Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Leafs vs Habs game four (after re-watching)

A friend of mine who is Habs fan just forwarded me an article from a Montreal newspaper. He said, “this really sums things up perfectly”. Before I even looked at it I said; “let me guess; the Habs are terrible and the Leafs won’t go anywhere in the playoffs.” Of course this is exactly what the writer said (almost verbatim) in the first three paragraphs. 

So predictable;  Habs fans. It is all over Twitter. All Habs fans are saying the same thing. The other thing I loved about the article (no I didn’t read much further) was that it was describing all the Habs players in the past tense. Ha!

So, I am re-watching the Leafs vs Habs game four as I am known to do. The first period was a bit uneventful as there was no scoring. One thing I was reminded of is how well the third line of Mikheyev Engvall and Simmonds are playing together. Simmonds had a couple good scoring chances in this game. 

I am also liking the way Campbell is positioning himself when there is a lot of traffic in front of the net. I can never pretend to know much about goaltending but he is giving me cause to trust him even more. 

The second period starts with that beautiful three way passing play between Kerfoot, Galchenyuk and Nylander. Nylander made it look easy but a backhand like that moving at that speed can bit tricky. Yah Willy! Four goals in four games. (Hopefully you weren’t a Nylander skeptic as we like to call you a Nylanderthal) 

Leafs have been a good second period team all year. They are outscoring the Habs 6-1 in second periods in this series. 

Another thing I liked about game four was that Auston is getting a bit grumpy. He is initiating hits and not taking any guff (bet you haven’t heard that word in while) from the players who are checking him. (Yes it is usually two players checking him)

I would like to address the idea that the Leafs won’t go anywhere in the playoffs. First off, if we beat the Habs I think we have gone somewhere already. (It has been since 2004 since we won a round in the playoffs) Also, I think we can match up against some or all of the best teams in the NHL (of which we are one) I am watching the Lightning against the Panthers on my laptop while I pause last nights Leaf game on my TV and it is quite clear to me that there is not much that is radically different between the Leafs and the Bolts.  It is hockey. Same rules; anything can happen. Also I watched the Leafs beat Tampa in Tampa’s own barn last year before lockdown. ($5 beers and you can walk outside on the patio for intermission)

Galchenyuk’s saucer pass to Spezza was quite something. Again, Spezza made it look easy but that was a tough finish. I think Spezza has become one of the most popular Leafs with the Leaf nation. 

Joe Thornton has a nice PP goal with a pass from Spezza. Yes, the Habs took another penalty for crosschecking. 

I don’t think I will re-watch the third period. I was so relaxed that I already fully enjoyed it last night. 

Good night. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Leafs vs Habs game 3 (after re watching)

 Leafs vs Habs game 3 (after re watching)

This second viewing of the Leaf games has been really fun. It answers some questions for me and it gives me new questions. 

For example, what is Keefe trying to achieve when he puts Simmonds out with Nylander and Nash. Usually a line switch like that is a reaction to our own power play or PK but this was not the case. I want to think it is like a double shift for Nylander. The players he is with are sort of a “best-of” scenario from the bottom six? Is it driven by analytics?

I do think people don’t watch the game very closely. (Of course it is just entertainment to some so why would they?) A number of misconceptions about game three were adjusted for me after my second time through. For starters; the Habs did NOT totally outplay the Leafs in the third period. If anything, they were a little more even than during the rest of the game. If you put your kids to bed and came back and watched the last two minutes after they pulled Price (and believed the shot totals at the Bell Centre)  you might think they outplayed the Leafs in the third. 

I have heard people say the Leafs can’t let up when they have the lead. They did not. We had many scoring chances. (Remember Jumbo all alone in front missing the net with a slapshot) 

The other statistic that is so misleading is the number of hits in this series. The Leafs have certainly been tougher than the Habs and in a smart way. 

What I am seeing is the Habs (mostly Price) doing a decent job keeping our top line from scoring as much as they usually do. The good news is that our top line is destroying the Habs defensively in our Dzone. Also, our second line is having its way with le Tricolore on both ends of the ice.  

The one thing that has been consistent on both ends is the goaltending. In my humble and slightly biased opinion after watching this game twice it looks like the Leafs vs Carey Price. I am very happy to say that Jack Campbell has played pretty much just as well as Price however the scoring chances by the Habs have been much fewer and less dangerous. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Leafs vs Habs game 2 (after re watching)

 Leafs vs Habs game 2 (after re watching)

I am enjoying the process of re watching the Leafs playoff games. I can’t remember if I did that in 2004 (the last time we won a round of playoffs) however it would have have been on the VCR.  I would have had a 5yr old and and a two year old running around so it seems unlikely. 

