Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Saku Koivu: The MIGHTY Duck

Tomorrow night, Saku Koivu returns to Montreal for only the second time since leaving the team in 2009.

The only other time Koivu played in Montreal, it wasn't exactly a banner night for him. He had zero points, took three penalties - including 2 which resulted in goals, and the team needed a shootout to pull out a victory. The Montreal faithful, voted Koivu the games first star, however, because the game was decided in extra time, the games first star automatically goes to the player who scored the winning goal. Saku Koivu was relegated to second star. That garnered the former Captain his second ovation of the night.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Saku Koivu. I can't hide it. His name often comes up in HABS-TOWN features and I wrote full feature about him a few years ago. The numbers for Koivu don't lie, he will go down as one of the all-time greats to play for one of the most storied franchises in all of pro-sports. Had Koivu accomplished all he did here - on and off the ice - with any other team, his jersey would be retired.

When Koivu had to leave Montreal in the summer of 2009, Mitch Melnick called for people to write in emails that those at the station would then forward along to Saku. I raced to my computer and wrote something as quickly as I could:

I can remember the summer of 1994. I was 13 years old and was only starting to be interested in sports. I had followed the Canadiens cup run in '93 and watched much of the next season, I was of course excited but what I saw, but really didn't understand the game the way I do now. I was saddened the day my favorite player - Kirk Muller - was traded away - but I would soon find a new #11 to cheer for. So enamored with Captain Kirk was I, that I started to wear #11 on my jersey in every sport I've played since - however much as I tell that story, noone believes it. Everyone believes I wear #11 for Saku Koivu.

I can remember that summer of 1994, I had no idea who Saku Koivu was. My friend Lee however told me that there was this little Finnish guy named Koivu who was going to be the next great player for the Habs. I can remember us walking along Decarie to the old Sports Cards Colisseum shop (in the even older Snowdon Theatre building) and both of us buying Saku Koivu "debut cards". Saku had yet to play a game in the NHL, so in the picture on the card, he's of course wearing Finnish colours. In the picture, Saku's in the middle of his famous "Tiger Jump" (as coined by Pierre Mcguire) - a move that any Habs fan would recognize instantly.

Saku Koivu made his debut in 1995, and I can remember during the 0-5 start that got Jaques Demers fired one clear moment that defined Saku Koivu for me, at instantly made him my newest favorite Hab. The tiny little Koivu in only his 3rd or 4th game in the league levelled the much larger Eric Lindros into the boards. Lindros fell over and Saku skated off with the puck. In my memory Saku crushed Lindros even harder than Scott Stevens eventually would. Perhaps my memory has embellished the story a little bit - but I prefer it this way.

Saku played with the heart of a lion. He was never afraid of guys that were bigger or stronger then him. He faced the toughest defense and the toughest checkers every night, and still he excelled. Some would say he was never a true first line Center, I say he never had first line wingers to play with. (Mark Recchi aside). When Mike Ribiero had his one breakout year with Montreal, and when The Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Kovalev line was really running 2 seasons ago, "experts" and fans would claim that Saku had been relegated to the 2nd line, I would disagree. Saku's minutes never dipped down, and he always had the other teams best defensive pairing shadowing his line - so no matter what people here may have said - to the rest of the league whichever line had Saku Koivu on it was always the Canadiens most dangerous.

I vividly remember watching Hockey Night in Canada that night in December of 96 when the Habs played the Hawks and everything changed for the "next big star". Saku was leading the National Hockey League in scoring when a knee on knee hit changed the next 3 years. Saku showed everyone the courage and dedication to this team he had by always foregoing surgery on the knee - since with rehab he could get back to playing faster. Each time he would come back, look great, and re-injure the knee. People called him "injury-prone" - ignoring that it was the same injury over and over - I call him a fierce competitor.

