Saturday night, with a minus-three, he was Alex in Blunderland.


Last night, however, the story was quite different for Alexei Kovalev. The Montreal Canadiens’ top player performed brilliantly, ensuring a happy ending to the first playoff chapter of what may yet turn out to be a fairy-tale season for this squad.


Kovalev set up the Habs’ first two goals in an efficient 5-0 shutout of the Boston Bruins. The victory guaranteed the inclusion of at least one Canadian based-team in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Calgary Flames could join Montreal in big-boy territory tonight, although oddsmakers don’t like their chances. The Flames have been established as huge underdogs for the seventh and deciding game of their first-round playoff series against the Sharks in San Jose tonight.


The Canadiens were heavy favourites over Boston but stumbled after taking a 3-1 series lead. They wound up needing the maximum seven games to advance past the upstart Bruins.


But the Habs’ seventh game was splendid, and not only for Kovalev. Brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn bounced back, too, and were offensive forces again. And rookie netminder Carey Price, who had allowed 10 goals in his previous two games, blocked 25 shots. “I knew I had to play better tonight,” Price said. “I think we all had to play better, and we did.”

Question is, can they keep it going?

  • Regular York Report readers learned here March 25 that the Blue Jays wouldn’t permit Frank Thomas to collect the number of at-bats he needed this season to be guaranteed a $10-million stipend from them next year, and it’s tough to blame them for unloading him on the weekend, when he complained about being benched. But perhaps you can fault them for not offering free agent Barry Bonds a chance to replace Thomas as their designated hitter. While Jays president Paul Godfrey describes Bonds as a potential “distraction,” reliever Jeremy Accardo insists the home-run king was a terrific teammate with the San Francisco Giants. And catcher Gregg Zaun asks: “Why wouldn’t you want a guy like Barry in your lineup?”

  • The Raptors are plummeting lamentably, and if coach Sam Mitchell can’t emerge with a better game plan (which was even criticized by his own star Chris Bosh) than he mysteriously used Sunday in Orlando’s rout, and if he can’t use his bench more intelligently, this could be a Magic sweep. And then you’d wonder if Raptors bossman Bryan Colangelo would bring in his own coach to replace Mitchell, who was hired by ex-Toronto GM Rob Babcock.