montreal’s most

Montreal’s dismal season ends on Saturday, when they play in Toronto, just before the playoffs get going, Canadiens-free. As a gloomy season wraps up, the stories in the city’s sports pages are structured around phrases like “a boring — and losing — brand of hockey” and “empty seats at the Bell Centre.” Asked at practice in Brossard what he’d like to tell fans, coach Claude Julien said he’d have to go with “thank you.” The Gazette’s Stu Cowan was on hand for this, and if it sounds like Julien was in fact trying to say “sorry,” no, apparently not — he was just grateful fans didn’t jeer more than they did this season. “There’s no doubt,” he said, “we got booed a couple of times because we weren’t a good hockey club. But I think they’ve actually been pretty patient to come to the games and cheer us on. I think they’ve recognized a solid effort as far as guys working hard and competing hard and realizing that right now we’re not good enough and that’s why we’re not in the playoffs.”

On the brighter side, Carey Price is back in the net, and seems to be healthy. On Tuesday night, he was celebrated for his Montreal longevity: the Canadiens’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets saw him play in his 557th NHL regular-season game. With that, he surpassed Jacques Plante as the man who’s minded Montreal’s nets most since the league got going in 1917.

It’s no small achievement, even if Plante does (as should be noted) remain atop the statistical heap if you factor in playoff games: he played 90 of those for Canadiens, for a total of 646 games played, while Price’s 60 playoff games get him to 617.

Canadiens have looked to 83 men to guard their nets, all told, though a few — like Charlie Sands, Battleship Leduc, and Sprague Cleghorn — were skaters subbing in on a strictly emergency basis.

In terms of successes, Plante and Ken Dryden would have to top the pantheon, having each helped the team to six Stanley Cups. Plante is the winningest of Montreal goaltenders, (314 regular season + 59 in the playoffs = 373), followed by Patrick Roy (289 + 70 = 359) and Dryden (258 + 80 = 338), then Price (286 + 25 = 311). Among bona fide goalies, Price also rates fourth in scoring — his 12 all-time assists have him trailing Roy (32 points, season and playoffs), Dryden (23), and Michel Larocque (17).

Straying from statistics, I might just mention that I happened to be talking to Dryden in Toronto earlier this season. Two of his young grandsons are hockey players, goaltenders both. I asked their Hall-of-Fame, Calder-and-Conn-Smythe-winning, many-Vézina’d grandfather what numbers they wear, assuming there could be just one answer, 29.

I was wrong: for Ken Dryden’s grandsons, Carey Price is the incumbent in their imaginations, and it’s his 31 that both boys show on their sweaters.

(Image by Toronto illustrator Dave Murray. For more of his work, hockey and otherwise, visit www.davemurrayillustration.com)

matthews, mended

 

Auston Matthews makes a return to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ line-up tonight for their game against the Predators in Nashville. An injury to one of the shoulders pictured here laid the Leafs’ centreman low for ten games, during which span the Leafs went 5-3-2.  This portrait, from the 2017 playoffs, is by Toronto illustrator Dave Murray. For more of his work, hockey and otherwise, visit www.davemurrayillustration.com.

finn factor

Twenty-six pucks failed to get by Pekka Rinne last night, though of course — probably — likely — what I really mean is that it was one single puck, possibly a couple, or three, that didn’t succeed, 26 times. Not that Rinne doesn’t deserve credit for his preventative part in Nashville’s big 2-0 home win over the Dallas Stars, just saying the puck(s) need to be bearing some of the responsibility here, too. It was, in any case, the seventh instance this season of complete puck futility involving Rinne, the best goaltender ever to have come out of Kempele, which is near Oulu, in Northern Ostrobothnia, in Finland. His record in the last 19 games he’s played is 17-1-1. When Adam Vingan of The Tennessean talked to Rinne post-game, the goaltender reached into the post-game loot-bag of triumphant clichés and extracted this one: “A lot of good things are happening to us right now, so we’ve just got to enjoy it right now.”

The portrait here, from the 2017 playoffs, is Toronto illustrator Dave Murray’s. For more of his work, visit at www.davemurrayillustration.com.

 

net absence

Bad tidings from Chicago: the Blackhawks lost again last night, shut out by Tampa Bay, which leaves them mired at the bottom of the NHL’s Central Division. As of this morning, Hockey Reference has the team’s chances of making the playoffs at a gloomy 15.6 per cent.

Slightly better news, though maybe not really: goaltender Corey Crawford was seen headed to the Blackhawks’ dressing room at the United Center last night. Crawford, whose upper body has been injured in a not-divulged area, in an undisclosed way, such that he hasn’t played since December 27, was in civilian clothes, wearing a cap. He didn’t get into anything resembling the goaling garb depicted above let alone out on the ice, but his presence at the rink did give rise to plenty of speculation that he might be close to — maybe? — returning, whereupon he can get to work rescuing his team’s season by hauling them into the playoffs. This follows a report from two weeks ago from until Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times, who found three sources to tell him that Crawford’s symptoms are “vertigo-like,” and that he’s probably out for the season. John Dietz of Chicago’s Daily Herald was on hand last night to hear Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville tell reporters … not much. Crawford is “getting better.” It was, Quenneville confessed, “good to see him.”

Toronto illustrator Dave Murray worked up this Crawford portrait last spring, as a part of a series focussed on 2017 playoffs. For more of Murray’s work, visit http://davemurrayillustration.com/

 

poking the beard

The Edmonton Oilers beat the San Jose Sharks on Monday, 5-3, at home. That was the headline out of Alberta Tuesday, with due attention paid to the goals (two) that Ryan Strome of the Oilers scored along with the shots (18) that Cam Talbot stopped. Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon got some notice, too, for what one CBC wag dubbed a ZZ-Top Hattrick: “That’s a goal, an assist, and three beard tugs.” The beard in question belonged to San Jose defenceman Brent Burns. He was down in front of his net and Maroon was in there too, scrabbling for the puck, and when the whistle blew, Maroon reached for Burns’ beard. “I was laughing about it and he was laughing about it,” Maroon told reporters later. “I thought he would be mad at first, but he just asked me if I liked it and I said yeah, it’s a pretty nice beard.” Burns, for the record, notched two assists on the night. Toronto illustrator Dave Murray worked up this portrait of him earlier this year as part of a series focussed on the stars of the 2017 playoffs. Browse more of Murray’s artistry — prints are available, too, for sale — over at http://davemurrayillustration.com/

 

minder of nets, thwarter of goals

Price Point: If you follow ‪@CP0031 on Twitter, you’ve maybe browsed his bio there: “Minder of nets — Thwarter of goals — Swatter of pucks.” On the ice last night at Montreal’s Bell Centre, Carey Price was at his unflappable best, turning back 35 shots as the Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 4-3 on Alexander Radulov’s overtime goal. Here, Toronto illustrator Dave Murray has Price bestriding the nation, from the mountains of his native British Columbia to the precincts of his winter home on the St. Lawrence. For more of Murray’s work, visit http://davemurrayillustration.com/