I remember the Cancer diagnosis. This was just after Saku had finally had surgery to repair his knee. He was finally going to be healthy. He would finally become dominant again, but it was not to be - at least on the ice. Off of the ice however, Saku dominated the disease that riddled his body. He beat all the best predictions and came back to play phenomenal hockey in a magical playoff run that was cut short by the stubborness of the coach at the time. Saku looked like he hadn't missed a beat on the ice.

When the press conference was held to announce that Saku was cancer-free and he would be attempting to make a comeback before the season's end I followed intently and listened to every sound byte possible to make certain I would be at that game. I paid full face value to sit in the Air-Canada club and free food be damned, I was at that game, and it was the greatest moment I have ever been a part of. The Canadiens won their 7th straight game, clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 4 years, and SAKU! SAKU! SAKU! was back. I will NEVER forget that moment.

I believe the Canadiens management should be ashamed at how they have handled this. Saku Koivu was not only a phenomenal person on the ice, but off the ice as well. Saku can be measured by his success on the ice (he currently sits 10th on the Canadiens all-time scoring list where there is NOONE from his generation anywhere close), but most importantly he can be measured by his worth as a man. The Saku Koivu foundation is a phenomenal lasting legacy that I hope will continue it's fantastic work. I hope it will not be forgotten by the people of Montreal - the same way I doubt Saku Koivu ever will.

My Koivu #11 Ducks t-shirt is already on order, and I plan on wearing it proudly (the only time I will ever wear a visiting team's logo at the Bell Centre) when Saku and the Ducks visit this year.

Saku, you've been an inspiration to everyone in the city of Montreal whether they realize it or not, they will one day. I can only hope that others follow your path as a man, and try to do good the way you have in the face of adversity.

Thanks for the memories, good luck with your new team, and here's hoping to see you one day once again in the bleu - blanc - rouge.

I have no idea if Saku Koivu ever read what I wrote, but I think it's of little consequence. Towards the end of his tenure in Montreal, some here had soured on him, preferring instead to campaign for an enigmatic Russian to be re-signed while letting the longest tenured Captain in the history of the franchise go out with a whimper.

Hab fans remembered Saku fondly when he returned in 2011, and I am sure they will do the same again tomorrow night. Let's just hope it's not for the last time - maybe just the final time as a visitor.

For more on Saku Koivu the hockey player: "Saku Koivu: By the numbers"

Monday, 21 October 2013

HABS-TOWN: "It was an absolute euphoric feeling!"

One of the very first followers I gained on Twitter was "the Professor" Avi Goldberg. 

Avi is no stranger here on "The Breakdown" having appeared before as a part of a roundtable discussion during the NHL lockout. 

Avi is a professor of sociology at Vanier College in Montreal. You can read him all over the web, as he is a Contributing Editor at The Barnstormer, and a Featured Writer at All Habs. He also has his own private blog where he uses his sociological mind to make sense of sport-media culture and the different ways that we as fans prosume (produce & consume) the contents and experiences of sport-media culture.

He's a very interesting guy, an excellent read, and today we meet Avi the fan, an integral member of HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
Ok, you have to know that I was born in Montreal but raised in Edmonton. I am a fan of both the Habs and Oilers. With that out of the way, my first memories of getting into hockey are from family visits to Montreal for Passover and everyone running to the TV in the middle of the dinners to check out the score of the Habs games during the playoffs. As a youngster then, I would sit in the basement of my aunt and uncle’s place in Chomedey and watch Habs games with everyone. This was my first real exposure to hockey and the Habs. Since these experiences also introduced me to the unmistakable voice of Dick Irvin, Kojax souvlaki, and Montreal bagels, it’s not surprising that the Habs and hockey were so appealing for a young guy living in the prairies.     

Was it Hard to be a Habs fan living in Edmonton?
I certainly got teased by a couple of my good buddies. They laughed hysterically as I talked to them incessantly about Mats Naslund and, later on, Patrick Roy. 

