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My Encounter with Ted Tevan

It was Spring of 2000, I was working my first professional radio gig, interning over at CFMB 1280 AM for a professional wrestling show.  The bright eyed, pudgy faced Johnny Bertolo, known as ‘Johnny Daminga’ on the ‘In the Ring’ radio show would embark on a journey to the unknown.

It was my first taste of REAL radio, the BIG time (remember, this was my first gig).  Growing up, I envisioned myself being the play-by-play announcer for the Montreal Canadiens.  I would create my own radio shows using my parents old Sony boom-box and cassettes, press the record button, and let it roll.  I mimicked my style after Dick Irvin, tell a story and the people will listen.  I believed my internship over at CFMB was a step in the right direction.

I was right.

During my stay over at the ole 1280, I remember showing up early to the station one night before ‘In the Ring’ would hit the air.  Upon my arrival, one of my former colleagues told me I was in for a treat.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Like most 16-year olds, I was self-absorbed into my own life and antics that I rarely took the time to look at the world around me.

 

Just as the hours of Friday night bled into early Saturday morning,  a figure emerged from the radio booth.  I could sense an aura around this man.  Wearing a light-blue buttoned-down shirt with a black tie, he wasn’t a big man I noticed that there wasn’t anything physically dominant about this man, just how he carried himself, brimming with confidence, yet fatigued after a long night.  My colleague spoke with the man for a few moments before calling me over.  “Johnny Bertolo…meet Ted Tevan.”

Whoa!

I was standing face-to-face with the iconic Ted Tevan, and I had no idea who he was.  I was shocked, speechless, I was without speech.

At the time, I only knew of Ted Tevan through stories from my older cousins, Dino and DiegoMazzone and my good friend, Larry Shapiro.  They grew up listening to Mr. Tevan and of course were enthralled by his, shall we say, ‘unique’ radio style of temple-massaging, machine gunning and pot-stirring.  The stories trickled down to yours truly but I never had a chance to truly appreciate him.

My encounter with the man changed that.  After a long day at the office, I could tell that Mr. Tevan was looking for the fist ‘Atlas Taxi’ out of there.  But he stuck around for a few moments to offer some friendly professional advice.

“How old are you Johnny?” Mr. Tevan bellowed in his signature raspy, baritone voice.

“Si..Six…Sixteen”, I sheepishly replied.

“Remember kid” he continued, “…in this business, it’s not ‘what’ you know, it’s ‘who’ you know.”

And that was it.

He made his way to his locker, collected his personal effects and out-the-backdoor he went.

Circa 11-years later I realize how important those words were.  A thought had crossed my mind just as I started writing this piece.  Maybe, just maybe he was not TOTALLY comfortable with his sports acumen, but that didn’t matter.  He took the time out of a long day to utter those words to me.  For that, I am truly grateful.  Love him, hate him, respect him or not, Mr. Tevan was the spark that lit the fire for modern-day radio in Montreal.

Callers wanted to be him, the ‘broads’ wanted to be around him, the up-and-comers wanted to learn from him.

I recently returned to the Team 990, and was very proud to work on the Ted Tevan tribute show, part of Mitch Melnick’s, ‘Melnick in the Afternoon’ (you can hear segments of the tribute show by clicking here).  Fans, followers, professional and personal friends came out in droves to share a story, a laugh and a few cries.  The likes of Mitch Garber who repeatedly referred to Mr. Tevan as ‘bombastic’, Montreal-radio icon Aaron Rand who shared a story of Ted Tevan’s savvy dealings in radio advertisement, Radio historian and writer Earl Zukerman, Writer and Film Producer Bill Brownstein, former Montreal Canadien Dickie Moore, Ron Fournier and Bill Lee all took part.

It was radio done right, the way Mr. Tevan would have wanted it and I am proud to have been apart of it.

Mr. Tevan, I hardly knew Ye, but your legacy lives on through our contemporary sports broadcasting heroes and I hope to champion those values when the time is right.

Thank you and “God rest ye, merry gentleman.”

Mauled: Habs get Thumped 7-0; Bruins still Hungry

So, what happened last night?  As you can clearly see, I haven’t been around these last few days…you know…kissing hands…shaking babies…. that sorta thing.

In all seriousness (barely), I started a new job. Yours truly is dealing with some ‘stuff’ at this present juncture, and no, I am not ‘Chasing the Dragon’, I’ll never let that happen… again.  But after watching last night’s Bruins vs. Habs tilt for the 711th time, there’s no shame in falling ass-backwards into your vice of choice; to quote the late, great Bill Hicks:

“The idea of getting a, you know, syringe full of heroin and shooting it in the vein under my c*** right now seems like almost a productive act.”

Ah Bill, thanks for putting things into perspective.

