamilton (AHL).

The charismatic Subban was a third round pick of the Canadiens in the 2007 draft.

With defenceman Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov having therapy days on Thursday, Subban’s call up is a likely precaution in case the two veterans are unable to play Friday and Saturday against Philadelphia. Expect the Bulldogs star to be returned to Hamilton once the Olympic break kicks in on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Limping Canadiens Host Red-Hot Capitals

imageWashington’s Michal Neuvirth faces off against Montreal’s Carey Price (neither pictured here) Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.

The Pierre Gauthier era with the Montreal Canadiens (28-26-6) gets it’s first test Wednesday as they host the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals (41-12-6).

The Capitals are blasting through their opponents, much like the winter storm systems that are currently passing through Washington.

The team is on a 14-game winning streak. Their Superbowl Sunday come from behind victory, over the Pittsburgh Penguins, was their second over the defending Stanley Cup champions during the streak.

Washington has outscored their opponents by a combined score of 68-33, and all but three victories were against Eastern Conference opponents. Of those games, all but one (Toronto) was against a team in the hunt for a playoff spot.

A win over Montreal on Wednesday would set a new franchise unbeaten record that has stood since the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. The NHL record is 17, set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Nobody wants to talk about it because we’re superstitious,” Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau said.

“Until you're perfect you've got stuff to work on and we're far from perfect. We've had to come from behind in an awful lot of games lately.

“We're not either getting off on the right track or taking it too easy or we're making to many mistakes. We have to get better in a lot of ways right now.

“The minute I relax, is the minute they relax. Any team we're playing right now is giving us their best effort."

Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin leads the charge with 14 goals, 15 assists and a plus-18 rating during the streak. The two-time Hart Trophy winner has been kept off the scoreboard just once (vs. NY Islanders) during the 14-game run.

Washington is currently carrying three goalies on their three game, pre-Olympic road trip; Semyon Varlamov, Jose Theodore and Michal Neuvirth.

While Montreal native Theodore tied a franchise consecutive win record(10) on Sunday, the team’s Wednesday morning skate points to Neuvirth (3-0-0, 1.20, .967 in his last 4GP).

With Varlamov back in the lineup for the first time since Dec 7, Neuvirth is expected to be sent to Hershey (AHL) during the Olympics.

“It’s all good when they’re all playing great. I assume they all will. Neuvy and Theo have definitely been playing great,” Boudreau said. “With Varly (out since Dec 7), it’s sort of a wait and see scenario.”

“I think it’s remarkable,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges on the Capitals streak. “To string 14 together and not have one night where you don’t quite show up, or one when the pucks don’t bounce your way, or get a couple bad ones scored against you is quite impressive.”

Montreal will be looking to get back in the win column after being shutout Sunday afternoon by the Boston Bruins.

It will be the team’s first game for new GM Gauthier since taking over the reigns from Bob Gainey on Monday.

The Canadiens got some bad news on Tuesday, when it was revealed that defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron will miss at least six weeks with a new injury.

Bergeron has 10 goals and 14 assists in 51 games this season, with 16 points (6 goals) coming off the power play.

Forward Benoit Pouliot (14 points in 20 games with Mtl) is also out until at least the beginning of March with an upper-body injury.

The duo join Mike Cammalleri and Andre Kostitsyn on the team’s injured reserve list.

Battling injuries in the 2009-10 season is nothing new for the Canadiens and as they look to end Washington’s run. Despite missing key players throughout the season, they still remain in the thick of the battle for a playoff spot.

“We’ve played against them (Washington) with a banged-up lineup in two of our games against them, and got three out of four points against them,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin.

“The (Olympic) break will be good for us, he added noting the upcoming league shutdown will give players time to recuperate.

“Andre (Kostitsyn) was on skates for the first time today. Hopefully he’ll be back with us after the break. But before that, we have three huge games, starting with the Eastern Conference leaders.”

In the three head-to-head meetings this season, Montreal is 1-1-1 against the Capitals, and have limited Ovechkin to just a goal and an assist in the Capitals 4-3 shootout win on Nov 27.

“Montreal has given us fits all year, first of all,” said Boudreau. “They make a management change, they’re going to want to impress the new GM, and they lost the last game at home.”

Goaltender Carey Price has started all three games against Washington ( 2.95 GAA .910 SvPct) and will get the call on Wednesday night, despite the exceptional play of late from Jaroslav Halak.