The thing about being a fan back then, without the internet, was that so many people from Edmonton really knew so little about the Habs and vice versa. Kind of as it can be with politics in Quebec, most of my Edmonton pals just paid no attention to the Habs unless there was some reason for it. You have to remember that most of the attention Edmontonians devoted to visiting teams went to the hated Calgary Flames. So, most of the time, my love for the Habs was basically mildly amusing to my Edmonton friends and not so much the source of any serious rivalry or animosity. Much later, after moving to Montreal, this worked in reverse when a fellow Oilers fan and I would drive our Montreal pick-up hockey buds a bit crazy as we would endlessly tell stories of Oiler greatness in the dressing room prior to and following our games.

Do you remember your first Habs game?
Since I grew up in Edmonton, my first Habs game was in about 1988 when I came to Montreal on a winter vacation. A friend of mine took me to a Habs-Whalers game at the Forum and it was totally surreal to actually sit in the building I had seen on TV so many times over the years. The arena was smaller and busier than I expected. I was also surprised that people were smoking so much during the intermissions. The fries were great and I think it was the first time I drank orange soft drink in ages. The game itself, a 2-1 Habs victory, was a sleeper. Still, the banners, the players, those escalators crossing like two hockey sticks, the beautiful white home jerseys, and the walk out onto a freezing cold St. Catherine Street in downtown Montreal after the game made the experience worth it. 

So was that Habs game in 1988 your first NHL game? or had you been to an Oilers game in Edmonton first?

My first NHL game would have been an Oilers game prior to 1988, but I cannot truthfully remember a notable first NHL game.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever? if so, whom, and why?
For some reason, I always loved Mats Naslund. Just liked the fact that he shot left (like me), wore that big helmet, and had those shifty smooth moves and playmaking skills on the ice. Due to his 26, that was the number I always chose for my jersey when I was on a team. My Edmonton pals made plenty fun of me for this choice, but to me, Mats was the man! 

Mats Naslund seems to be one of those forgotten players. We always hear about the Dynasty Era "heroes", like the Richards, Cournoyer, Beliveau, The Flower, the “big three, etc. When it comes to players from the 80's, Patrick Roy is the only constant. Yet, Naslund was a remarkable player who had good numbers, and it seems like the generation that grew up watching him often mentions him as their favourite. 

Do you think Saku Koivu will go down that way in the history books, or as something else? What about a current Hab like Andrei Markov?
Ok, this is my view on this. Koivu was a very solid player, worked his ass off, and did not get the universal support I think he deserved. He got caught in a very unfortunate crossfire surrounding language, politics, and hockey where some fans in Quebec clearly needed a scapegoat for the fact that there were no real Quebecois hockey heroes on the Habs to support and rally behind. Markov, when healthy, has been a tremendously solid, highly skilled, and valuable player. The problem with remembering both of these guys as legends, I think, is that neither one of them is a pure superstar (although Markov is close), and it is also debatable whether either one of them can be associated with team greatness. We will always remember and admire Koivu for overcoming cancer, and fans that hate the fact that he was singled out for not speaking French will always rally behind him as a victim of nasty Quebec politics. 

With Markov we will be aware of his great skill and the fact that the team wins so many more games than they lose when he is in the lineup. Think of the different things we can associate with Naslund, by contrast. The Swede was a quirky and effective player, used a helmet and stick that were memorable due to their lack of familiarity to Canadians, and ultimately contributed to an unexpected Stanley Cup victory in 1986. Aside from overcoming cancer (albeit a biggy), I am not sure if Koivu and Markov feature in a team narrative that will keep their memories alive in a meaningful way. Then again, with Markov, there’s still time!

Where do you like to watch games?
If I had the time, I would love to watch games with friends in a small bar-restaurant where staff and patrons know each other. I just love the idea of being out in public, lots of others there for the same reason, enjoying cold beer, and escaping time while watching the game of hockey.

