The Montreal Canadiens pulled a minor upset with their double-overtime 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins in the best-of-seven series opener Thursday in Beantown.
P.K. Subban scored the winner, his second of the game, and Carey Price was outstanding in the Montreal net as the Habs opened this series with a road win just as they had done in their quarter-final series with Tampa Bay. This series looks like it will go six or seven games, but I believe at the end of the day the Bruins‚Äô heavy forechecking will breakdown the Montreal defence. Eventually, the Bruins will get in on top of Price and crowd the crease.
In the other Eastern Conference Stanley Cup semifinal, the Pittsburgh Penguins entertained the New York Rangers in their best-of-seven opener Friday night.
The Rangers are much better defensively than the Penguins but betting against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is not conducive to making money wagering on sports. The Penguins, on occasion, play as poorly defensively as the Toronto Maple Leafs and that should make this series interesting.
If the Bruins prevail over Montreal, they will devour either Pittsburgh or New York. If the Pens win, the East is up for grabs.
In the West, the Los Angeles Kings are riding high after their almost impossible rebound from a 3-0 games deficit to knock off the San Jose Sharks in a thrilling series. The Kings meet Anaheim and the way Jonathan Quick is playing you must love L.A.
In the other West semifinal, the Chicago Blackhawks came back from 2-0 to sideline the St. Louis Blues and now meet the Minnesota Wild.
The Hawks, with two top scoring lines that include the Toews and Kane duo and then Hossa and Sharp and their airtight defence, are just too strong for the Wild, who knocked off Colorado due in large part to the loss in Game 2 of standout Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie thanks to a Matt Cooke knee.
The axe falls
In other NHL happenings, the Vancouver Canucks fired head coach John Tortorella, but don‚Äôt feel sorry for Torts as the idiot Canucks management signed him to a five-year contract at $2 million per year last summer and they‚Äôll have to buy out the contract.
How about the play of some of the NHL so-called superstars? The Rangers‚Äô Rick Nash, still one of the darlings of the Toronto media and making $8 million per season, was invisible in the Philadelphia series. In fact, he had no goals against Philly, no goals at the Olympics and has just one goal in 19 playoff games with the Rangers. He has four assists in their last series, but they were meaningless, coming off a couple of blind bounces and not due to any great plays. He should be able to score against the Penguins, who are easily the worst defensive team remaining in the playoffs.
Montreal‚Äôs Thomas Vanek, who makes $7 million-plus, has a single goal in the playoffs and has been a big disappointment to date. Vanek was demoted to the fourth line against the Bruins in the opener and is an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he wants a big, fat contract, he‚Äôd better step up his game.
And how about Tampa Bay‚Äôs Ryan Callahan, who was paid $4.8 million this past season and posted no goals and no assists in the four-game Montreal series. He is an unrestricted free agent and wants $6 million. Nothing more than a glorified foot soldier, any manager who gives this guy that kind of money should be a candidate for a lobotomy.
Blue Jay woes
The baseball Toronto Blue Jays have slipped below the .500 mark in the American League East and it‚Äôs too bad because they have as strong a lineup as anyone in the division.
As I said many times before, manager John Gibbons is a very poor game-day strategist and his handling of the pitching staff (and the entire roster) is one of the reasons the team is floundering. I may be too generous in saying Gibbons even has a strategy.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos just doesn‚Äôt have the experience or the knowledge to evaluate talent and it is showing. One of the cardinal sins of baseball is moving the centre of the diamond too often and, of course, that means shortstop, second base, centre field and catcher. Injuries may force changes here and there, but to constantly change those positions is courting danger.
I‚Äôm not sure if Gibbons or Anthopoulos adhere to that philosophy or any ‚Äúgame plan‚ÄĚ at all. If Anthopoulos stays with Gibson, he takes a big chance in getting the axe himself along with Gibbons. You can rest assured the new management team at Maple Leafs Sports is looking at the success of the Raptors, who cleaned house in the off-season.
Highly touted pitcher Marcus Stroman will likely be elevated to the Blue Jays from their AAA Buffalo farm club and he might be the shot in the arm that the starting staff needs.
Heading into Friday‚Äôs action, the Jays trailed New York Yankees (15-12) and Baltimore (14-12) and were just 2 1/2 games behind the leaders and two games under the .500 mark. The Jays were 13-15, the Red Sox and Tampa Bay 13-16 in a division where three games separate top from bottom. This division is up for grabs and the Blue Jays could win even with Dumb (Anthopoulos) and Dumber (Gibbons) leading the way, it‚Äôs just not likely to happen.
At the track
Live harness racing continues this evening at the Charlottetown track with the 12-dash card getting underway at 6 p.m. sharp.
The $2,000 feature goes in Race 5 and, from the rail out, the horses and drivers include Van Zant (Ron Matheson), Miracle Matts (Corey MacPherson), Bunny Mach (Ken Arsenault), Mach It Big (Marc Campbell) and Cambest Kisser (Jason Hughes)
For me, the start of summer begins today with the Kentucky Derby, one of the greatest races on the world thoroughbred race calendar. The one-mile first leg of the Triple Crown goes at Louisville, Ky., and it can be seen at the Charlottetown track via simulcast.
If you want a feel good tip, how about California Chrome, a chestnut who is trained by 77- year-old Art Sherman, who works off-hours in the betting windows just to make ends meet?
There‚Äôs plenty of racing tonight via simulcast from Woodbine, The Meadowlands, Pocono and Yonkers. Dr. Ian Moore is back in Ontario and has two entries to go tonight and both are Island-owned. Silverhill Shadow, owned by Casey Gavin of Tignish, goes in the Diplomat series for three-year-olds with Jody Jamieson driving while State Treasurer has Chris Christoforou in the bike against the $34,000 preferred class won last week by Thinking Out Loud.
Aat the Meadowlands, last year‚Äôs Governors Cup winner J K Endofanera from the Burke Stable faces a good field of sophomore pacers, including Elite Awards. J K won the last stake race of the season for top two- year-olds in November but did not face any of the top two-year- olds. It will be interesting to see if he can handle the big boys.
At Pocono tonight, Mark MacDonald handles Warrawee Needy, Jug winner Michael‚Äôs Power and Mustang Art but all three drew the outside nine post in the top three races.
The Mike McGuigan stable has a new addition to their stable in Prynne Hanover, a four-year- old Art Major filly who raced against $12,000 claimers this past Thursday at Woodbine and finished a solid fourth in 1:54 with James MacDonald in the bike. She was stakes placed at two and three for trainer John Burns and should be here within a week or so.
The local race game lost another longtime owner and breeder in the passing of Leith Dickieson earlier this week. Leith was not active in recent years, but a big fan and familiar face at Island tracks. To all connected to this new Glasgow gentleman, my condolences.
Fred MacDonald‚Äôs column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can reached at email@example.com.