Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Awarding of the Prince Of Wales Trophy

As a boy, I watched the 1976 Canadiens end the era of the Broad Street Bullies. I will never forget Montreal defenseman Serge Savard classless summation, stating:
"This is not only a victory for the Canadiens; it is a victory for hockey. I hope that this era of intimidation and violence that is hurting our national sport is coming to an end. Young people have seen that a team can play electrifying, fascinating hockey while still behaving like gentlemen."
Tell it to Doug Risebrough. If Serge thought he was a Lady Byng candidate, perhaps he was drinking. In a later note, authorities later stepped in to keep the Senator from driving drunk- so the guy’s class quotient is pretty consistent.

Serge might put the metaphorical bottle down and think about how that is working out for the Le Tricolore right now- pounded by the Flyers for the second time in three years for the exact same character reasons. Those colours do seem to run from the corners a bit, eh? Sure, Montreal’s handshake line was outstanding- orderly, respectful- because they’ve had practice! Extra delicious: Scott Gomez looking very, very disappointed- these teammates were not Devils tough. And you can find some gentle feelings toward Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge here– gentle like the Montreal collective of wingers! A dream season though? Not sure if the ghosts of the Mont Royal Arena would have agreed. Now it is a Provigo supermarket.

Turns out Montreal can generate chances when trading them with the Caps and Pens, but ain’t so much on putting the hardhat and generating their own. Cammalleri and Gionta- where were the goals in traffic? Did Tomas Plekanec even show up? It was electrifying hockey all right- all the toughness of the KHL stars in this year’s Olympics.

Then add in a the second goalie in three years that we were assured was an emerging elite player but cannot handle net traffic, and a whole city in Montreal is left to cry “where were all the obstruction fouls we were promised?”

Twice in three years.... just who are the character players on the Canadiens roster? Not with the reputation, but actually were rooted night after night in front of the Philadelphia net. Who scored even a pair of garbage goals? Who outchanced Arron Asham?

The Flyers obviously are in a good place right now. Leighton might be the third goalie on the depth chart- but fortunately it turns out he is also is the best one. The Flyers top nine forwards are playing and healthy- and they actually added another as Leino has simply exploded. They’re blessed to have some of those character players who are also guys who can play on the top two lines: Richards, Giroux. By shifting Timmo to the second pair, the top four defensemen are as good as anyone’s in the NHL. Even Briere is playing defense on about half his shifts. If Leighton remains good, they can win this thing.

The League office must be sick- wishing they could cancel the Final, left dreaming of their awesome, thwarted San Jose-Montreal conclusion. Seriously, if you polled Toronto officials, that is the Final they wanted: NHL-style vindication of the cap (allowing Canada teams to match payroll) versus bogus Sunbelt outfits.

If Serge’s victory in 1976 was one for “hockey”, than this Prince of Wales trophy is emblematic of victory over the new NHL. No Crosby or Ovechkin. Instead two teams that play with “intimidation and violence”. Mike Green is seemingly in every single television ad, yet Duncan Keith and Chris Pronger are in the Final? Disaster! Worse, two big American hockey towns that feature many North American players. Real hockey fans might actually watch.

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