Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Hockey whisperer..........

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks back on Bob Gainey’s ability to handle Alex Kovalev, something akin to horse whispering. I think Gainey is more than that; he’s actually a hockey whisperer. He’s managing to get the most out of a traumatized team, instill confidence and bring out the passion in the boys. No small feat considering where they were coming from. They hit rock bottom last Saturday night against the Leafs and I thought we were done for. Tuesday against Atlanta they looked like a different team, they’d begun their crawl out of the abyss. I guess coaching was the issue, not that Carbo was a bad coach but his lack of communication skills is what cost him in the end. He was for all intents and purposes still a rookie coach. The 2007-08 season had no bumps in the road, few injuries and generally went as smooth as ice. I had written in a previous blog about comments that Elmer Lach had made at the beginning of the season. He felt the Habs had the talent and capabilities to be serious cup contendors, but cautioned that it would all come down to coaching, specifically the ability of the coach to handle adversity. The pile of crap that was loaded on the Habs this year was endless; we had the most injuries out of any team in the league. The constant line juggling combined with the call ups from Hamilton and suspect goaltending were just keeping us afloat but started to take its toll down the stretch. The losses started to pile up, things really started looking bleak. The Habs were in a freefall and there was no stopping it. Gainey patiently waited in the background to see if Carbo could turn things around, but it was getting worse. Gainey made the tough decision and took over as head coach. At first it didn’t seem to make a difference, we continued to lose games. Gainey decides to have a heart to heart talk with some of the underperformers, something that Carbo wasn’t capable of doing. You wouldn’t think that something that simple could be such a difference maker, but it was. The team is looking much better; Kovy, Koivu, Komo and Price have noticeably stepped up their games. The boys have started playing with passion and emotion, sticking up for each other and their goalie. I guess it’s like anything in life, you can have all the talent in the world but if it isn’t managed or handled properly it’s worthless. It’s amazing what a small pat on the back along with a few words of praise can do; keep on whispering Bob, all the way to the playoffs.

Latest stats on my kitty’s predictions – Habs 2 – Matisse 2.5 …….you go kitty!

A last note:

Last Monday something strange happened, my Habs flag is plastered above the mantle on my fireplace; it fell off the wall. I was sure it was a bad omen especially after the terrible game we played against the Leafs on Saturday night. I promptly put it back up, because I refuse to give up on my team, but I had a hard time shaking off the feeling of dread, it was unsettling. It reminded me of something that had happened in my childhood, one night we were sitting around the dinner table and we heard this loud thud coming from the hallway. Being a Catholic household we had a crucifix hanging on the wall at the end of the hallway, somehow Jesus had fallen off the cross and was lying on the floor. My mother was horrified; she quickly scooped him up and cradled him in her hands. She was convinced this was a sign that something terrible would happen so she had us all kneel down and say the rosary. Later on my poor Dad had the unpleasant task of putting Jesus back on the cross, all the while shaking his head and muttering, “This just doesn’t feel right”.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A little persepective.......

The Habs are playing Toronto tonight; they may or may not win. In the grand scheme of things does it really matter? I had to sit back and take a deep breath after the Habs lost to the Rangers the other night. Before the game started, I had sweaty palms and felt a little nauseous. Totally ridiculous. I have spent at least 15 minutes discussing the Habs with a work colleague daily for the past month. We’ve both come to the conclusion that we take this sport way too seriously. There is no value to it except the value WE chose to place on it. WE chose to emotionally invest in something that is meaningless. Seriously folks, the Habs not making the playoffs is not earth shattering or life changing in any way. Some people spend their whole day every day on blogging sites commiserating with one another on all things Habs. Can you imagine if they collectively spent a quarter of that time channeling thoughts and ideas about something useful? We could have cured cancer by now, or at the very least have stopped the spread of HIV in Africa. I’ve decided to come back down to earth, focus on things that really matter (in my case a career change is in order) and enjoy hockey for what it really is, an exciting and very entertaining GAME.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Habs 1...Matisse 0

Matisse watching the Ottawa game last night

Well Matisse was wrong. But in all fairness to him he has about an 80 percent success rate in his hockey predictions and I've never asked him to predict an individual game. He is a good little Habs fan, he always lies on the arm of the sofa while I'm watching the game, but lately he's been a nervous wreck. He now associates hockey with loud yelling, when he hears the HNIC theme song his tail starts to twitch and his ears go back. He even has a Habs' blue cat bowl with the CH logo on it but these days he prefers to eat out of his sister's little pink bowl. I'm not sure if that is actually Habs related or he's coming out of the closet, neutering has its pros and cons. Let's see how he does on his playoff prediction, paws crossed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cat calls.........Matisse speaks

I'm not worried about the Habs anymore. Laugh if you will, but every year I participate in a hockey playoff pool. Two of those years I had some help in my predictions, his name is Matisse and he is one of my cats. Matisse is an extremely vocal and intelligent Siamese. Each round of the playoffs I would ask him what teams would prevail. His answer comes in the form of a head butt for a yes or he would just turn away if it was a no. We finished overall in second place through four playoff rounds. As you can imagine Mom bought a nice little bag of treats for the fur kid with her winnings.

