Hell's Angels

The Canadiens are in New Jersey tonight.

From Habs Inside/Out: Brodeur suffered a laceration on his finger yesterday. Unfortunately, it won't stop him from starting the game. The league really should step in and force Brodeur to sit this one out. Staph infections can be very serious and they are on the rise. There is no reason for him to take this risk. I'm only looking out for Martin's health here. I have no ulterior motive. None at all.

A couple of weeks ago I looked at the number of PP opportunities and Times Shorthanded for each team. The Goody Two-Shoes Devils were runaway leaders with 99 PPs and only 61 TSH for a ridiculous ratio of 1.6 PPs for every PK. The next highest ratio at the time was Tampa with 1.2 PPs for every PK.

Since then, NJ's numbers have been even - they're now at 131 PPs and 90. Not surprisingly, they've been playing .500 hockey over that time.

For the record, after 18 games Montreal was at 92 PPs and 113 TSH. They're at 121 PPs and 149 TSH now, so we've seen no real improvement. They're still giving up one extra PP per game.

Keeping with the theme of devils and vice, Mike Boone has brought to readers' attention a charity poker tournament featuring, among others, Sheldon Souray and Craig Rivet. It took place in August but will be televised this month. Looking at the lineup, it seems like the tough guys like playing cards - Brashear, May, Domi, Laraque... and Sean Avery. I hope Avery and Laraque both made the final - hello, dramatic tension!

Tim Connolly participated, too:

Other player: "I'll raise you two bits, Tim."
'Concussion' Connolly: "Go Fish!"


Comeback night in Montreal

It was a big night for comebacks in Montreal. Stéphane Dion roared back from fourth place out of eight candidates to win the Liberal party leadership, beating Michael Ignatieff ("Stephen Harper in a red tie," according to my wife) in the final ballot. The Canadiens came back after being down 3-1 in the 3rd for a win over the Maple Leafs. A great night for the Quebec boys over the big, rich Anglos!

Here are my notes in writer-friendly bullet-form:

- This is huge for a Habs/Leafs game on HNIC: Jim Hughson is calling the game instead of Bob Cole. Hughson did not disappoint.

- The Leafs owned the first period. I'd sure like to know why it looks like Toronto is always more motivated than Montreal in these high profile games. The shots were 13-5 after 1.

- Ian White = Beavis
"When you're young, it's pretty hard-core to get some skulls." -22 year old Ian White

Not exactly words of wisdom. But what do you expect from a drunk driver. Now, one might interpret my words as insulting to those who have tattoos of laughing and crying skulls. Allow me to clarify: if you have tattoos of laughing and crying skulls, I'm definitely insulting you.

- Boone, on Ryder:
"A real trigger-man, playing with Saku Koivu, would score 40 without breathing hard. Ryder is on pace for 20 ... and I wouldn't bet the ranch he gets there."

Yep, Ryder looks like he's regressed.

- Also Boone: "Pat Hickey says Kovy is out of sorts today because The Hockey News has named him one of the five most uncoachable players in the NHL."

Sisu says that's why a guy with $8M skills is currently under contract for $4M per year.

- Rivet took a hard shot off his right arm and might be out for awhile.

- Habs had a good 2nd period for a change. After two periods, the play has been even. Ryder hit Raycroft twice in glorious scoring opportunities, and Kovalev hit the post once. Not bad for playing with five defensemen.

- Alex Kovelev would have been ripped apart by the media had the Canadiens lost tonight. He took a double minor in the dying seconds of the 2nd which led to a Leaf PPG early in the 3rd. Kovy was called for a minor penalty for a one-handed "hook" on Ponikarovsky. In Kovy's defense, 1) Poni pulled the "tuck the guy's stick under your arm" trick and it worked, and 2) if a player has only one hand on his stick, he should never be called for hooking. Throw in the language barrier, his additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct is very forgivable in my opinion. It was a chintzy call. If I had a Tivo, I could put together a highlight reel of 20 such infractions for each team that went uncalled.

- Ian White. His puck-over-glass minor in the 3rd period was karmic retribution.