“Carey’s been working extremely hard, I think he’s been very sharp at practice, so it’s a great opportunity for him to be in there,” Martin said.

Probable Starting Lineups




Mathieu Darche Tomas Plekanec Sergei Kostitsyn
Tom Pyatt Scott Gomez Brian Gionta
Maxim Lapierre Ben Maxwell David Desharnais
Travis Moen Glen Metropolit Matt D’Agostini


Defence Pairings


Andre Markov   Ryan O’Byrne
Roman Hamrlik   Jaroslav Spacek
Hal Gill   Josh Georges




S- Carey Price   Jaroslav Halak




Alexander Ovechkin Niklas Backstrom Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich Tomas Fleischmann Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera Brendan Morrison Eric Fehr
Boyd Gordon David Steckel Matt Bradley


Defence Pairings


Jeff Schultz   Mike Green
Shoane Morrisonn   Tom Poti
John Erskine   Brian Pothier


S- Michal Neuvirth   Jose Theodore

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Carbo Speaks on Canadiens GM Change

It came as no surprise, to former Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, that his long-time friend Bob Gainey would step down as the team's GM.

"The timing was surprising for everybody," Carbonneau said Tuesday morning on TheFan590. "But, it has been something in the back of his head for a couple years now."

"He didn't feel the pressure," he said, referring to the high expectations of the media and fans. "All the events that have happened in his personal life started to wear down on him."

Carbonneau sympathized with Gainey on the lack of personal and family time available while working at the administrative level of pro hockey.

"It's good that he's staying aboard (as an adviser to new GM Pierre Gauthier)," he said. "It gives him time to do other things. Until I got fired last March, I never had time to myself, or for my family."

He then spoke in his firing from the Canadiens by his long-time friend.

"When it happens, you're not happy," he said. "We took the job over the relationship we had. We expected we would stay together to weather the first storm. I was surprised that it happened, but he (Gainey) has the only reason that it did."

Carbonneau hopes that he and Gainey can talk in a few months to rebuild their tarnished friendship.

He also suspects that his former boss was already passing the torch to Gauthier at the time of his firing.

Carbonneau broke down the team's staff, pointing out all the past working ties between Gauthier, coach Jacques Martin, director of player development Trevor Timmins and coaches Perry Pearn and Pierre Groulx.

"It made sense," he said. "At the end of the day, it's the GM who says 'yes' or 'no', but most of the decisions were made in the same room."

When asked on his evaluation of Gainey's successor, Carbonneau said it's hard to say at this time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gainey Out as Canadiens GM. Gauthier Era begins

Well I was hoping for a quiet late afternoon to catch up on some reading, but the Montreal Canadiens called a press conference, for 4pm Monday afternoon, to announce changes in management.

Team president Pierre Boivin announced the resignation of GM and Excutive Vice-President Bob Gainey, who will remain on as an advisor to his successor Pierre Gauthier.

CBC's Elliotte Friedman had tweeted, late Monday morning, that the decision was made on Sunday, but the truth was, Gainey had made his choice over the Christmas break. He felt he could not go another four-to-six year term.

With the Canadiens Centennial behind him, and new ownership taking control, and his contract expiring in June, Gainey felt the time was right. "Given the choice between staying too long and leaving early, I prefer to leave a little bit too early,"he said. "I did my best."

"I leave the team I love the most, to the man I trust the most," Gainey said on passing the torch. "In my heart, I am always a Canadien. It's been a privilege to participate with the organization again, in a different roll. I'm very thankful."

The move was a surprising one, give the proximity to the NHL Trade Deadline, but Gainey felt that with the Olympic break approaching, that Gauthier would have time to adjust.

Chances are Gauthier had an idea it was coming long before Gainey's "December decision". The two have been working together for six years. The peculiar dismissal of Guy Carbonneau, meshed with the even odder temporary promotion, and subsequent dismissal of Bulldogs coach Don Lever, and hiring of coach Jacques Martin leads some to believe that Gauthier was already making key coaching personnel decisions for Gainey.

Gauthier was Gainey's assistant GM and has prior experience with Ottawa (1995-98) and Anaheim (1998-2002).

He left the Senators for Anaheim, after turning them into a playoff contending team, to be closer to his wife and family in California.