It's time to test him again, I asked him if the Habs would win against Ottawa tonight, his answer was yes. I asked him if the Habs would make the playoffs, his answer was again yes. I asked him a third question and I have an answer. I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fasten your seat belts folks......

I’m a nervous wreck, I’m stressed at work, and I’m worried about my Habs. It’s all too much, thank God I’m going on vacation in a month, right around the time the boys should be in their first playoff round. I even bought a small flag to put outside our villa as a show of support; they’ll be out of sight but not far from my thoughts. I won’t be a happy camper if the flag has to stay home with the cats. I don’t know what to expect in the next few weeks, I don’t know if Bob Gainey knows either. People are suggesting that the team isn’t as good as we think, some use the word “overachieved.” So in a nutshell, twenty three players all “overachieved” last year, is that even possible? I'm not buying into that, there's still loads of talent on this team, it just needs to be used properly. Player’s performances can vary from season to season. Kovalev is a good example, historically he has a good season followed by a mediocre one, so realistically that could also affect his line mates’ performances. But how do we explain our lack of defense or the goaltending? Our defense, with the exception of Markov has been abysmal. Komisauraus has morphed into Barney, he may be hurt. Carey Price had a meltdown that could have rivaled Chernobyl but he's still in essence a rookie. The team as a whole is a shell of itself, however Murphy’s Law prevails; unfortunately the only consistent player is Chris Higgins, he still can't hit the back of the net for love nor money. Injuries have played a major role and wreaked havoc with the lines; we’ve seen more combinations than a Chinese dinner menu. I’m going with Bob’s theory that Carbo’s misuse of players in certain situations coupled with his lack of defining roles has sucked the confidence and any possible chance of chemistry right out of this team. One thing for sure is the individual talent is still there and that’s a good foundation to build on, but two very big questions still remain, does he have enough time to rebuild this team into a competitor and was Carbo to blame? As Bob himself said, the answers will only be apparent in the next thirty days. In the meantime we wait, we hope and we pray.

Just a little add on…..
I was yakking on about the Habs the other night (as usual) to my poor other half who just grins and bears it (God bless him) and tries to make an effort to appear interested. “Can you believe that some of the idiotic French media would put language first over winning a championship?” “Are you kidding me” he quips, "they put language in front of the economy in 1976.” Good point dear, how silly of me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bob gives Kovy a reassuring pet.....I mean pat

Bob Gainey was recently asked to divulge his secret on handling Alex Kovalev, he replied "It's not a big deal really, just some plain old fashioned horse sense."

A horse whisperer is a horse trainer who adopts a sympathetic view of the motives, needs, and desires of the horse, based on natural horsemanship and modern equine psychology. The term goes back to the early nineteenth century when an Irish horseman, Daniel Sullivan, made a name for himself in England by rehabilitating horses that had become vicious and intractable due to abuse or accidental trauma.

Sullivan kept his methods secret, but people who managed to observe him noticed that he would stand face to face with the troubled horse. They seemed to think that he must be saying something to the horse in a way the horse could understand and accept because the horses were quickly gentled by his mysterious techniques.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A changing of the guard........

I have to admit that I was shocked when I heard Guy Carbonneau was let go as head coach of the Habs yesterday, simply because I had no idea what was wrong with the team. Unlike a lot of Habs fans I don’t engage in finger pointing, yours truly is under no delusions that she can identify and resolve potential problems before the management and coaching staff catches on. The only thing I was sure of was that the Habs haven’t played to their potential this season. I can count on my one hand how many decent games I’ve seen so far. I’ve kept waiting for them to break out but it just wasn’t happening. Is there anyone out there that thought based on what we’ve seen so far this season that the Habs could win the next ten out of fifteen remaining games required to get us into a playoff spot?

Missing the playoffs this year has never been an option and Gainey would need to make some kind of move to ensure that wouldn’t happen. When Bob stood pat at the trade deadline, he made it clear to his coaching staff that they would live or die by the team as it stands and it would be their responsibility to squeeze the most out of the players. They went on to lose the next two games but the clincher for me was in the first period of the Dallas game, it was by far the worst hockey I’ve seen them play this year. It looked deliberate and that’s when I started to wonder if they wanted rid of their coach. The players aren’t admitting to it, so whether or not that was the intention we’ll never know.

