Say it ain't so, Joe

Last Wednesday I flew to Atlanta for a conference. I sailed through customs and security at Pearson and thought I was en route to the most effortless flight of all time, but then the Air Canada workers strike bit back…the ground crew forgot to file some paperwork to get us across the border, so we sat on the tarmac for an extra half an hour. That delay allowed a huge thunderstorm to roll into Atlanta ahead of us, and that storm shut down the airport, so we circled for almost an hour. By the time we got on the ground we were two hours late. It then took me (I’m not kidding here) twenty minutes to get out of the airport; no one warned me that the terminal is so long you have to take a train from one end to the other. Anyway. I checked in to the Westin Peachtree (avoid if you’re in Atlanta — it has great views, but is old and shabby once you get past the lobby), headed to the bar and watched the end of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. I never actually left the hotel for the next 24 hours, heading straight to the airport for my return flight…pity, I’d found a few decent-looking beer places in the city and was hoping to try one or two of them on for size.

.:.

Back to that game 7 for a minute. In the official order of my preference for who wins the cup, it goes Montreal first (obviously), then any of 26 other teams, then Philly, then Boston, then Toronto. So it really does pain me to say that Boston deserved to win the series. They played like the better hockey team, even if they weren’t. It also pains me that the likes of Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand get to hold a cup, but that pain is somewhat offset by my happiness for Tim Thomas winning his first cup, and for Mark Recchi ending his career with yet another championship. As I watched the final game end and the Bruins start to celebrate, I thought that what would sting the most was that Montreal came so damnably close to knocking the Bruins out in the first round — losing only in overtime of game seven. But, of course, what would sting the most the next morning was the insanity of the rioting in downtown Vancouver, an embarrassment felt by the whole country. Surely, with Canadian teams having lost in the finals five straight times since 1994, you’d think we would be used to it now.

.:.

After the traveling and frantic catch-up at work, I was hoping for a quiet weekend of doing as little as possible. That almost happened. Friday we just had a simple dinner out and drank some wine. Saturday we did some errands and generally enjoyed the gorgeous weather and then I actually had a nap. Seriously, a nap. I never have naps. I usually can’t sleep during the day no matter how hard I try. But yesterday, since I was on twelve hours sleep over the previous three nights, I curled up on the bed and went to sleep for a couple of hours. Until an emergency came up.

We found out Smokeless Joe, one of our favourite beer joints, would be closing in two weeks. And that night was the last time our friend Kaylea would be working there.

A dire situation indeed.

We sprung into action, throwing some food down our necks and arriving to find two plum spots waiting for us at the bar. We got the scoop, and sat down with the intention of having three each. Which, of course, ended up being five each. Or possibly six, if you count the vanilla ice cream and Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsner float that Steph made for me. We drank and laughed and listened to blues and were especially happy to see Colin and Eddie, our favourite bartenders before Kaylea began working there, show up later in the evening. We said (and hugged) our goodbyes, not knowing if or when we’d see them all again, and left the place that’s been one of Toronto’s best beer bars and our unofficial living room for the past…I don’t know, eight years?

Hopefully it’ll come back in some incarnation, but it’ll just never be the same.

Steph, Kaylea, Eddie and Colin

Look at what Don Cherry hath wrought

Two nights ago I saw highlights of a disgusting play by Carolina forward Scott Walker. He punched Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward in the face, even though Ward hadn’t dropped his gloves and still had his hands by his sides. Here’s the video:

Almost as disgusting, though, was the NHL’s punishment. Walker wasn’t suspended, even for a game. He wasn’t even given the automatic 1-game suspension for taking an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of a game. That was rescinded. He was fined a token $2,500. The league’s explanation was that Ward could have defended himself but didn’t, and he could see the punch coming. Psychologists refer to this as blaming the victim.

Far be it from me to defend the Bruins — I hate them with a fiery passion, and want badly for Carolina to knock them out of the playoffs — but one thing they did masterfully well on their way to eliminating the Canadiens was not take penalties. The same discipline that should be an admirable trait for a team may have cost Aaron Ward his orbital bone.

I’ll never stop loving hockey, but with every incident like this my hatred for hockey’s so-called “fighting culture” grows. Nobody could look at this incident impartially and think it was anything but patently absurd.