Do you prefer to watch with guys? with girls? why?
When I was a younger person, the idea of watching games with women was virtually unheard of. Now, the passion for hockey exhibited by women is off the charts, no different from what I see from the guys. To illustrate, when I first met my wife, Lori, she was in the process of moving back to Montreal from Toronto and one of the things she was looking forward to was being able to watch the Habs in Montreal. In the early years she told me stories of how she would have just died of tension and anxiety if the Canadiens would have played the Leafs in the 1993 finals instead of the Kings. Though I would have been into a Habs-Leafs finals matchup, I totally loved the fact that we were sharing these kinds of conversations. In short, though Lori is not currently as tuned into the Habs as I am, my ideal situation would be watching with her and getting my daughter into it with us as well. So, I’m cool with watching with guys or women. And, if it’s people who are close to me, all the better.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
No real pre-game rituals but my friends and I in Edmonton pioneered some major in-game superstitions. It all happened during Oilers playoff games during the dynasty years. We would usually watch at Michael Chow’s house and his two brothers would be hanging out with us as well. So, we’d take our seats for the game, it wouldn’t matter really where we started off. As long as things were going well, we stayed in our spots. The moment things started to go bad for the Oilers, we would change seats, so I might move from the couch to the floor and Justin from the floor to the couch. We would continue to shift as needed until Oiler momentum would be restored. Needless to say, I still employ this basic tactic, even if I am watching important games alone.

What's the best game you ever went to? what do you remember about it?
I have to say that the two best games I ever attended were not Habs games but Oilers games. When I was 13, my dad took me to games 4 and 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Islanders. We sat in the nosebleeds at Northlands Coliseum. Yelled and screamed our heads off. Saw big bad Billy Smith yanked from at least one of those games (both of them ended up as 7-2 Oilers victories). The place was deafening and it was an absolute euphoric feeling to see this amazing young team inch close to the championship after having been thoroughly destroyed by the Islanders in the Finals the year before. My dad couldn’t score tickets to the Stanley Cup clinching game but we watched at a family friends’ place. The memories of those two games with my dad will forever live within.

If those were the best Oiler games you've been to, what's the best Habs one and why?
Though I am a huge hockey fan, I truly have not been to nearly as many live games as I would like. The most exciting Habs game I attended was during the 2004 playoffs, second round against Tampa Bay, the eventual champions just before the lockout. 

The Habs were down 2-0 in the series but played strong in game 3. They trailed by a goal heading into the 3rd. I joked with my friends just before the period that Patrice Brisebois, simultaneously hated and admired in Montreal, would be a hero of the game. In the dying moments of the game, Ryder and Brisebois(!) did score to put the Habs ahead. For a few moments, I was a real man for making that prediction. Sadly, with less than 30 second left, Lecavalier scores for Tampa Bay to send the game to OT. While I wanted to be optimistic heading into OT, I just didn’t think the Habs would pull it out. No surprise when Brad Richards scored 1:05 (I looked it up) into the extra frame to pull TB up 3-0 in the series. The loss was depressing in the end, but there was some great tension and drama, making it a pretty fun night. The less-than-friendly banter we exchanged with two Tampa Bay fans that made their way up to the game helped to create an all-around playoff hockey experience in MTL. 

Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
I have a fairly good and interesting Oiler story if you want to hear it, but the best Habs story I can muster is the time I was invited to a Habs game by Rob Zamuner’s sister. This happened when Zamuner played for Tampa Bay. Again, the game itself is basically non-existent in my memory, but I do remember hanging around after the game waiting for Zamuner to come out of the dressing room to meet us. We kind of stood around like idiots as Habs and Lightning players, coaches, media people walked by wondering what the two geeks were doing there. Zamuner came out, chatted with us for a bit, then headed back to join his teammates. It really wasn’t that exciting but it was certainly interesting standing around in the bowels of the Forum with all these famous people walking right beside us and feeling like a complete clown for being there. 