- The cameras caught Raycroft scraping up the ice before the shootout. Goalies at every level do this in their crease. For the shootout, it looks like they do it all the way out to the hash marks.

- Carbo chose Sheldon Souray for the shootout. I confess: I groaned when I saw him line up for his shot because having a >100mph slapshot has little to nothing to do with scoring on breakaways. Souray smartly used his greatest strength to his advantage, faking a slapshot from the hash marks. The fake froze Raycroft like a statue and Shelly flicked a wristshot into the far side for the SO win. That's why Carbo is coaching the Habs while I'm typing notes and drinking beer in my underwear.

- Saku Koivu is a great player. It's amazing he's not a minus player, being saddled with defensive liailities in Ryder and Latendresse.

- In a post-game interview, when asked about his shootout performance Souray says (I paraphrase) "It worked, but I don't know if it will ever work again. I just hope Don Cherry stops showing me being victimized on all those highlight reel goals." Brilliant.

- To his credit, Bob Cole did an acceptable job with the play-by-play in the Colorado-Vancouver game. He must have had to swallow some pride.

Mother *ucker!!!

I had a post all ready to go tonight but had to revise it substantially. The Habs were losing, and my point was going to be that the "loss" wasn't bad at all. I was going to say that, despite a typically pathetic 1st period vs. the Leafs, the Habs proceeded to outplay T-dot after then and were deserving of a win. Then they went ahead and won, making my point moot. A revised post will be up shortly.

In the meantime, let's talk Tucker.

Maybe it's because he was drafted by Montreal. Maybe it's because I have him in a keeper pool. I must defend Darcy Tucker.

Background: Early in the 1st tonight Tucker was on the receiving end of a solid hit by Andrei Markov. Unlikely, I know, but it happened. That triggered Darcy's concussion.
Tangent - I have a theory that Tucker plays with a perpetual concussion. Some people, when concussed, suffer personality changes. When he absorbs a huge hit Tucker miraculously never misses a shift. I think Tucker is normally a mild-mannered player, but the hits he takes in the head trigger the personality traits one is accustomed to seeing in him. He then proceeds to play typical Darcy Tucker hockey.

Late in the 1st period tonight, Francis Boiullon threw a good hit on a Leaf (Wellwood or Stajan or Steen - I can't remember). Tucker retaliated by running Cube hard while he was in an awkward position near the boards. Tucker was immediately called for a minor penalty. Cube took exception. He dropped the gloves and pursued Tucker. Darcy craftily threw a gloved swing at Bouillon just as a linesman intervened; Bouillon threw a solid punch before he was completely tied up and it landed square into Darcy's nose, bloodying it. Beauty. I loved it.

That said, there was a recent post at another blog on the topic of Tucker. Among other things, it called Tucker a diver. Now, normally I would let that slide because it's true. But there was another post recently at the same blog painting Guy Carbonneau as a 'cheater:'

"Suffice it to say that the Montreal game saw a return of the Guy NHL, as in Guy Carbanneau [sic]. I swear he must be the most celebrated cheater of all time; an excellent example of why the NHL needed to reset the counter on play-style and rules-standards. We should just rename it the Frank J. Selke Award for the Forward Who Cheats the Most."

That's rich. A fan of the Sabres - the most proficient divers in the league - accusing others of cheating. I wonder if Mike Peca was labelled as a cheater by Buffalo fans when he won the 1997 Selke. Anyway, back to the orginal post:

"Darcy Tucker, when all is said and done, is a 3rd line player who plays with a physical edge prone to stupid penalties and will probably chip in 15-20 goals a season and has a passable two way game. A mucker, hard worker, and could make it in the NHL without his attention grabbing and team harming antics. Heck, he’d probably be a player that anyone wants on their team. However, I would never want Tucker on my team."

It's sad because if there is anything the Sabres need, it's some cajones like Tucker's. With the number of injuries Buffalo has suffered resulting from clean bodychecks (Connolly, Tallinder, Lydman, Afinogenov, Novotny) they could use some spunk like Tucker's. This is why they were stopped in the playoffs last year. IMO, there's a good chance the same flaw will stop them this year.