I don’t want to repeat much of what I said in my Posgate Postgame (on Facebook Live) last night but I am not totally sure I remember what I said. (Occasionally I do watch my own shows the next day but have not as of yet today)

The first thing I will address is the Habs fans complaining about the penalties. I would like to know which obvious crosscheck you thought was not a penalty. Certainly not your big ugly defensemen on Engvall because he was fined for it today by the NHL. Your little chippy Galagher crosscheck to the head of our defender? Kotkiniemi breaking a stick over our players body?…

You don’t want to make it easy for the refs to make the calls and you need to notice a trend in what they are calling. Habs did neither. Not so smart fellas. 

I liked what I saw from all four of the Leaf lines. I do think you will see Hyman continue to improve as he gets more games in post injury. 

I am really starting to love that cheeky smile that Auston flashes when things are going well. It is subtle fun for us wearing blue and white at home. 

I did think we had a little trouble with exiting our zone as the Habs had good pressure on us making it challenging. I am sure coach Keefe and his team will fix that before tomorrow. 

I am not big on (or good at) making predictions but I do think this Leaf team still has another gear that involves a little more speed, and a little dangle and a little more flow. 

Looking forward to playing back to back this week!

Go Leafs go!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Game one: Leafs vs Habs (Posgate Postgame?)

 First Period

The first goal the Habs scored came three shifts after the Leaf captain left the ice on a stretcher. Jack Campbell made the poor decision to leave his net and sweep away a broken stick at the same moment the Leafs turned over the puck in the offensive zone. (Caused by a bad bounce off a Habs player’s foot) Anderson happened to to have momentum in the right direction out of their zone that allowed him to get a jump on both Leaf defensemen (who were caught flat footed as the saying goes) and ultimately score on a breakaway. Had Campbell left the stick it would have impeded Anderson’s breakaway and would not have been rushing to get back into his crease. 

I wondered and I am pretty sure that coach Keefe did too, why was the accidental knee to the head was not a penalty? Intent is not what makes a trip a trip or a slash a slash. It is the action that you are penalized for. 

Of course the Leafs were still shaken emotionally at this point. Tavares had played a solid first period with his line having a fair bit of jump. Matthews, Marner and Hyman also looked good, testing Price on a few occasions. A few good shots to the top corner that Price had to get his shoulder on and Hyman just missed putting it upstairs. 

Our third line looked ok. Riley Nash had himself on a short leash and only once was on the ice for longer than 30 seconds. Simmonds could certainly have increased his physical presence and will certainly have to do so moving forward in the series. 

The old guys on the fourth line were a bit slow to get going. They got the puck into the Habs zone but failed at keeping it there even once until near the end of the period where they kept some pressure on, in the offensive zone. Thornton also had a decent shift wreaking havoc in front of the net on the power play just before time expired in the first period. 

Defense looked solid. No giveaways. No unnecessary pinching. Occasional offensive bursts but solid in our own end including good first passes to start the play out of our zone. 

Second Period

This was the period that made it obvious that Nylander was one of the Leafs’ best players in this game (as he is almost every game) His shift that he scored on was as good as it gets. He threw a big check on the forecheck. He stayed with it on the back check and dug it out again on the forecheck only be standing in the perfect place at the end of the shift for a simple tap-in. 

Our power plays were decent. One of them had two amazing scoring chances both missed the net by an inch (which probably means Carey Price was in perfect position) Our entry to the O-zone on the PP has been a problem but so far in this game it has been good. 

I have never seen so many dropped and broken sticks. I am not really sure what to make of that. The first of three delay of game penalties came in this period. Although we are able to kill the penalties it makes it hard for a team to get any flow. I did think Riley Nash looked good on the PK with Zach Hyman. 

Price continued to make some great saves this period as well. Any notion of him not being the Habs best player (and only superstar as I have said many times) is ridiculous. Active sticks and blocked shots have been quite good all game for the Habs. Many of the Leaf scoring chances were deflected. 

It seems clear after two periods that the plan of attack for the Leafs is to activate the Defenseman in the O zone. The idea being that the defenders don’t know when or where the attack will come from. It seems to work but our D men missed the net almost every time. 

Third Period

Yes, we got a third delay of game penalty in this period. The Leafs spent way too much time in the box however we can feel good about our PK going forward. Nash has been consistent for us there tonight too. 