Make no mistake, Bob Gainey had no choice but to do what he did, the teams' success or failure is ultimately his responsibility. Hockey is a business; it’s all about winning and making money, if anyone thinks friendship or favoritism factors into it they just don’t get it. I get it and don’t be too worried about Guy, he gets it too.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind.......

Note to self: do not read hockey blogs or listen to sports radio when the Habs are losing. I’ll give the “fans” a fools' pardon but what really annoys me are the paid blowhards who encourage them; there’s no limit to the endless drivel that you can read and listen to about the Habs. To make it easier for fans who want decent and insightful opinions, these are Moey’s recommendations, and sadly it’s a short list.

• Red Fisher (Montreal Gazette) please read Red’s article in yesterday’s Gazette, finally a voice of reason and you’re right Red, in the grand scheme of things it’s only a game.

• Pat Hickey (Montreal Gazette)

• Mitch Melnick in the afternoon (The team 990)

• Randy Tieman (CTV news, he also fills in on occasion for P.J. Stock on the Team 990, too bad it wasn’t every day).

• Dave Stubbs (Montreal Gazette – good feature articles)

• Stephen Brunt (Globe and Mail, also does a guest spot on Melnick in the afternoon at 4:30 PM)

• Eric Engels (guest blogger, The Other Wing on

My apologies to Pierre McGuire, you almost made the list, but I fear that you too are slowly losing the plot. With the exception of Eric Engels, I'm not listing bloggers. The ones I follow are shown on this page.

I was listening to Dickie Moore on the Team 990 yesterday morning, they were broadcasting live for the Irishman of the year breakfast. He was reminiscing about his years with the Habs and more specifically the years he was coached under Toe Blake. When Blake took over as coach, he first met with all of the players in the dressing room. His first words were “ I can’t coach you guys, you’re already too good”. Toe treated them like they were the greatest and that’s how they played. Dickie went on to say that although they had the talent, winning is all about confidence. One can’t argue with the results, five consecutive Stanley Cups, brilliant coaching tactics. I think that’s what Bob Gainey is trying to convey to his team by standing pat at the trade deadline, his vote of confidence, let’s hope it works.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Call me crazy but......

Habs vs. Thrashers

The only thing that I was concerned about last nights' game was how Carey Price would perform. His first save on the Thrasher's breakaway was crucial, it would make or break him for the rest of the game. I let out a huge sigh of relief when he shut the door, Price was back in the zone. Solid goaltending is the key to getting the boys’ confidence back, you start with that and the rest will follow. I thought the boys put in a pretty decent effort, they had some good scoring chances but couldn’t capitalize on them. C’est la vie and on to Dallas Sunday. I like to watch the game and then listen to Carbo’s post game audio for his take. It usually aligns with mine. I agree that this is a new starting point for the boys. I’ve come to the conclusion that both Carbo and I are nuts and know nothing about hockey and it seems that a large majority of Habs fans including the media know better than we do. Sorry folks, but it ain't the latter, I’m sticking with Carbo.

Just a little add on to drive my point home, my other half isn't a hockey fan so he doesn't care if they win or not. We watched the game together last night and believe me if they weren't playing well for some strange reason (must be a guy thing) he's always more than happy to point that out to me. He thought they played a good game, his word is as good as Carbo's.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My glass is still half full..........

So it’s the big day, trade deadline is over in an hour and it doesn’t look like Bob is making any moves so I suspect he’s looking at the team through Moey colored glasses. I’m okay with that, Guy Carbonneau stated yesterday that he’s satisfied with his current squad. I Like the fact that we are now officially underdogs and considered by many of the “experts” to be non contenders, it takes the focus and pressure off. Anything is possible and these are the reasons that I think we have as good a chance as anyone else to go all the way.

• Habs haven’t played to their potential yet; when they do they can beat anyone. They haven’t peaked too early and I can only count about five games where they’ve put in a sold sixty minute effort. There’s should be lots of gas left in the tank.

• If Mike Komisarek plays like Mike Komisarek.

• If Carey Price plays like Carey Price.

• If Jaro stays consistent.

• The Kovy/Pleks/AK46 line fires on all cylinders.

• The imminent return of Alex Tanguay gives us a second bona fide scoring line.

• The boys are slowly gaining confidence and as of tonight they know they will be the official team going into the playoffs, that helps a lot, especially if your Chris Higgins or Thomas Plekanac.

• The addition of Matthew Schneider anchors our defense, helps out Markov and brings our PP back to life and he has playoff experience.

• And last but not least is my recent acquisition of a voodoo doll collection of the Bruins and the Flyers.