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The Diachronic Barber Pole Observations of a Recovering Hockey Exile

Toronto Maple Leafs versus Montreal Canadiens

December 1, 2009, by Homme De Sept-Iles

Musings and In-Game Scribbles

My English is as good as yours, I just write these in a stream-of-consciousness mode that I insist excuses me from small things like rules of grammar or general etiquette. Let’s call it conversational English, hopped up on beans. You know what kind of beans (no, Carl Mellesmoen, not the magic ones)

Montreal Canadiens (12-12-2) host Toronto Maple Leafs (6-12-7)
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Game Twenty-Seven (score posted following scribbles)
Musings and In-Game Scribbles are a “live blogging” of the game that are compiled (typed, actually) during the game and edited and posted shortly after the game.

We see Montreal Alouette President Larry Smith and newly confirmed Canadiens’ owner Geoff Molson as pre-game guests and both speak acceptable French and make good impressions.

Smith’s days as the CFL commissioner are long-forgotten and the Alouettes recent Grey Cup victory (28-27 over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Nov 29th) is as much a result of the long-term stability that Smith has overseen as team president as it was the team’s on that arguably fortunate Sunday.

Scott Gomez is back in the lineup tonight.

Houde and Brunet waste some time talking about Phil Kessel. He has eight goals and three assists in 13 games. Kessel is not a favourite condiment of mine.

More stats; Hamrlik and Spacek blocked five and six shots respectively last game (Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Washington as predicted by our Maverick guest that night).

Bouchard plays a very good homer and says “we” and talks about his fellow boys in predicting a 2-0 early lead for Montreal against Toronto tonight. What happens when a guy is critical of the Canadiens on RDS? If you’re perceived as young and new, as Bouchard rightly could be, is the worst consequence a tough day of emails from the viewing faithful? Is it a stern memo from RDS Central (which is owned by TSN) or is it a stern lecture from Pierre Houde or Alain Crete?

Bouchard has (perhaps temporarily) lost his critical edge. I hope he gets it back.

Acceuillons Nos Canadiens.

They skate on the ice.

In case you didn’t know, Andrei Markov might be coming back earlier than expected from his injury. Benoit Brunet suggested early January.

New anthem singer. Marc Hervieux. Is Charles sick? Hervieux’ hair is at that page-boy length so prized by gallant knights like Arthur. Hervieux’ voice has an emotional timbre to it that is accessible and personable. How can you get that across while singing? I’m impressed.

He stretches it out at the end and the crowd seems to appreciate it.

And the Molson Cup is on the blue carpet. But before the presentation for November’s Canadiens’ player of the month, we see The Cup. The Grey Cup.

This trophy, I don’t mind seeing. And all the Als are on the carpet. One of them has a small camera. A few of them do. They’re snapping shots of the bowl. Jim Popp is there, also. I’ll take Trestman over Popp as coach, brother.

And the Cup. Calvillo has it. He moves it from left to right. Crowd loves it.

Yeah, sure, I love it, too. A shot of Marc Trestman reveals his almost Vulcan features. He’s an offensive scientist and has good composure. My kinda guy.

The Cup carryings-on continue for longer than we thought but not long enough.

The Molson November player of the month is Carey Price. Nothing choquant (shocking). He skates from his net and smiles with a suit guy next to him.

And we’re ready to go.

Jonas Gustavsson versus Carey Price. Price is still at 0.909. That should climb as players return.

Houde says we have a classic referee for a classic matchup. Kerry Fraser. And your Leafs.

First Period

Komisarek hears the boos as the Leafs win the faceoff and make a sludge entry to start the game. Kaberle keeps it alive with a golf swat. He fails to keep it in the second time. Grabovski is on the ice and looking for the puck in the high slot. Puckled.

Lots to boo about.

Cammalleri bursts in to jam at a rebound now. Gustavsson blocks it. Right elbow up, tucked puck under his arm, right pad is down.

White and Lapierre are on with Chipchura who shows great intensity in backchecking to interrupt a Toronto near-three-on-two. Montreal gets a possession out of it. Metropolit moves it on his back hand. Toronto is unable or unwilling to keep up and Montreal look like last year’s team for the first three minutes. Fast, dominant and high time of possession.