So it goes.

As I write this Boston is running away with game four against Montreal, and is about to sweep the Canadiens out of the playoffs. This isn’t unexpected — the Bruins finished first in the east, Montreal eighth — but it’s certainly disappointing.

Had Montreal been healthy and played well they might’ve stood a chance against Boston, but they weren’t and they didn’t. Tonight Montreal was missing Andrei Markov — their best defenseman, leading scorer and best player overall — and three more top-seven defensemen: Mathieu Schneider, Francis Buillon and Patrice Brisebois. They were also missing top-line winger Alex Tanguay and #2 center Robert Lang, who’s been out for months. With a roster full of spare-part defensemen and discombobulated lines, they stood no chance. Boston rolled four lines at Montreal who just couldn’t keep up, couldn’t get to loose pucks, couldn’t get the puck out of their own end. Part of this was due to Montreal not consisting of, or playing like, a playoff-worthy lineup of late, but some of it was also due to the kind of systemic breakdown that a good team like Boston can grind you into.

And so Montreal will slip into the postseason with a whimper, and tomorrow the Montreal dailies and sports blogs will cry that this is not how the famed centennial season was supposed to go. A season which started with so much promise and faded so badly in the second half, which hosted an amazing all-star game but saw the coach fired shortly after, which ended with a team virtually unrecognizable from the potent weapon that began the season. I remember watching an exhibition game against Detroit when the Canadiens and Wings looked like sure locks to meet in the Stanley Cup final. How things change.

Let’s go Canucks.

Komisarek vs. Lucic, part II

Beginning Thursday night, for the 32nd time in their history, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins will face each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is as storied a rivalry as exists in sports — TSN recently listed some of the more memorable meetings over the past forty years — and I’m more than a little bit excited about it.

That said, I give Montreal almost no chance to win. Boston finished first in the east, miles ahead of the Canadiens. The Habs sucked after the all-star break, and seemed to turn it around before struggling down the stretch when the Leafs cheap-shotted their leading scorer and best defenseman Andrei Markov, knocking him out of the lineup. The Bruins owned the Canadiens this year.

But…when these two teams meet, it can always get crazy. Last year the roles were reversed — Montreal #1, Boston #8 — and it took Montreal all seven games to finish them off. Their final regular season game, last Thursday, was a classic and went to overtime before Boston won. In the past few years Montreal beat Boston as both an 8 seed (2002) and a 7 seed (2004). So I think the odds are against them, but if Alex Kovalev and Carey Price can turn it on, Montreal could pull off the shocker.

Final note, courtesy of Joe: the Bruins have some awesome tv ads:

4 down, 12 to go

The Canadiens took game 7 tonight, pounding the Bruins 5-0 to salvage the series win. No one expected the series to last more than five games, but Boston turned the series into an ugly scrap long enough to win three games. Tonight, though, Montreal’s defense and goaltending were stellar, and their skill just took over in the second and third periods.

Not sure yet who Montreal will play in the next round…I guess it’ll be either New York or Philadelphia. I have to say, I’d rather see them face Philadelphia; for that to happen Philly would have to beat Washington, but I like Washington and hate Philadelphia, so I’m torn. Strategically, I’ll be cheering for the Flyers tomorrow, but deep down I’ll probably be hoping the Caps win.

[tags]montreal canadiens, boston bruins, nhl playoffs[/tags]

In which Dan briefly contemplates buying another TV

The statistics in this Washington Post article just baffle me:

  • The Pew Center on the States released a study in February showing that for the first time in [American] history, more than one in every 100 adults is in jail or prison
  • According to the Justice Department, 7 million people — or one in every 32 adults — are either incarcerated, on parole or probation or under some other form of state or local supervision
  • Today one in nine young black men is behind bars
  • African Americans now comprise more than half of all prisoners, up from a third three decades ago
  • The U.S. incarceration rate is five to 12 times that of other industrialized countries as well as being the highest in the world

I can offer no insight or perspective. I’m still in shock from that first number.

.:.

The Canadiens held on for a tough win tonight. That game was like a war. The Bruins forced them to play their kind of game, but a superb goalie and a good power play (which finally clicked tonight) was enough to get them the 3-1 series lead.