This is where I’d usually spare you the indignity of going over every detail from the game; the replays from TSN and the snarky, arrogant remarks from everyone outside MontRÉAL are punishment enough.  Alas, I am petty and a good laugh is in order so without further adieu, here is last night’s game, re-enacted for your viewing pleasure.

 

Pretty darn close, huh?  I’m predicting more life out of Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral than last night’s Habs performance, at least we know someone’s gonna score, right?  The Bruins distanced themselves further from the Habs in the Eastern Conference, now five points up on Montreal with two games in hand.  The Ottawa Senators did the Habs a half-a-solid, defeating the seventh place New York Rangers in a shootout, 2-1 F/SO.  The Rangers are chomping at the bit of the Habs, now only two points back.  To say the Habs are burning the candle at both ends is both an understatement and a great way to get your keister parked.

 

Digits:

The Habs led the game in hits?  Really?  How? Montreal’s 25, to Boston’s 11.  I am not kidding you.  Helter-Lars-Sk-Eller led the team in the hit category with five.

Carey Price was chased from the Montreal goal for the second time in his last three starts.  I should say, the Canadiens allowed Price to get chased from the Montreal goal for the second time in his last three starts. Price was scored on five times last night on 33 shots.  CP31 finished last night’s game with a 6.74 GAA and a .848 SV%.

Biggest waste of money since Kevin Costner’s ‘Waterworld’, Scott Gomez finished up yet another pointless outing with a –1 and going 9-for-20 in the face-off circle.  Oh, and while we’re at it, he logged over 20 minutes in last night’s game, good enough for 5th on the Habs after Wiz, PK, Hamr and Gio.

Thank God the Habs are not trying to have a baby, ‘cause they’re shooting blanks.  The Habs have not scored a goal since last Sunday’s Minnesota game.  Since then, the Habs have gone just over 126 minutes without ripping the twine.

Habs Killer (literally), Lurch, I mean, Zdeno Chara, had three assists and logged just under 21 minutes last night.

Daddy’s boy, Gregory Campbell, notched 2 goals for his first multi-goal game since November 12th, 2008 when he was a member of the Florida Panthers.  He also fought Habs D-Man, Paul Mara, in the latter stages of the second period, without the use of a wrist guard.

Tim Thomas * cough * earned * cough * his eighth shutout of the season stopping all 24 shots he faced.  Credit goes out to the Bruins D-Core for forcing the Habs to shoot outside the perimeter, last night’s shutout goes to them.

There’s Always Tomorrow:

Habs return (limp) home to face the Caps at the Bell demain soir.  Washington is sans Alexander the GR8, Jason Arnott and Mike Green for their current tour of Eastern Canada.  JB.com predicts the Habs winning 1-0 in a shootout.

Have a wonderful weekend folks.  Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

-Laters

*Note:  Dear fellow readers, I am not a heroin addict, but I play one on TV. ;)

I like Smoking Lightning; Heavy Metal Thunder in NYC: Habs Friday Edition

Well, you know what day it is:

(Warning: Strong Language and Drug Use)

Just when you thought the Habs were done like the proverbial Sunday dinner, they escaped last night’s game at the Bell Centre with the deuce in the bank account.  The Tampa Bay Lightning, still in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, salvaged the lone point following the Shootout loss.  Both teams have suffered injuries to some key players over the last while.  The Lightning, without Ryan Malone and Steve Downie, two key contributors the Lightning’s successes in the first frame of the 2010-11 are still on the mend

The Habs, obviously without Pacioretty, Plekanec and Halpern up front and sans Gill and Sopel who joined Markov, Gorges and Spacek in a bid to resurrect Motown Records and form the second coming of The Temptations 2.0 They will tour various arenas across North America soon!

Jokes aside, the rashes of injuries sustained by both teams are clearly having an impact on both teams ascension in the standings.  The Captials seem to be doing just fine without Backstrom and Arnott up-front.  But the acquisition of both Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm have shored up the woes on the back-end, thus providing some balance for the team.

Kudos to teams like the Capitals and the Bruins for acquiring depth pieces for the long haul.  As the season winds down to a close, you can clearly see who’s healthy and who’s limping like a dog in Michael Vick’s backyard.  The Habs are clearly that mutt, but they’re still kicking, ready to fight for another day.

Last night was no different, as it was expected that the old dogs (Gomez, Gionta, Moen and Mr. 1300, Roman Hamrlik) would pick up the slack for their fallen teammates.  Aside from the captain and Mr. 1300, it was the young pups, Lars Eller and David Desharnais, who played up to their coach’s standards.

Lars Eller was a stud all over the ice, the numbers might not show it, but as many Habs scribes have pointed out, Lars played just under 19 minutes to set a career high and went 5-for-10 in the face-off circle.

