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Archive for February 2008

More hockey talk

I e-mailed my Warsaw Pact suggestion to Mitch Melnick and he liked it enough to mention it on air with an extended drum roll yesterday around 3:30. Once I was playing fanboy, I also sent my analysis to PJ Stock, who agreed with me in an e-mail response.

Of course, with Huet giving up three goals on four shots, we all know the forwards will escape media focus for the next few days.

Child Three gave a slightly better performance in tonight’s Novice B game with one fewer goal in four shots. We played same team against which we opened the season and came away with the same result. We opened the scoring, they tied it up, we went ahead, they tied it up, and we took the game in the final minute of play. Tonight, we barely took it, as time expired between our third goal and the subsequent face-off.

But, hey – a win’s a win. It will, however, be a week of dedicated practice of technique.

Habs talk

Going into this season, expectations for the Montreal Canadiens peaked at being a borderline playoff team. As recently as 24 hours ago, coming off a win over the depleted Ottawa Senators that put the team a point out of first place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, this city went a little nuts. Last night’s loss to the Maple Leafs may have bumped some fans off the bandwagon.

What’s fascinated me this year is the way the Habs have been winning. The team’s strength over the last few year – heck, over the last few decades – has been its team defence. The team advanced as far as it has on its ability to prevent goals. But not this year.

Look at the stats. The Habs stand second in the conference in goals but only in the middle of the pack in goals allowed. Why?

When Cristobal Huet first came to the team, I thought he was astounding – the most technically perfect goalie I’ve ever seen. He wasn’t necessarily fast like Dominik “Crazy Legs” Hasek and he didn’t play big in the net like Roberto Luongo, but he was always square to the shot and was the softest goalie I’ve ever seen, meaning that he never gave up a rebound. The puck would hit him and drop dead. The rebounds that came off his pads and stick were always directed into the corners. He was a human goalie clinic.

While Huet is still a good goalie, he’s no longer so technically perfect. He’s not as square as he used to be and he’s giving up more rebounds. This wouldn’t have happened two years ago.

That goal brings up another weakness of the team. With the departure of Sheldon Souray and the addition of Roman Hamrlik, the team’s defence was supposed to improve, and maybe it has, but the defencemen sometimes wander. Too often, the Habs leave opposing players uncovered in front of their net. Although he’s improved, Mike Komisarek was particularly bad at that earlier in the year. He would become fixated on a puck carrier at the point and start to drift that way, abandoning the man he should have had in front of the net.

Watch the first two Leaf goals from last night, and check out Latendresse (84) and Bouillon (51) on the first goal and Gorges (26) on the second. I hope they had nice views, because all they were doing was looking. Go watch that Ottawa goal again and follow Brisebois (71), as well.

Let’s talk offense, the unexpected strength of the team. You don’t hear much about this team’s goal-scoring ability and fans and pundits insist that the team needs a 40-goal scorer. But the team lags only the Senators and the Red Wings in goals scored. It goes unnoticed and unappreciated because nobody on the Habs ranks among the league’s top goal-scorers or point-getters. Tops on the team is Alex Kovalev, who lands 15th in goals in the league and 21st in points.

The Canadiens’ offense is spread across several lines. One or the other will slump now and then, but every line can put the puck in the net. The Habs have two 20-goal scorers, barely. Ottawa has three, almost four, and the team leader has 32. The Red Wings have three with the team leader at 33. The Flyers, with nearly as many goals as the Habs, have three over 20.

But look at the number of double-digit goal scorers: the Habs have seven, the Sens only five, the Wings eight, and the Flyers six. The Canadiens spread the goals around.

That doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have a top line for it most certainly does. While Coach Carbonneau plays pick-up sticks with most of the forwards, one line on the team has become untouchable in its success: the Kovalev-Plekanec-A. Kostitsyn line. Some folks think this line may be the most dangerous line in the NHL, but those people haven’t watched much Senators or Red Wings hockey this year. The trio is a treat to watch, however, and has spent this week producing four highlight-reel goals (I’ll include last night’s short-handed goal).

Back in the ’70s and earlier, when you had a great line, they’d get a name. That practice has fallen by the wayside, but this line has been together long enough and is successful enough to deserve one. I haven’t heard any suggestions, so I’m going to take a crack at it. Kovalev is Russian, Plekanec is Czech, and the Kostitsyns are from Belarus. They were born into Communism behind the Iron Curtain and they wear red uniforms. I dub them the Warsaw Pact. Remember, when it catches on, you heard it here first. (And, Naila, it is your mission to make sure it catches on….)