Why is Toronto so consistently bad? Missed pass by Beauchemin. Gomez nails a Leaf. Kessel enters. He, too, is skating in slow-motion. Leafs played last night and that is where I’m going to hang that hat. They’re tired. (It was a 3-0 loss to Buffalo in Buffalo; Grand Blue Sabre Arena, I think it’s called)

Montreal wins a faceoff to the right of Price.

We are quickly in Toronto territory. Semi-long shot surprises Gustavsson with its velocity. He stops it.

Crowd amplifies its joy as they see Grabovski (the disliked ex-Canadien) take a cruel hit.

Next whistle sees a meeting of the jerseys. Montreal reds and Toronto whites; behind Price’s net. No grappling, just some jawing.

Icing results in a faceoff to Gustavsson’s left.

Keith Primeau whams Ryan White in the back and he’s called for it. White could have been hurt badly. Primeau knows it and has an unapologetic look on his face. He reminds me of some of the US Army guys you see pictures of in Iraq.

Five minutes elapsed and Bergeron will be on with Plekanec and Metropolit. Cammalleri is the other forward.

Mara skates freely down the boards on the left side. Toronto is playing very poorly. I wonder what coach Wilson thinks. The black hat act is wearing thin. To paraphrase the patriarch.

Gustavsson has to sprawl in the lobby like an embarrassing father (who drinks too much). It’s not his fault, though. Leafs are playing as if they are two men down, not three. Montreal is not playing down to it. They smell it.

We get an Alouette fringe player in the booth with Houde and Brunet. His French is excellent.

Kessell busts in alone. Good pass sends him through two Habs. He shoots. High. Wrister over the left side of the net. Past Price’s right side.

Whistle soon afterward.

White is chasing deep. Now Price is playing the puck up but not out. And a shot comes from somewhere in the slot and he has to stop it.

Other end. Mara. Shot from the point. Blocked before it reaches the keeper. Toronto now dumps it in and Toronto executes a line change in the time that dump-in bought them.

Kaberle is deep now from his usual defensive position. Backhander goes to Orr after a bounce or two and he cashes it in. Colton Orr.

Toronto 1, Montreal 0.

Great incursion from Kaberle and solid finish by Orr. (In other words, to Mordor with the Leafs)

Plekanec line is on next. Kessell line for the Blue.

Neutral zone haggling. Montreal zone Hagman. He controls twice and makes things happen. A pass. A shot. A pass. He’s on a line with Grabovski, he of the great speed and the deep Hab resentment. Not a well-liked lamb.

Pierre Houde tells us that the Alouettes we saw earlier are all around the press gallery that overlooks the arena.

Whistle. Grappling. Lapierre helmetless, hair dry and short with Wally Stempniak. Kulemin’s check on O’Byrne started it. Houde calls it a very good check.

O’Byrne was jostled on it going right to left but not vanquished or anything like that.

For an odd moment Travis Moen looks like Kovalev cruising in on the right side.

Kessel enters. Puck ends up back on Finger’s stick. Shot. Goes in. Leafs are up 2-0. Not the Canadiens.

Distance shot, really. Around the top of the circle.

Toronto 2, Montreal 0.

Seven minutes left in the first period.

Houde and Brunet both say good things about the Leafs and their work ethic as we see Ron Wilson on the screen. It doesn’t fit for me. I see a man who knows he is lucky to be up 2-0 and knows, further, that his team doesn’t respond the way they should and don’t know how to work hard. If you were as loved as the Leafs are in Toronto, as free of criticism (especially in comparison to the Canadiens) would you work as hard? Ok, maybe not you. But you know what I mean.

Bouchard interviews Muller by the bench and Muller tells us that it’s important to go shift by shift and capitalize on opportunities. Get out of the bench area, RDS.

It’s a bit of a board scrap now. Both teams are equally interested and the two goals have gotten the Leafs into it. Their poor decisions with the puck are now balanced by their greater commitment to this game and its outcome. With a 2-0 lead they genuinely believe they could win it now.

Four and a half minutes left.

D’Agostini is one of the players who is back and healthy again. He has a punished child look on his face as he returns to the bench. No idea why.

Price handles it behind his net. Some puck exchange and finally Montreal exits. They control it. Their pace is slower. The Leafs are matching and that’s why. Montreal had their chance early. Now they’re in for it.

Just three minutes left.

