The Canadiens welcome their fans to an Open Practice today at the Bell Centre.
What the adoring public, winners of various supermarket contests and the like, ought to witness is Guy Carbonneau bag-skating his Stanely Cup contenders for an hour.
No pucks. Just round and round, contemplating their sins till the crowd gets bored and boos rain down.
That game in Toronto was some kind of ugly.
Carbo was embarrassed and said so.
Hall of Fame game. A parade of immortals, including Yvan Cournoyer and Larry Robinson. War veterans. Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
And then that mess?
We shouldn’t have been surprised. The Canadiens have played poorly since Anaheim visited the Bell Centre.
The Ducks are a formidable team with a first-class goaltender (who stopped 47 shots), three excellent defencemen and a collection of the kinds of forwards Brian Burke likes: hulking brutes who can skate and score.
I wasn’t happy to see it, but I could understand who Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Chris Kunitz brutalized the Canadiens.
And in the Minnesota game, when the Canadiens took ELEVEN minor penalties but still stole a win, I could see why a moose like Miko Koivu would get six shots on goal and win 13 of 20 faceoffs.
Friday night in Columbus, the Canadiens faced Rick Nash, card-carrying superstar, and a great-looking rookie in Derick Brassard.
There are great players in the National Hockey League. And sometimes they’ll have great nights against your Montreal Canadiens …. especially if they combine skill with take-no-prisoners toughness, like Getzlaf does.
But Mikhail Grabovski?
Are you freakin’ serious?
Can we speculate on what he said in Belarusian that caused Sergei Kostitsyn to go berserk?
"Did you enjoy the piper? He blows, like your team."
"My babushka grandmother survived the Great Patriotic War and she’s tougher than your D."
"I"ll put in a good word with Kovalev and maybe he’ll pass you the puck."
"How long do you think your brother’s post-concussion slump will last?"
"Did you like the way I deked Markov out of his Norris Trophy to set up the first goal?"
"Centennial Stanley Cup? Bolshoi!"
Random gruesome stats, facts and observations:
• The Leafs had eight power plays and scored three goals. Exclusve of fighting majors and misconducts, the Canadiens have been penalized 43 times in the last six games.
The parade to the box is an indicator of indiscipline. It plays havoc with the lines and exhausts the PK guys and the goaltender.
• Michel Bergeron says the Canadiens remind him of the 2006-’07 team. They don’t compete. They can’t play even-strength. They played with fire against the Islanders and Blue Jackets then got burned by the Leafs in a display of total domination.
• Video of that game is being studied around the league, and coaches are jotting down notes: "Harass Price", "Clog the middle and cut off the passing lanes"
• More from Bergeron: The Canadiens have "a lot of tourists." Opposing teams gain the Montreal zone as easily as "going for groceries" – nobody holds them up, nobody bothers them as they cruise past the blueline."
The result: Toronto had 41 shots, 17 missed shots and the Canadiens blocked 18. That’s 76 opportunities to score. The comparable numbers for the Canadiens were 20 shots, eight muffs and 16 blocks: 44.
• Physical hockey? Hey, that’s why we got Georges Laraque. Nobody else has to hit.
• Except Tom Kostopoulos, who earns his living by finishing his checks. Ihope his history as an honest, tough but clean player will be weighed by Colin Campbell. But he’s gone for two, minimum.
Not to defend the hit, but Van Ryn, an experienced player, took that quick glance back and knew TK was coming. So why did he turn himself into a vulnerable position?
• Alex Kovalev had 3:17 on the power play last night. Less than Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Christopher Higgins … and ROBERT LANG! Kovalev spent 4:26 killing penalties – more than Maxim Lapierre.
Let’s put that ice time in context. Kovalev is in a contract season and talking about playing 10 more years.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch 10 more years of figure-skating, puck-hogging and cross-ice passes.
• If you don’t think ice time – particularly PP ice time – is an issue with Kovy, Koivu, Tanguay, Plekanec, Higgins, Lang and Latendresse in contract years, then you don’t understand hockey.
• How valuable is Roman Hamrlik?
• How close to competent is Ryan O’Byrne?
• How tired, 12 games into an 82-game schedule, is Andrei Markov?
• Josh Gorges wasn’t on for any of the Toronto goals. Markov an Mike Komisarek were each on for four of them
• They can’t let Price get muscled off his game. Either belt the first guy who jostles him or run the opposing goalie. Canadiens would be penalized for either of those actions, but it would send a message, not like the lazy hooks and holds they’re taking now. And the three goaltender interference calls the Leafs took were insifficient deterrent.
• Christopher Higgins is one of the nicest guys on the team. Smart, articulate, instinctively friendly, he’s a journalist’s dream. But man, watching him play is putting extra years on me.
But at least he hustles. There was a sequence last night when Higgins beat the Leafs D down the left wing, circled the net and tossed the puck toward Toskala … with nary a white jersey in the camera frame.
This is going to be an interesting week: Ottawa at the Bell Centre on Tuesday, in Boston on Thursday, Flyers here next Saturday.
Let’s put the challenge in the form of a Jeopardy question. Hockey players for $100, Alex.
"Daniel F. Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, David Krecji, Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Marco Sturm, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Daniel Brière, Simon Gagné, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul?"
I’ve got it!
Name 17 players who are beter than Mikhail Grabovski.