By the way, Team 990, nothing but nothing makes me change my radio station quicker than those decrepit Habtalk episodes. You better be making buckets of cash off them.

Jews on film

Have you heard about “Defiance”? A trailer came out recently.

Maybe there’s hope for a 101 Squadron movie outside of DreamWorks. I’ve always kept in mind somewhat the potential avenues of failure: who wants to see a(nother) movie about Jews, in a foreign land, in a war, which is expensive to put on film? We’ll see how this does next fall, but at least someone is willing to take that chance. A project like this has to warm Brett‘s cockles as well because it offers some hope for his “Queen of the Sky” (even if I’m seemingly never going to get to read it).

If you’re having as much trouble getting words down as I am lately, read 10 Steps to Create the Habit of Writing. Maybe there’s hope there, too.

Bonus whine:

BlogLinx won’t let me edit or delete links. Maybe it’s time to try BlogRolling again, as it displayed a flicker of life in December. Have any other suggestions for automated flagging of new posts? (Just don’t tell me to get a feed.)

Ski photos and video

Courtesy of the wife, here are some photos of Children Two and Three at Mont Gabriel. Love the hat-head.

Bonus great moment in headlines:

Police: Crack Found in Man’s Buttocks

Journalism dangers

Danger 1) Never assume an article that a reporter researched and wrote in the summer is still up to date in the winter, particularly if the subjects of the piece have been married 67 years. Always double check the facts if the lead time stretches too long.

Danger 2) Newspaper circulation in North America is down in absolute numbers over the last ten years, after decades of steady circulation numbers that masked a decline in per capita readership.

I talk a bit about the future of newspapers in my classes because I do see a future. I don’t think they will disappear. The problem is that newspapers have been bought up by profit-seeking conglomerates and in pursuit of the dollar, they have cut newsrooms in favour of wire services and shared resources. CanWest doesn’t allow a reporter from the Gazette to cover the Parliament – the Gazette uses copy from CanWest’s Ottawa bureau.

(CORRECTION: As indicated in the comments, the Gazette does have a reporter in Ottawa, but my point stands despite the incorrect example.)

The problem is that Gazette readers in Montreal don’t get a local take on the news. My MP is Marlene Jennings and I have no idea what she’s doing unless I learn it from her own periodic mailings.

The problem is even worse on the international level. The Gazette has no foreign reporters and CanWest barely has any. Almost all my international news comes from AFP, the New York Times, or Reuters. And here’s the rub: I can read that news online as soon as it gets published. I don’t have to wait a day for the Gazette to deliver it to my house. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read news at only to get the same article word for word in my Gazette a day later.

Newspapers will not survive like that. In order to retain readership, they need to focus on local interests. Maybe that means dropping a huge chunk of international news, unless you can find a local angle.

Why do I bring this up now? Jon Talton has a superb analysis at his blog. Go read it, but come back here once in a while, OK?

Danger 3) Citizen journalism is a tidal wave. Our Journalism Department even has a course by that title (which seems a little odd to me). But there’s a problem or two.

How do you know a citizen journalist isn’t a citizen marketer? As Mother Jones points out, shouldn’t you know that Stacey Getz’s company does work for Wal-Mart when she writes about Wal-Mart in the Tallahassee Democrat? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Bonus hockey update:

This weekend saw our Panthers take a convincing 4-1 victory over the weakest of the three NDG teams Friday night and play a second game Saturday afternoon. I anticipated a blow out as our top offense in the league faced the weakest defensive team. We won 8-1, a score kept down really only because I told the team’s scorers to work to get the non-scorers some goals.

Child Three missed the shutout on a good hard shot over his shoulder. Few goalies at this level could have stopped that, but the heartening aspect was that Child Three stayed up for it. He has a habit of going down on all shots, which leaves him vulnerable to high shots as he can barely reach the crossbar while standing, but on this shot, he stayed up. Good for him.

Bonus bonus skiing update:

Children Two and Three went skiing for the first time yesterday. The instructor was amazed at how well they performed and couldn’t believe this was their first time on skis. She gave them an extra half hour free.

Ski equipment is cheaper than goalie equipment, right?

Winter 1949

This is a photo of my dad, snapped in early 1949 in St. Lambert, when he was eight-and-a-half years old. I think it was taken with orthochromatic film – that would explain why the red sweater looks black.

The expression reminds me so much of a look Child Three uses.

Bonus measures of repute:

Concordia thinks I’m an expert!

And B. Glen seems to like my wryness.

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