Pyatt, White and Lapierre are on as the energy line. Third line is the checking line. The idea is that your checking line is more of a defensive unit whose job is to neutralize the opponent’s best line. Energy line is not a skilled offensive line and often has younger players. Their job is to keep the tempo in your team’s favour. They won’t score but they’ll register big hits and help with game momentum. Tip of the hat to Maverick.

Long shot. Price kicks it away.

One minute.

Pacioretty line. Action in Toronto’s area. Fracas and fracture. Falling, too. The puck goes to the point. Shot. Legs. Leafs are laughing the dance goal death. But the puck escapes the kill zone and the Blue zone and is in the neutral zone. Nothing.

Shots on goal are 9-8 in favour of Toronto.

First Intermission

Toronto 2, Montreal 0

A La Une. Molsons are now the official owners. Francois Gagnon says nothing will change. Business as usual but we will say “Hello Mr. Molson, the owner” now. Gagnon says we’ll hear all sorts of figures but it’s hard to say. One figure he heard today was that the team was sold for 600 million dollars. There was a group involved as the cost was so high.

We see the Ovechkin knee on knee. It’s not as grand and obvious as some of his detractors would like to think but it’s a fair call to say he should be suspended as it looked purposeful and he has been doing it in the past.

Of course, a certain segment of the fans are going to be after him because he is not a good ol’ local boy. Don’t go into denial, now.

Jay Leach was claimed on waivers by the San Jose Sharks. Nine games with the Habs and gone. No strong opinions from me. He was a bit overconfident in his on-ice bearing, a little too comfortable, a little too early with his new team but that’s no sin.

Jacques is in an all-brown costume. Velour-looking jacket and near turtleneck without the turtle part. Tip-top friendly. Demers reminds us that the last time the Canadiens played Toronto, Kaberle had four points.

Question Dodge: Which Leaf did you hate the most, Tie Domi or Darcy Tucker? Well, that’s a question you won’t hear on the Score or on TSN, eh? And that’s a tough, tough question. Who did I hate most, Hitler or Mussolini, Bernardo or Dahmer, Klein or Harris, Bush or Reagan? Tough. Tough, tough. It’s difficult to choose from equals. Cancer or AIDS?

I guess Domi.

Question Homme: Would you buy a brown velour jacket? I’ll tell you my answer if you tell me yours.

Second Period
Toronto 2, Montreal 0

Hagman. Goes around. Behind Price. The circle. Falls. Canadiens exit. Whistle soon afterward.

Houde says that Hagman likes to play on the road. We see that he is third in road scoring in the NHL.

Andrei Kostitsyn’s ongoing absence is a problem.

Canadiens get a reasonable incursion with D’Agostini lead the way. High shot as he skated down the right. Followed the puck around the net and fanned on a turnaround blast attempt.

Finger now shoots from the point following a faceoff to the left of Price. It’s gloved by Price.

Sergei Kostitsyn to Plekanec from the Leaf corner to the right of the Toronto net.

Four minutes elapsed.

Gomez sends Pacioretty on a one-on-one. Fancy move to get the puck tapped to himself and around the defender but Pacioretty can’t make it happen.

Leafs respond with an entry of their own. Price is sharp. And off the next faceoff Price makes three more sharp saves and puts his imprint on the game and reminds us that he is in the arena.

Canadiens are playing as if they realise now, finally, that this will take a shift-by-shift effort and that this game won’t be given to them. The passes are more deliberate, the team uses the advantage that the Leaf fatigue gives them. And the Leafs’ basic weaknesses. Just wait and they’ll give it up. Just wait and you’ll see a space. Just wait and they’ll play themselves out of the lead.

Stajan goes in alone. Breakaway. Scores. High shot. Glove side.

Toronto 3, Montreal 0.

Stajan. Blue skills, Bruin banknotes. (Looking better than he is.)

Moen line wins the faceoff. They have two buzz moments. Wasp nest. Fanned backhands, pucks creeping in the crease and the Leafs lumbering and misplaying. No goal. Better players might have scored.

Plekanec plays sword on stick to keep the puck alive on the boards. Cammalleri plays with the same perimeter tenacity but the puck escapes both and skitters behind the Leaf net where the Toronto boys scoop it up and move it out.