The Canadiens should finish them off at home Thursday night, and I soooooooo wish I could be in Montreal for it. I wouldn’t even need tickets to the game, I’d be happy just being in the city and absorbing all the energy.

Between work, the NHL playoffs, Hot Docs (which starts Thursday), my assignment and everything else, I’ve kind of forgotten about the Raptors. They’re limping into the playoffs, but will face Orlando in the first round and should have a legitimate shot if they can throw enough big men at Dwight Howard. This is the first time since 2002 that both my teams have made the playoffs in the same year. People…I only have so much attention span!!

[tags]washington post, prison, incarceration, montreal canadiens, boston bruins, toronto raptors[/tags]

"I put two in his heart, one in his computer."

We watched Planet Terror, the first part of the Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature. It was ok. Ridiculous, cartoonish, over-the-top violence and gore, but at least a discernible plot to go with all the silliness.

From what I’ve heard, though, Planet Terror is the better of the two, so I shudder to think how bad Death Proof must be. I don’t think I’ll bother with it. I’m so behind on movie-watching that I might have to impose a “nothing below 50% on Rotten Tomatoes” rule on the PVR.

.:.

The Canadiens won last night’s game in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead into Boston. Tonight’s game was a must-win for Boston, and they did. I figured it was 50-50 going into tonight; Montreal’s the better team, but Boston was playing for their lives.

Next up: game 4 on Tuesday.

[tags]grindhouse, planet terror, death proof, quentin tarantino, robert rodriguez, montreal canadiens, boston bruins, nhl playoffs[/tags]

1-0, 9-0, 12-0

Montreal won game one tonight, and quite easily. They take a 1-0 series lead, having won all nine games against Boston this year, and twelve straight going back to last year. In the nine games played against the Bruins this year, the Canadiens have never trailed, not even for a second. Here’s hoping they can put together three more just like this.

[tags]montreal canadiens, boston bruins[/tags]

I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song

Spring has a downside, one that sometimes makes me want to vom. Smokers, on the whole, are disgusting assholes.

.:.

Dinner last night at Tutti Matti was pretty good. I had a caprese salad* and the grilled swordfish and a dessert called the Gino, a semifreddo covered in chocolate sauce. Damn.

Nice atmosphere, good service, and we all enjoyed our meals. Fieramosca is the undoubted comfort zone for us in terms of Italian food, but Tutti Matti may now be a good alternative, a more “downtown” option if needed.

* It’s hard to believe, sometimes, how much my tastes have changed over the past few years. Not long ago the idea of eating a giant pile of buffalo mozzarella and tomato covered in olive oil would have turned my stomach.

.:.

Last night Montreal beat Boston for the eighth straight time this season, and eleventh straight overall going back into last season. They won in the shootout, which was the best possible scenario: Montreal stays where they are (tops in the east!) and Boston earns a point to stay ahead of the chasing teams like Toronto. There’re two reasons why this is good for the Habs; if Boston holds on to the 8th (or even 7th) spot, there’s a good chance Montreal will play them in the first round and…well, eight in a row. The Canadiens have owned the Bruins this year.

The other reason why a Boston point last night was beneficial: it makes it harder for the Leafs fans to hold on to their mass delusion of making the playoffs. With eight games left they’re four points out of the final playoff spot, and they’d have to leapfrog four teams to get there, but the delusion lives on. Rather than shutting down their veterans, letting their young players get some much-needed development and securing a spot in the lottery, they’re playing themselves into a lower draft pick.

But hey, if they want to keep it up, that’s cool. I kind of hope they win both games against the Bruins (the team they’re chasing) this week and get their hopes up even higher, so that when Montreal plays them next Saturday, I can watch live as the Canadiens crush their playoff dreams once and for all.

Wait a second…goddammit, I won’t be able to watch that live after all. Stupid climate change…must you ruin everything?

.:.

My buddy Joe sent me the new Constantines album yesterday. I’m only a few songs in but I already love it.  “Million Star Hotel” in particular is brilliant. The last two ‘tines albums were amazing and under-appreciated; if you like the rock and roll, do yourself a favour and check them out.

[tags]smokers, tutti matti, fieramosca, montreal canadiens, boston bruins, toronto maple leafs, nhl playoffs, earth hour, constantines[/tags]