A Special Report from Montreal:
The House of Horrors, in the Mecca of Hockey, by the Junior most Pundit
As the Senior Pundit appropriately predicted in his House of Horrors rant, the Rangers again fell flat on their faces, as Le Habs physically outplayed and outskated our Blueshirts. If the Habs could only play the Rangers 40 times a year, they would be Presidents' Trophy Champs hands down. As my buddy pointed out, maybe that's why they won so many darn cups back in the day, playing most of their games against the Rangers and the Leafs was easy pickings!
I had the pleasure or disgust (depending on your point of view) of attending the game on Sunday night. First, if any hockey fan has not seen a game in Montreal, you are truly missing an experience of a lifetime. I give our neighbors and friends to the north credit, it's all about hockey. They know hockey, live hockey, it's their other religion. The Bell Centre is a fabulous place to see a game, and I was blessed to be granted access to the private dining/bar at the Bell Center, La Mise au Jeu. First class would be an understatement. The people treated the two of us (the only Ranger fans there) with the utmost respect and attention that they treat their own. They even put the Giants game on the TV for us, which turned out to be the highlight of our sports Sunday.
Now game time. First, kudos to the Montreal organization, the American national anthem is played with glorious photos of the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the White House, Abe Lincoln, etc being shown on the scoreboard, with fans standing quiet in respect of our flag. Sad to say, as a long time season ticket, that's far from the case at MSG, and you are definitely not getting any panorama photos of O'Canada either! Also it was nice to watch a game, where we weren't constantly prompted to make noise, bombarded with advertising and having some buffoon get up and down 12 times a period. But we still love MSG, even with its $12 watered down beers and $10 hot dogs. But the highlight of the evening came when the game ended. Seriously, it was for many reasons, but at the time, we were just happy to leave the House of Horrors.
Post game, my buddy and I decided to go to Garde Manager in the old city. For those food channel junkies like me, it's a Chuck Hughes restaurant. We were fortunate with the help of some locals to get a reservation here, most would say you have a better chance of Torts answering questions after a loss, then snagging a table here. Food was great, waitress and bar service outstanding. So at around 10:30pm, in walks most of the Canadiens team. Let me say, meeting players at charity events or team organized social events, most athletes all are "arms wide open folks," but hardly do we see them in this manner, the opposing team out on their home turf. I must admit, the class and professionalism they showed with not only the patrons, but with us as admitted Ranger fans, was truly amazing.
Rene Borque was very gracious. His comments to CBC the day prior were quite amusing: "I have the most French name on the team, and I don't speak French either." The 'either' referring to the much maligned non bi-lingual coach Randy Cunneyworth. Also, I had a brief chit chat with P.K. Subban, very well spoken and polite guy. I told him next year he might look good on the Ranger blue line when his contract comes due. He had a big smile, reached out to shake my hand, and said great meeting you. Maybe a trade deadline target? End of the day, these guys weren't our team, not our players, and they showed themselves to be a class act.
"Girls want diamonds, not more flowers."
Now before everyone goes crazy here, I'll explain, although the female bloggers would probably provide no argument with that saying. The fact that we played like Pansies on Sunday Night, is another story. But digging deeper at our team, the saying may be quite appropriate. Every Ranger fan is very excited with the start of this season, huge expectations. We built slowly, very, very slowly as it has already been almost 18 years since our victory over Vancouver. In 2008-09 we lost to the Caps in the first round, after being up 3-1, coach disagreeable was suspending for the water bottle incident in Washington. Hey coach, practice what you preach! 2009-10 we played golf early, and in 2010-11 the Caps manhandled us 4-1. So basically this coach hasn't won a playoff round yet. So making the playoffs to some may seem like some great accomplishment, but to me, kind of seems like from a women's perspective getting flowers on your 4th anniversary of dating. Ranger fans want more and expect more this year. We want the diamond, or for those saying what is he talking about, the Cup.
In my opinion, this coach can not get us to the next level. I know, I know, he won before, yada yada yada. You need four productive lines, getting somewhat fair ice time over the course of 82 games. He juggles lines, there is very little chemistry with these lines. Watching Hockey Night in Canada, they said it best, typical Torts, team loses, doesn't take questions. Be a man, be a leader and step up to the podium and answer questions like Tom Coughlin, Joe Giradi, or Rex Ryan do, win or lose. It's not just about wearing a suit, it's about acting professional. He is not a leader in my book, and has yet to show it. The Montreal fans said it best, "this coach wouldn't last 5 games up here; the media wouldn't tolerate his nonsense like the media does in NY." Just as the New York media gives our Stealth GM a pass, I guess it's not surprising the coach gets away with his antics.
Finally, about Sean Avery. After watching that game if anyone remotely thinks he isn't a top 12 forward on this team, I am not sure what hockey skills you are evaluating. Players on the opposing team even seemed dumbfounded about his demotion. He is fast, has great puck skill, and can score when given Dubinsky minutes. He has 3 goals in limited ice time and games. Look at the rest of the team stat sheet. I know some will say others add intangibles right? We pay guys 5-7 million a year for intangibles, come on! Newbury and Rupp, minus 3 versus the Habs. They are slow and not intimidating anyone in my book. It was a common theme, not only on Hockey Night in Canada but around the arena, how can I guy with that much skill and annoyance ability on the ice be in Hartford? It's plain and simple, the coach is more concerned about not having him on the team, than putting the best product on the ice. At the end of the day, in my humble opinion that's why Ranger fans will be disappointed come April, when those flowers start blooming.
Also, special thanks to our Quebecois friends pictured above at Garde Manager... providing a little inspiration to my story.