They are set up deep. Moving the puck around. And who’s on the ice for this free Leaf ride? D’Agostini. What is the big fascination with this kid? He must have done something or must be a great practice kid. Again, great physical ability without the commitment and follow-through isn’t doing any of us any good.

After a long Toronto possession and still no whistles, Travis Moen makes like Claude Lemieux and leads a two-on-one that nearly generates a rude (awakening) scoring chance.

A commercial. Give me steaks. Or give me breaks.

Seven minutes left in the second.

Kostitsyn is taking it upon himself to make something happen. He’s on with Cammalleri and Plekanec now. I like it. It’s their first time together.

Pass goes to Spacek whose shot from the blue line ricochets and is stopped by Gustavsson.

Bouchard is standing (intruding) by the bench and explains the Canadiens mind-set. No shockers.

Gorges’ shot deflects upward off a Montreal stick. Gomez to the slot. Interrupted. Canadiens resume. Gomez is creating at the top again. One of his favourite spots.

Lost stick. Broken. Leafs are deep now. It’s Pyatt’s stick cracked in two on the ice. Leafs hold the Canadiens at their mercy. Then the puck sails out of play on a distance shot that hits something and heads up. Leafs mercy is directly tied to their puck-handling ability. Not particularly NHL quality.

Commercial. Subway. The commercials are getting fancier. That means the sandwich quality must have dropped yet again.

Pacioretty takes a penalty. Holding. Pacioretty also resembles Andrei Markov. His face. In a skinny, Russian kind of way. What kind of name is Pacioretty anyway. Italian, I thought.

Plekanec is the star of the first thirty seconds. He gets a rush and the Leafs have a minute and fifteen left once they have reset in Montreal territory.

Leafs power-play is not working. Now Grabovski gets roughed up on the boards after losing the puck. Hand to the shirt collar; shaken like a guy who owes $40. It’s a stern warning. He hasn’t cultivated a good name for himself.

Penalty ends soon afterward.

Whistles have decreased markedly. Just over a minute left in the second period.

Lapierre line. Speed. Urgency.

White gets a great chance. Can’t get a stick on it. High slot to the right of that Leaf goalie. I can’t remember. Ok, Gustavsson. God.

Thirty-seven seconds. Whistle. Montreal ice.

Martin watches with great concern (well, as great a concern as he allows himself to show).

Twelve seconds. Behind the Priceberg. One more entry for the Canadiens. Whistle. Gomez will take this faceoff with about three seconds left.

Sort of wins it and sort of loses it. Puck floats away and then is sent back to a Leaf defenceman. And the whistle goes.

Period ends.

Shots on goal are in favour of Toronto 15-9 for a total of 24-17. Just not a new iPod day today.

Second Intermission
Toronto 3, Montreal 0

Demers and Crete agree that the initial Burke statements regarding building a tough team have changed. Demers says the Leafs are faster and better with the puck than last season and we see a montage of Kessel’s work from tonight. He is a fast player, true.

Gustavsson’s mask is ugly. Too linear and corporate in its design. Unimaginative.

Third Period
Toronto 3, Montreal 0

We are told that Gustavsson had a heartrate problem at the end of the period.

We resume and Moen is on the boards with Metropolit and they’re battling. Pacioretty takes another penalty. We hear the boos. Replay doesn’t show it. Pacioretty is polite in his plea to the ref but there will be no change of call. There never is.

I suppose you could influence him for the next time.

Toronto power-play. Moen exits in the first thirty seconds, propelled by Plekanec.

Leafs have to circle and reset. They dump it down. Pyatt intercepts and backhands. Stopped at the blue line. Puck moves around the perimeter. Kaberle takes a hard shot wide from the blue line.

Leafs have to get their snowflake armada fluttering right. And now a post. Price is out of his net and rolling. Now he’s back in net. Leafs nearly scored. Hit the post.

Penalty ends.

Cammalleri casually takes down a Leaf. Puck is passed up to him in his own zone. He exits with two other Habs. Three on two. With a trailing defender. Ending pass should have been a goalward shot but it is too far.

Plekanec is very fast and he shows us as he darts down the right side. Controls with one hand and gets a shot with Kessel on his shoulder. Shot wasn’t very hard.

Fifteen minutes left in the game.

Plekanec is not giving up. Houde talks about how leads give wings. Montreal is still playing with commitment.