I'll bite, what's the interesting Oiler story?
In grades 11 and 12, I dated the niece of the Oilers Assistant General Manager. This meant unprecedented access to games and to one private Stanley Cup victory party after victory over the Boston Bruins in 1987-’88. After the celebrations and interviews died down at Northlands Coliseum, the team went to a smaller banquet hall in another events building just next to the arena. My girlfriend and I attended the party at which a meal was served, music blared, and everyone in attendance got to mingle with the players and view the Stanley Cup up close. Similar to my experience in the bowels of the Forum, my girlfriend and I were a little shy about really interacting with the players, but for a couple of hours we were right there watching the guys celebrating their big win. As we were not A-list guests, we were assigned to a table with the unheralded Keith Action and Marty McSorley. At best, we shared a little small talk when they weren’t talking to each other or to their families. There certainly was champagne making the rounds, but the players were on very good behaviour. I’m sure the real partying and debauchery happened the moment the players left this official team function. Needless to say, we were not invited to join the after party!   
Last season, the Habs decided to keep Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Gallagher in Montreal at the time, what did you think? 

Did they meet your expectations?

How do you think it relates to Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Michael Bournival this season?
Previously, I was conditioned to think that, based on failings of the past, young guys should go back to junior or the farm and develop properly. I had this view even though I was also aware of teams that allowed young players to play right away and with great consequences. Based on this, I was very skeptical about keeping the Gallys up, but they (especially Gallagher) were more than respectable. Galchenyuk and Gallagher are exciting, enthusiastic players and they’ve picked up where they left off last year and I think it worked out great. With Tinordi, Beaulieu, and Bournival, as long as Therrien lives up to what he says about giving them real time to play and providing them with teaching and guidance, I say keep them here.

Is there anything that Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov can do to earn another contract in Montreal?
Here’s my preference/prediction. To me, the Habs need to go a little further along in terms of a generational change in its playing talent before it will be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. What this means is that, as much as I respect Gionta, I see him in more of a caretaking role, helping the current team get to its next and better version, than as the leader who’ll be first to hold the Cup since 1993. In Gorges, Subban, Gallagher, and even Lars Eller, I think there is good captain material just ahead. As for on-ice, I hope there will be a younger and bigger forward who will ably take Gionta’s place. Markov is a little trickier for me, especially given the amount of time he’s been with the team, and even given the way he’s looked on the back end since being paired with Subban. If the guy plays the season like how he’s looked in the last few games, I’d sign him to a two year deal, as long as the money is ok. Let’s say he’s good, and let’s say all the young D talent develops as you want them to in the coming couple of years, how bad would it be to have Markov in the role that Bouillon is in right now? Gionta’s time in Montreal will honourably come to an end. Markov, assuming he stays healthy and productive (big assumptions!), will re-up and be there for at least one good run to the Stanley Cup.

For more from Avi Goldberg, follow him on Twitter @AviGoldberg


Friday, 11 October 2013

HABS-TOWN: "I can still smell it today!"

Writing about the Montreal Canadiens has many small perks. One of them is contributing a popular feature to Habs-lore. 

With "HABS-TOWN", we've met people who cover the Canadiens, people who used to cover the Canadiens, fans of the Canadiens, and now a family member of a Canadien. 

Stephanie Lapointe is the daughter of Hockey Hall of Famer, Guy Lapointe. During a 16-year NHL career, Lappinte helped revolutionize what a defenseman could be. Although he would finish up his career with stints in St.Louis and Boston, Lapointe is best remembered as a member of Montreal's "Big Three" on Defense. Together with compatriots Larry Robinson and Serge Savard, Lapointe would win six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970's. 

Stephanie is Guy Lapointe's only daughter, and yet of the family she was the one who fell in love with the game of hockey. She currently owns her own Human Resources consulting firm, and is at the forefront of a movement to have her father's sweater retired. 

Everyone's got a story about the Habs affecting their lives, Stephanie lived with one of the Montreal Canadiens all time greats for a father, making her a perfect person to read about in today's HABS-TOWN.

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs?
I was born in 1975 with a father playing hockey in the National Hockey League for the Habs. 

Early on in my life that’s all we heard and watched. When I was about four years old, I would go to hockey practice with my father. I quickly became a Habs fan because these players were like family to me.

Were there any you were particularly close with?
Not any particularly they were all very nice and I usually preferred to hang out with their kids.