The third really didn’t have any great surprises. Our top players had good scoring chances on Price and he continued to play a near perfect game. I think he has been the best goalie in the NHL for a long time. 

People love to suggest the Leafs aren’t tough enough. I don’t feel like we were out-hit in any way again in the third. No matter what the total number of checks was;  it is more about the quality and timing of the checks and I feel we may have had the edge or at least been even in that department. 

The winning goal by the Habs, by one of their “no stars” was a great goal. Definitely one of the best goals of the year. To stay that focused on the puck while falling etc. was a highly skilled move from a guy who’s name I can’t even remember. The how and why it happened while the Leafs were on the PP is much less interesting. I think Sandin our young defenseman did the right thing diving once he new he was beat. He almost stopped him without taking a penalty. Campbell wasn’t great on it. (Price would have stopped it)

Right down to the last power play the Leafs had great chances. Kerfoot did an admirable job filling in for JT. If the Leafs play half as well next game and stay out of the box it should be a fairly easy victory. Even Carey Price can’t stop this Maple Leaf lineup in a best of 7. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Troublemaker (Aka Rob Clutton) Music of Nick Fraser vol 1.

 Music fans! 

I finally got to hear the new solo bass record by Rob Clutton under his new project name Troublemaker. (I love the name of this project!)

What a great record. If you thought it was Thundercat who was doing the latest most innovative things on the electric bass you must listen to this record. 

The music had me locked-in from top to bottom of the record. Each track so special and unique in its own way. At times I thought Rob was channeling Squarepusher and then Hendrix (on bass!) but Rob is really just being himself; a creative musician with a special and unique approach to music and life. 

The ambiguity of where the composition (of Toronto drummer Nick Fraser) and improvisation occur is an added bonus for my listening experience. 

This record has a great home too on the All-Set Editions label. This is the work of Pete Johnston and you can find many great records on this label. A beautiful CD cover too by Mike Smith. 

I hate to spoil the surprise but the last track is totally worth waiting for. After hearing one of the worlds most creative acoustic bass players do his thing on the electric bass he gives us one live recording of him playing acoustic bass. (if you like that he has a couple solo bass records on the Rat Drifting label)

If you are a bass player or bass music fan this is definitely for you but I also think it goes way beyond being just a solo bass record. It is just good music. 

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Sunday, March 14, 2021


 Wow, I am such a lucky human being. Even in these strange pandemic times I feel very fortunate. Besides having a roof over my head and a great family I have amazing friends. 

After having an "outdoor" Birthday-brunch with my Sister and brother in law my wife Julie surprised me (!) by inviting over four couples that live in the neighbourhood for an outdoor cocktail hour. We went a little longer than an hour and it was amazing to see people in person. (While sticking to the recommended maximum of 10 people gathering outdoors)

I still love the usual Facebook love that one receives once a year and I read every comment. Thank you! 

I got a small gift in the mail from some of my hockey buddies (didn't find it until today) and a generous gift from my Dad and his wife Susan. Thanks!

I am not sure of the point of this blog post other than to say thank you to all the people that make my life so special. Especially Julie. (she doesn't read my blog) 

I had a nice chat with a couple people yesterday about how much we miss the social part of working. Being on tour, or even just on a gig is always fun. I suppose it is more than ever now as I seem to only work with my friends. I really look forward to seeing all those people in person again soon AND making music for people that want to hear it. Let's go!!

p.s. I actually have a couple gigs in my calendar in the next couple months. Stay tuned!...a duo gig with Andrew Downing and a So Long Seven concert. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Great memories of the great jazz guitarist Ed Bickert

 I had a dream last night that was something about visiting my friend, guitarist David Occhipinti’s home. It ended up that there was going to be some sort of jazz awards celebration in the massive theatre that my dream created as part of his house. I guess, this more of a nightmare after all. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep but my mind wandered to beautiful memories. Most of them were about the legendary Canadian jazz guitarist Ed Bickert. 

When I was in grade 13 (yes, there used to be 13 grades in Ontario) I came in to Toronto from Burlington Ontario with my drummer pal Steve Patterson. We played a lot of music together over the years in all our high school rock bands but also as part of our high school big band called Jazzworks. (This group also featured my longtime friend Rob Clutton on bass) Steve and I came in to Toronto to hear the legendary big band the Boss Brass at a club called Bourbon Street which was located on Queen st. W. 

As write this I am listening to Ed Bickert playing with Paul Desmond (on vinyl!). How exciting it is to realize that this record was recorded live at Bourbon St. Ten years before where my story about Ed unfolds. 