He was fired in 2002 by the Ducks, after the team failed to make the playoffs for three straight seasons. Gauthier also traded away key assets, such as Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, despite going on record that he would not trade them.

Gauthier said he is happy with his team and, much like Martin has stated most of the season, emphasized the team is still working on the slow process of finding an identity.

"Our team is a new team," he said. "We've added 11 players from nine different organizations in the past 12 months. We only have four players, I think, with two or more years experience with this team."

Gauthier and Boivin also discussed the francophone factor in the Canadiens organization.

"You bet it's important," Boivin responded when asked if any candidates for the GM position needed to be bi-lingual. "French is the language spoken by 2/3, 3/4 of our fans and clients. It's a matter of respect and sensitivity to the reality of Quebec."

"Our first and only objective is to win the Stanley Cup and be the best team we can be every year," said Gauthier in a later interview on PrimeTime Sports. "and it is part of our mission to have a francophone presence."

Gauthier also said the team is working to keep centre Tomas Plekanec in Montreal after this season, and spoke on the futures of goaltenders Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak.

"We have two very good young goaltenders that give us a chance to win every night," he said. " We believe we can go forward with them, and they give us our best chance to get into the playoffs. Down the line, they'll both No. 1 goalies, and we'll need to address that in time."

That said, don't be surprised to see both goaltenders with the Canadiens by the end of March 3.

photos: Graham Hughes (AP/Canadian Press)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Kids Are Alright: Habs embarrass Pens 5-3


They didn’t score any goals, but the fourth line call-ups for the Montreal Canadiens fit in just nicely, as they helped their team defeat the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 Saturday afternoon.

The line of David Desharnais, Brock Trotter and Ryan White, called up Friday from the Hamilton Bulldogs, logged an average of ten minuts of ice time against what seemed to be an underachieving Pittsburgh team. The Penguins had beaten Montreal with a combined score of 12-4 in their last two victorious meetings.

With injuries mounting up yet again for the Canadiens, and a group of youngsters on the fourth line, the veterans needed to step up. They did just that, with three-point games from Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.

Montreal opened the scoring when Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was tripped up by Mathieu Darche behind the goal, leaving an open net for Plekanec at 29 seconds.


Fleury argued that there should have been a penalty on the play. It was picked up between periods, on Hockey Night in Canada, referee Steve Kozari admitted to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma that they just didn’t see it that way.

The Penguins replied, 33 seconds later, when Pascal Dupuis jumped on a Jaraoslav Halak rebound to tie the game at one.

At 9:38 of the second period, shortly after a third consecutive and successful Canadiens penalty kill, Gionta raced in on a breakaway, beating Fleury to put the Canadiens back in the lead.


Scott Gomez added a power play goal for Montreal just 43 seconds later. Veteran Bill Guerin put in a weak shot past Halak, with 6:03 left in the second period, to keep his team within one.

In the third, Trotter came very close to scoring his first career NHL goal on a shot that went under Fleury and off the goal post.

Darche’s shot moments later at 7:15 was more accurate, putting the Canadiens ahead by two and chasing Fleury from the game. Gionta added his second goal of the afternoon three and a half minutes later.

imageThe Penguins number one netminder was then pulled by Blysma for Brent Johnson, as he will will likely start Sunday against Washington, weather permitting.

Fleury didn’t take it well though, slamming his stick against the tunnel wall leading to the Penguins dressing room.

Things got a little rough as White and Guerin mixed things up for five-minute majors, with the veteran getting an instigator call and a ten-minute misconduct. White could get further charges of elder abuse, details to come.


Virtually unheard from all afternoon, Penguins All-Star Evgeni Malkin made it interesting. After serving an instigating minor to Brooks Orpik, and his team still shorthanded, the Russian star broke form the penalty box for a breakaway to beat Halak.

With 3:16 to play and killing off a disastrous 5-on-3 power play for the Canadiens, the defending champs still had time to make this a game.

Malkin however, felt otherwise as he took a foolish roughing minor is response to a tap from the Canadiens Roman Hamrlik, killing his team’s chances for the comeback.

The Canadiens have now won three straight and get right back into it Sunday afternoon against the Boston Bruins.

It was a relatively easy night for Halak, who faced just 21 pucks from the Penguins after back-to-back 45-save appearances.