Are you still friends with any of those players kids you grew up with?
I’ve moved a lot. My father was traded to Boston then St-Louis, back to Quebec for the Nordiques and finally arrived in Calgary as a coach and scout. It made it difficult to keep in touch, but if we see each other at events we are always happy to see each other.  

As you got older did your relationship with the players change? You would have been close enough in age to be their peer as opposed to "the daughter of". 

Absolutely! I was told to stay away from hockey players. (Laughs).  My dad didn’t approve. 

When I was in university, I was working in a bar in Calgary and would often see there.
They were always very polite, friendly, but knew not to cross the line. I knew they'd have my back if anything happened. 

Do you think your dad's reaction of "stay away from hockey players" was as a result of something specific, or just generally known in your house?

I was friends with a few of them, they dated my friends. I guess my father saw how difficult it was on the family with him being on the road so much. My parents divorced when I was very young. It’s not the lifestyle I would want for my son.  

Based on your dad's stance on hockey players, I guess it's safe to say your husband is not one?  
That is correct. However I married I Maple Leafs fan from Ontario and I'm not sure which is worse. I enjoy listening to my father and him talk hockey!   
Dave Kaufman from TSN 690, once asked Patrick Burke (Brian's son) what team he grew up cheering for. Patrick bluntly said "whichever one my dad worked for". 

Your dad was in hockey for a long time in various roles with multiple franchises, did you find your loyalties switching with your dads?
Great question! I always favoured the Habs. That's where my father spent most of his career and won his 6 cups. Out of respect I also cheered for the teams he worked for, but Habs were and will always be my favourite team. 

Do you remember your first Habs game?
My first Hab game was when I was only 3. My mother took me to watch my father play. I don’t remember much, but I’m told I would sit there and really watch the game.

Who is your all-time favourite Habs player?
My favorite Habs player was Guy Lafleur. He was a legendary player. I also found him to be very nice and attentive when I went to practice. He’s the one who taught me how to skate.

If the "demon blonde" taught you how to skate, is it within reason to say you must be a pretty good skater?
I don’t like to brag, but I do consider myself to be an excellent skater. I was also into figure skating so that helped as well.

What must your dad have thought that your favourite player was someone other than him? 
Well, to be perfectly honest my dad WAS my favorite player and my hero growing up. I just figured it sounded a bit corny.
Let's talk a little about the era's post-dad's retirement. Who were some of your favourite players then? It must be different liking a player that you don't have a personal relationship with. 
I liked players like Shane Corson, Chris Chelios, and Kirk Muller.  At least those are names that are off the top of my head!

Where do you like to watch games?
Of course it’s always more fun watching games at the Bell Center, the atmosphere is out of this world, but I enjoy watching them at home with my boys - husband and son.

Does your son play hockey? If so, do you feel there's any added pressure on him due to his lineage?
Luckily no. 

I can’t imagine the pressure he would have being the Grandson of a hockey legend. He’s an avid golfer. He loves to watch hockey, but never really got into it to play.
If your son did show interest in playing hockey, how do you think you'd react?
I would be extremely supportive and attend every single practice and game. I would be that crazy mother in the stands cheering on her child. He would be so embarrassed. 
Did you want to play Hockey growing up, or did you leave that to your siblings?

I have two brothers. Neither was really into hockey.  I was the one who wanted to play, but my dad always refused

Why do you think your dad didn't want you to play? Did he ever relent, and let you play?
At the time I think he thought it was a man’s sport. He knew I liked to wrestle and play fight with my older brother. He probably thought I would get hurt. Things were different back then. I never got to play in a team, but I make up for it now with my family and we get pretty competitive.
Do you prefer to watch with guys or girls in general?

I would be tempted to say guys because they know more about hockey, but I see that women are just as knowledgeable about the game. It’s not about watching the team with the best jersey or the cutest players!  
Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
No. I don’t really believe in rituals or superstitions. I probably should since I’ve seen my dad do all kinds of weird stuff during the playoffs.