Of course, while in High School the only people who were more exciting and glamorous to me than musicians were hockey players. I had started studying jazz guitar with Tom Forsyth after many years of lessons with Carter Lancaster (who is now Gordon Lightfoot’s guitarist). Tom had exposed me to many great guitarist including Ed and Lorne Lofsky who I went on to study with at York University. However, I still had one foot in the rock world and I took every opportunity I had to hear my favourites play live such as Alex Lifeson with Rush, Kim Mitchell  or Eddie Van Halen. These guys were big stars and I dreamed of being like them.  

Back to Bourbon Street…Steve Patterson and I got a table and couldn’t believe how close we were sitting to the band. We were used to being way up in the nosebleed seats at Maple Leaf Gardens. This would have been Terry Clarke on drums and Steve Wallace on Bass. I remember that Steve Wallace didn’t look much older than us. The band finished their first set and Ed came over and sat at our table. I was so nervous, and Steve and I were quite starstruck. There was a fair bit of silence because little did I know yet that Ed was a man of few words. It makes me laugh to think how much I must have been staring at him while he was playing in order for him to know I was a young, aspiring jazz guitarist. (And walk over and and sit at our table)

I don’t remember a lot of what we talked about but I remember I told him I wanted to become a jazz guitarist. Ed took a deep drag on his cigarette and paused before he replied, “you can’t make a living playing jazz guitar.” The world stopped for me for a moment. I must have questioned this statement by saying something like “what about you?” I remember Ed saying, he made his money playing jingles, weddings, tv shows etc. and that he made very little money playing jazz. 

In what seems like no time I was studying jazz performance at York University in Toronto. (Actually in North York) I was living the dream. Most of my friends were jazz students and we would go out and hear all our favourite players downtown a couple times a week. I sometimes wonder how many times I heard Ed Bickert play live. Certainly something close to one hundred. 

In fourth year at York, I was in the top workshop which meant each week we would have a guest instructor from the Toronto jazz scene. Sometimes this included other great teachers I had at York like Pat LaBarbara or Mark Eisenman or sometimes it would be Steve Wallace or Don Thompson. We started getting pretty good and weren’t as nervous about playing with or for some of these great players. Then one day we were in the middle of our first tune and in walked Ed Bickert. The band stopped playing. (This didn’t usually happen) There was an awkward silence until I invited Ed to come sit at the front of the class near to where we were set up. Now we were nervous. After we played a tune for Ed we stopped and waited for further instruction. Silence. Ed paused long enough to have a drag on a smoke he couldn’t have. (you could no longer smoke inside a university in 1989) “Sounds good,” he said. There was a bit of nervous laughter from the band. I guess we already knew we were at least good if nothing else. 

I got brave and asked for a little more criticism or specific things we could improve. After another long pause Ed looked at me and said “maybe a few more grips.” Grips were a term that Ed and many guitarists after him used for chord voicings. 

By the way, I have switched the record. I am now listening to the great duo record that Rob McConnell (the late great leader of the Boss Brass) and Ed Bickert made called Mutual Street. 

I continued to practise (work on my grips!) and after finishing my honours degree at York I immediately spent a large part of my energy being a band leader and composing my own music. While I was drawn to some of the more contemporary sounds of Bill Frisell or Pat Metheny and eventually some of the avant-garde music coming out of Europe I always had a soft spot for the guitar playing of Ed Bickert. There was nothing like it. Many people in Toronto and eventually world wide played in a similar style but every time I saw Ed play live something magical came out of that Telecaster. 

Once at the Montreal Bistro after the last set a bunch of young guitarists (I think David Occhipinti was one of them)  and I were crowded around Ed asking questions and just excited to be in his presence while we finished our last beer. Finally, Ed looked at us and said something like “time to go to your homes.” Ha!

Many years passed and we were all saddened by the news that Ed’s wife had passed. The other sad news that went with this was that he would be retiring. It was hard to believe that I would never hear him play live again.  This had been such a constant throughout my life for more than twenty years. 

I continued to lead bands and make my own records. I started playing the banjo and getting serious about learning the 5-string in my late thirties. 

Saxophonist Mike Murley was having a 50th birthday party on the Danforth. He was playing a set of music and lots of friends were there. I saw Ed sitting in the back corner with drummer Barry Elmes. I was feeling shy but I really wanted to go over and say hi. As I approached his table he looked up at me, raised one of his big bushy eyebrows and said, “I hear you're playing the banjo now.” That was the last time I saw Ed. 

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