Three Stars: 1. Brian Gionta 2. Mathieu Darche 3. David Desharnais

How good were they?:

Ryan White 9:50 TOI (57 seconds on the penalty kill) 5 PIM, 4 hits (most by a Canadiens player)

David Desharnais: 11:41 TOI (3:06 on the PP), +1 Just one shot on goal, but had three that were blocked.

Brock Trotter: 11:07 TOI (2:13 on the PP), 5 shots (led both teams) and drew penalties

“It was unbelievable playing here in Montreal for the first time,” Trotter said. “All year we created some offense in Hamilton, we tried to do what we’re good at. We didn’t get one ourselves, but I think we created some offense for the team.”

“They brought a lot of energy”, said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin. “They played hard, and they were rewarded.”

Pouliot on IR: It looks like the Hamilton call-ups could be around a bit longer as Canadiens forward Benoit Pouliot has been put on short-term IR by the Canadiens. In twenty games since being acquired from the Wild, he has 11 goals and 3 assists. Pouliot would not be eligible to return until Friday’s game against Philadelphia.

Weber sent down: The Canadiens have sent back defenceman Yannick Weber to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Game photos: Graham Hughes (AP/The Canadian Press)

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Mona Lisa of Montreal Canadiens Memorabilia

Centennial  Ice It Authentic How often can you get the signatures of over 100 Montreal Canadiens players, past and present, in one location at the same time to sign one huge print?

Well you can’t. It takes months of scheduling, preparation and travel to track down all these players, sometimes one at a time.

Wessley Perisa did just that. Mr. Perisa is well-known, in the sports marketing and memorabilia business, as the president of, a social networking and memorabilia site for hockey fans.

In September of 2009, Perisa envisioned something big for the Canadiens Centennial. He created the branch company Ice It Authentic and set out on his project.

“I wanted to capture the historic 100th. anniversary by creating a piece unlike any the sports collecting world had ever seen,” Perisa said.

Working with a team of sports marketing and media professionals, he began the painstaking, yet rewarding process of tracking down and scheduling 100 Canadiens players for signing his new project. It became known as “the countdown” on his Facebook page.

But what would he have the Habs legends and other players sign? Perisa took on a nation-wide search and interview process for the right artist, with the right vision for his project.

Perisa found that in renowned artist Denis Refiange, who came up with a Centennial print design that envelopes the traditional colours of the Montreal Canadiens with a scroll across the bottom to encase the signatures.

You will note that the print does not include the Canadiens team name or logo.

“We wished to create a print that didn’t infringe on the Canadiens intellectual properties,” Perisa said. “The players have been supportive, from day one, and recently we gained support of the team.”

The print is massive, measuring 56” x 38” and will be limited to 1909 pieces, as well as versions signed in gold and platinum paint marker that are limited to 100 editions each.


Georges Laraque, Carey Price and Kirk Muller at Ice It’s Canadiens Centennial dinner – Chateau Champlain Montreal November 2009

With prints in hand, Perisa made numerous trips to Montreal, from his home base in Pickering, to acquire the signatures.

The great Jean Beliveau was the first to put his signature on the prints, followed by Yvan Cournoyer, but the Hall of Fame duo was just the tip of the iceberg of a who’s who of past Habs greats and former players.

image9 image11 Hall of Fame Canadiens Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer were the frist of 100 past and present players to sign “Centennial”.

Backstrom, Bouchard, Carbonneau, Koivu, Lach, Lafleur, Mahovlich, Moore, Naslund, Nilan, Olmstead, Richard, Roy, Savard, Shutt, Vachon…dozens of signatures of Habs past.

Perisa was delighted with the professionalism and courtesy of the players involved in his project.

“All the players have been great to work with, but a few names stand out. As always Mr.Beliveau is always a real pleasure to work with,” he said.

“I had a great time with Charlie Hodge, Bobby Smith, Kirk Muller, Carey Price, Georges Laraque.. I gotta stop, or I will name everyone! All the boys were great. The class with which the majority of Canadiens players conduct themselves is second to none.”

“The support from the players has been huge, and only continued to fuel my desire and passion to see this historic production through to it's completion.”

Slowly but surely, the signatures amassed, sometimes individually, and others in groups.

Perisa even hosted a Centennial dinner at his base of operations in Montreal, the Chateau Champlain hotel, where he managed to sign on most of the players who are on, or have been on, the 2009-10 Canadiens roster. Even new addition Benoit Pouliot made the list.