What kind of weird stuff did you see your dad so during the playoffs?
He refused to shave and would wear the same socks, I remember my mother complaining about the smell of my dad’s equipment.

I can still smell it today! 
My wife hates the smell of my hockey gear! Luckily today there are ways to clean the gear, but man oh man "hockey hands" are the worst.
OMG hockey hands! That has got to be the most horrific smell in the world!
What's the best game you ever attended?
That’s a tough one since there have been so many great Habs games over the years that I was fortunate enough to see.  One that does come to mind however is a game against the New York Rangers about 6 years ago when we gave up 5 goals only to come back and win the game with 5 straight and then the shoot-out.  It was almost unbelievable how it was happening, and the fans (myself included) were losing their minds with every goal the Habs got.  When Kovalev tied it at 5-5, I really thought the roof was going to come off the Bell Center.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
I have so many! As I said I practically grew up in the locker room. My father was quite the prankster so we shared some good laughs.   I recall one day he put whipped cream in all the players’ shoes while they were on the ice during practice.  Seeing their reactions after was priceless.

What are your expectations for the 2013-2014 edition of the Montreal Canadiens?
With the re-alignment of the divisions, it will be interesting to see what happens.  The Atlantic division is very strong, and it seems most think that either Boston or Detroit will dominate, but I think that Montreal may just surprise everyone.  

For the moment Jarred Tinordi and Michael Bournival are with the Canadiens, do you expect them to last the season here, why or why not? What are your expectations for them?
Tinordi may stay around, and I hope he does.  He’s a big body and the Habs could use some more size out there, especially in the absence of Parros who I hope gets back in action soon.   

Michael Bournival seems to be earning his position on the 4th line, and is adapting well to the speed of NHL paced hockey, so we’ll have to wait and see if he can continue.  He may get sent down, but I don’t think it will be very long before he’s got a permanent position on the team!
Do you see any current members of the Canadiens who remind you in any way of your dad? If so, what exactly reminds you of him?
Not current, but Chris Chelios often reminded me of my Dad’s style of play. He had a rough and tumble style about him that made me think of my Dad.
It's interesting that you compare Chris Chelios to your dad. Since PK Subban burst in with the Canadiens,  many have compared him to Chelios. Do you in turn see any similarities between Subban and your dad?
PK is a very talented defenseman.  I can’t see the similarities that everyone speaks about. You have two complete different players with different styles. On and off the ice.  

When current Hab-fans and players look up at the Bell Centre rafters they see the names and numbers of Larry Robinson and Serge Savard. 
For those who never saw him play,  what was special about your dad on the ice that earned those three men the name "the big three"? 
My father played 777 games for the Montreal Canadians.. He scored 572 career points in a Habs uniform.  Not only has he won 6 Stanley Cup Championships, but he was also a big part of Team Canada's victory in the 1972 Summit Series. To date he holds the franchise record of goals for a defenseman (28), and also most goals for a rookie defenseman (15). 

Objectively do you feel your dad belongs up there with his compatriots? Why do you think it hadn't happened to this point?
Let me be very clear that any effort I am doing to help retire my father’s jersey is all mine. I didn’t even mention it to him. I truly feel he should be up there with the rest of the big three.  I can’t answer why he isn’t up there. They waited so long for (Emile) Bouchard.  It should happen sooner than later.

Does it bother you that players can still wear #5? 
I would say it’s just a number, but it’s an important number in my family. My grandfather was chief firefighter and his badge was also #5. Then my Dad sported the number so I wouldn’t say “it bothers me” but I selfishly thinks it’s “ours”. 

For more from Stephanie Lapointe, follow her on Twitter @RavenMontreal


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Snapshot Preview: Habs VS Flames - October 9th 2013

Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0) at Calgary Flames (1-0-2)
Puck drop is at 8:00pm EST

The Montreal Canadiens have not won in Calgary since 2002. Doug Gilmour scored the winner for the Habs that night.