Pacioretty line is on. Moen and Metropolit are with him. They drive down for a three-man chance in even-strength and with nearly three Leafs to go up against. No shot.

Bergeron intercepts a Leaf pass in the deep corner to the left of Price.

Now Sergei chases it down in the Toronto zone. Spacek’s first shot is blocked. Second one makes it through but is harmless.

Gomez gets it to Pyatt in the slot as the Canadiens control for a ten-second segment. Toronto ices it and Houde says they panicked. We get a shot of Komisarek. Then a quick, shot of Muller with some back and forth with Joel Bouchard. I’m reminded that Keith Acton is behind the bench in Toronto. He reminds me of Carbo a lot. Always has. Small centre? They have a facial resemblance. Acton is bald nowadays, though. I don’t know if that would work for Carbo. I don’t think it’s working for Acton. Who does it work for anyway?

Faceoff to the right of Gustavsson.

Gomez has it shortly afterward. Leafs exit. Habs retrieve. Gomez. Plekanec. Working like Kafka.

Icing is avoided as a Leaf beats a Hab down the ice for a puck. Pacioretty gets out and is taken down by Schenn. Montreal gets perhaps their last meaningful break of the game. Just over eleven minutes left in the third and Vos Glorieux are still down 3-0

Portable keyboards are better for your tendons. Just a tip.

Houde says that Stempniak has been playing well tonight. Leafs clear the first puck. And they carry the second one out. No setting up so far. And no shots, of course. Upper bowl is booing lightly. They stop as the Habs set up with about a minute in the penalty. Hamrlik is pinching well past the hash. It works. Gomez is on the right point. Spacek shoots form the left point. Goes behind the net.

Canadiens keep it alive. Then Cammalleri advances it and jams from the circle going in to the crease. A bit like Naslund. Very nice. Brave.

Stopped though.

‘Nine seconds left in the power-play. It ends with the puck in Montreal flatland.

Eight and a half minutes and the Leafs can pretend they are the leaders and kings. Montreal is not deserving of a victory, either, though.

Just not enough quality scoring chances and perhaps not enough defensive pressure. I dunno, I ain’t no puck doctor. Get me a firehose.

Six and a half minutes. Gomez leads his own puck parade into the Toronto semi-circle. But the puck serves no man and his shot isn’t a boon from the cold hockey gods.

Whistle.

Tucker won the hatorade 72 to 28. I think because Tucker is more recent.

Cammalleri, Kostitsyn and Gomez are the new line now. Interesting combo. Gomez keeps the lower back of his jersey buried in his hockey pants. Gretzky kept just one side tucked in (right side). Now how about you?

Canadiens are working at it, nobody’s giving up but the Leafs are up to the task, they do just enough to clog lanes and stay afloat.

With a 3-0 lead they don’t have to commit to much more. And it works for them.

Three minutes and forty seconds left. Isolated booing in the bowl is fairly low and hard to detect.

Montreal is not looking, acting or skating like a defeated team. They know they are better. But not on the scoreboard. Couple of good individual plays for Leaf goals and an emotional imbalance between the teams that slowly reversed when the Canadiens couldn’t score on the tired Leafs early. That 2-0 Leaf lead changed the outcome completely.

Habs work it from station to station along their left boards but it ends up on the point where a long shot has to be gloved by Price.

Under three minutes left.

Booing resumes at the two-minute mark. Montreal controls Kaberle is in the corner. Trapped but hobbles the puck upward. Wilson is arms on chest and with an expression I can’t decide on. Burke and Wilson both are concerned. Their team is close to last and this isn’t where they expected to be.

All that tough talk and being in one of the most toxic sports environments in North America (the organization, not the city) hurt them both. Will they make it out of this season? Resignations?

Twenty-six seconds. Well, the worst has happened on our end. At least I don’t have to worry about losing Koivu. The worst is over. We’ve already lost Koivu. And our team ain’t toxic.

Clock reduced to zero. Wilson seems pleased for his players, especially Orr.

They’re a happy bunch and it’s good for them to get this win in Montreal. It’s not easy being a Leaf, I know.

Toronto 3
Montreal 0

HDS Stars: Phil Kessell, Colton Orr, Tomas Plekanec
RDS Stars: Phil Kessel, Tomas Kaberle, Matt Stajan

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