Members of the current Canadiens roster ad their signatures

“Many of the signings were right in our suite. That was a gong show,” Perisa joked. “During one session, we had something like 23 or 24 of the current guys show up, all at the same time of course.”

“Having that many guys in the same room at the same time keeps things busy, but also loose, as the players were throwing jabs at each other, making fun of each others signatures, etc. It was entertaining to say the least.”

The full roster of signatures can be found here.

image10 Former Canadiens captain, and assistant coach Kirk Muller signs his name. Don’t spill the coffee, Capt. Kirk!

Of course, Perisa couldn’t get everybody on his wish list involved.

“There were a few players, who I really wanted to have participate in this momentous project, that simply refused to participate,” he said.

“While I would have been proud to have them on this special piece, I am even more proud to have the players who truly wanted to be a part of something special, and having them thank me for including them is something I will never get used to.”

By mid-January, the remaining signatures were acquired or scheduled for the last private signings, with Emile “Butch” Bouchard being one of the final players to be adding his signature.

“There have been moments of frustration to be sure. In a project this large, things tend to get pushed to the limit. Patience, finances, everything,” Perisa concluded.

“There have been many moments that have been rewarding to me personally on this journey too. One of the most rewarding is always the look on the faces of those who view ‘Centennial, for the first time.”


Former Canadiens captain Vincent Damphousse

This may sound like a line from a TV commercial for a music compilation, but one cannot fathom an individual acquiring all these signatures on their own in a lifetime, without the proper resources.

“Centennial” is a fantastic piece for any memorabilia collector. Even “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky owns print #99 and several of the signing participants are registered owners with print numbers matching their jerseys.

All prints come framed (the premium versions with a gold or platinum theme) and are hand numbered with an authentication package package that includes a certificate of authenticity, photo package and letter of provenance.

In addition, a 20x24 print with facsimile autographs is also available.

Those interested in purchasing any of these fine collectibles, or seeking more information, can visit the Ice It Authentic site by clicking here, or via email

Photos: provided by Ice It Authentic, and used by permission

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Habs Should Stick With Halak Until The Olympics


For the first time this season, Jaroslav Halak got a back-to-back start after sustaining a loss.

He did not disappoint, continuing the Montreal Canadiens “goaltending controversy” between him and Carey Price for yet another few days.

Halak may not be graceful, but he did what was needed with a 45 save performance against the powerhouse Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

That should keep the “he plays sub-500 teams” critics quiet for a day or two.

The win puts Halak’s record, after coming off a loss, to 5-2-1this season. By comparison, Price is 6-9-3 in his next start after a losing decision.

Until Tuesday, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin never started Halak after a loss, but why? In only three situations, the team had played back-to-back nights, and on two occasions Halak had been lit up pretty bad.

Martin may have finally realized that after each of Halak’s ten losses (eight in regulation), Price went 4-5-1, including a humiliating 7-1 loss back in October to the same Canucks team.

So Halak has proven he can bounce back immediately after a loss, so what now?

With the 2010 Winter Olympics approaching, and six games to play for the Canadiens, Martin should use Halak as much as possible.

If he gets thumped by the Bruins on Thursday (note: Price is 2-0 vs. Boston), put him back in against Pittsburgh. Give him that chance again to prove himself.

Price’s record against the remaining pre Olympic opponents is 4-3-1, so why not give it a shot?

Keep in mind too that Halak will be seeing lots of ice time in Vancouver as the number one goalie for Slovakia, so when the NHL starts up again on March 2, he’ll have seen a lot of rubber.

Price in the meantime, will have time to practice, rest, reflect/prepare for the remainder of the NHL season to prove himself again.

That is of course, if Bob Gainey doesn’t make a deal before the Olympics or the March 3 trade deadline.

Mike Komisarek: Or as a friend tweeted, Karmaserek…Out for the season with a shoulder injury.

Lorelei O’Byrne 1953-2010: Condolences to the family of Canadiens defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, whose mother Lorelei passed away January 28 after a long battle with breast cancer. A celebration of life will be held on February 16 in Victoria, BC.

The Canadiens had given O’Byrne time off, for the first three weeks of January, to be with his mother and family. Many feel he played his best game of the season on Tuesday, against his home-province team.