The last time these two teams met was during the 2011-2012 season. The Flames were 4-1 & 5-4 winners in both meetings, but much has changed since the Habs last visit to the Saddledome. Rene Bourque scored 2 goals in helping the Flames to the victory, and this will be his first visit to cow town since he was traded to Montreal. The player sent the other way in that deal, Mike Cammalleri did not play in that Habs loss and will not play in this game either as he remains sidelined with an injury.

Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester, Olli Jokinen and Jarome Iginla combined for 9 points against Montreal in 2011-2012 (2-7--9) but they have all moved on to other franchises in the interim.

The since retired Mikka Kiprusoff won both games in the Flames net posting a 2.50 GAA and a sterling save percentage of .922.

Calgary starts Joey Macdonald in between the pipes to face Montreal - only his 3rd career game against les gloriex, a second start. In that limited time frame he has put up good numbers, with a GAA of 1.71 and an excellent .932 save percentage. The Native of Pictou, Nova Scotia hasn't been off to a spectacular start to this season  surrendering 5 goals (on 28 shots) to Vancouver in Calgary's loss on home ice, October 6th.
Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano and  David Jones have thus far been the leaders on offense for the Flames in this young NHL season, each having amassed four points in Calgary's first three games. The Saddledome has always been a friendly place for the recently acquired Hudler, who has tallied 27 points in 32 games at the building (mostly while playing for Detroit). This will be only his sixth career meeting with the Tricolore against whom he has scored three times. David Jones who also came to Calgary in the offseason (from Colorado) also has a very short history against Montreal, having played them only three times previously, but he has been dangerous putting up 4 points in limited ice time.

The Flames last played on Sunday night in Vancouver. They had a 3-1 lead early in the 3rd period, however the much stronger Canucks came storming back to eventually win the game 5-4. The Flames are not a team to be taken lightly as coach Bob Hartley has them competing hard every night. If the Canadiens are to win this game they will need to equal the work effort of the Flames and use their superior skill set and depth to carry them.

This will be only the fifth time Canadiens' netminder Carey Price has squared off with the Flames. In previous meetings, he has posted rather pedestrian numbers of a 3.97 GAA and an .865 save percentage. Price has been off to an excellent start, most recently stopping 22 of 23 shots in the Habs 4-1 victory over the Flyers Saturday night.

Lars Eller has been the Habs leader in the early goings here, putting up 5 points in only 2 games. In both games he has been the Canadiens best forward and his performance thus far had his named as the NHL's second star last week. The young Dane has 4 points in 5 career meetings against the Calgary Flames.

Sophomore Alex Galchenyuk has also been on fire in the early goings for Montreal assisting on 4 goals through 2 games. This will be his first career meeting with the Flames.

Max Pacioretty sat out the Canadiens game on Saturday with an apparent shoulder injury he suffered in the season opener against Toronto. He is in Calgary with the team and is expected to play tonight. Captain Brian Gionta did not travel with the team due to family reasons, however he is expected to rejoin them this afternoon and will be in the lineup tonight.

The Habs last played on Saturday at home against Philadelphia. The younger, faster, well conditioned Canadiens were too much for the Flyers to handle. Montreal took over much of the game. The Power-Play has been an area of concern for the bleu-blanc-rouge early on, it clicked for 2 goals against the Flyers but came up empty on seven other occasions. It also struggled against Toronto.

Former Hab Mike Cammalleri has yet to make his season debut and will not play tonight. Former Leaf Matt Stajan remains sidelined with a leg contusion. For the Habs, as is usually the case, the list of the walking wounded is much longer. Defenseman Alexei Emelin had off-season knee surgery and will not play until the end of November at the earliest. He has been skating on his own. Davis Drewiske injured his shoulder during training camp, but should be back in a couple of weeks. Newly acquired Douglas Murray has yet to debut for the Habs. He suffered an upper-body injury during training camp, but should be ready to bring his brand of physicality to the Montreal lineup within a couple of weeks as well. George Parros remains sidelined indefinitely with post concussion syndrome.