The DD assisted on Andrei Kostitsyn’s second period goal, extending AK 46’s home point streak to five games (three goals, three assists in that span).  Desharnais finished the game plus-1 and played just over 18 minutes last night.

Following every game, after every save, Carey Price’s argument for the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player gets stronger and stronger.  Price, once again, had another stellar outing, stopping 35-of-37 shots and 3-out-of-4 shootout attempts to preserve the victory.  The cool, calm and collected Price improved his GAA (2.31) and SV% (.924) and ranks 1st in wins for a goaltender this year (34).

Price has been the shining light for the Canadiens all season long.  With lingering injuries and some inconsistent play by certain top-tier * cough * * cough * players (well, I shouldn’t say ‘inconsistent’ if you don’t score in 27, 28, 29 whatever games, well, you’re pretty consistent at being bad in my book) and stupid, selfish, irresponsible penalties by a former 4th overall selection, it’s no wonder Price is being heralded as the neighbourhood hero after saving the bacon.

The Habs travel to the Big Apple ce soir to take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.  The Rangers are holding on to the 7th spot in the East with 78 points.  With a win over the Habs tonight, the Rangers will be five points away from 6th.

The Habs, 3-0-0 this season against the Rangers will meet their original 6 rival for the last time this regular season.  The Rangers, coming off a 6-2 win over cross-town rival, New York Islanders on Tuesday are looking for their 3rd straight win.  Henrik Lundqvist looks like the clear-cut starter tonight.  It’s unknown whether Carey Price will get the nod; Price has started in the last eight consecutive games for the bleu, blanc et rouge.

Happy Weekend folks!  Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @JohnnyBertolo

Drinking, Debauchery and a Damn Fine Hockey Game: Habs/Lightning Preview

Happy Greatest-Day-in-the-World-Ever, or as the Irish would call it, St. Patrick’s Day!  An annual tradition across the globe, the great city of Montreal, more times than not, will indubitably pull out all the stops this weekend.  Irishmen (and women), Montreal citizens and local drunks will freely stumble through downtown Montreal this weekend chanting, dancing and a few other –ing’s not suitable for this post.  It has been announced that the population will double in drunks-per-capita every hour until Sunday Night, so you may want to leave your car at home.

In keeping up with St. Patty’s Day tradition in Montreal; there is no better way to kick-off the festivities than with a hockey game tonight at the Bell Centre.  Hopefully the Montreal faithful will not be coerced into the re-enactment of the ‘Richard Riot’, it’s been 56 years since then NHL President, Clarence Campbell (no relation to the current NHL VP of Operations, Colin Campbell) arrogantly attended the Montreal/Detroit game at the Forum following the Maurice Richard season and playoff ending suspension.  Campbell’s presence sparked anger and outrage at the Forum.  A riot ensued an the rest was as they say, ‘history’.

So get your green brew ready, put away that shillelagh for now and let’s get busy.

Habs vs. Lightning

Not your typical St. Patrick’s Day hockey match-up, but alas, a hockey match-up nonetheless.  The Lightning, 5th place in the Eastern Conference with 87 points are looking to avenge their 4-2 loss to the Canadiens two weeks ago.  The Habs, holding onto 6th place in the Conference with 83 points are looking to close the gap with the Lightning with a win tonight.

The Habs, coming off a disastrous 4-2 loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals Tuesday are looking to get back into the win column.  Montreal certainly gave goaltender Carey Price a workout, facing 41 shots against the Caps while surrendering four goals. Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern were lost due to lower-body injuries.  Both are listed as day-to-day.  With the rash of injuries plaguing the Habs, the team has summoned both Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj from the Hamilton Bulldogs, both are currently practicing with the Habs.

Joining Plekanec and Halpern with boo-boo’s and illnesses include:  Hal Gill (sick/flu like symptoms) Max Pacioretty (fractured vertebrae/concussion), Brent Sopel (broken hand/arm), Mathieu Darche (groin) Markov, Gorges, Spacek (lower-body) and the list goes on.

Digits

Tonight will mark the 1300th career NHL game for Montreal Canadiens defenceman, Roman Hamrlik.  Hamr’ is second behind fellow Czech countryman, Bobby Holik (1314 NHL games), for most NHL games played by a Czech-Republican and joins 48 other esteemed players in that category.  To make the evening apropos, Hamr’s will face the team that selected him 1st overall in the 1992 NHL entry draft

The Habs PP could seriously use a shot of green beer; in the last three games the Habs have gone 0-for-8 on the man advantage but managed two power play goals against the Lightning in their last meeting.

For the Lightning, fellow Quebecois and Tampa captain, Vincent Lecavalier, is looking to score in his third straight game.  The Ile-Bizard native has enjoyed playing against his former childhood team.  In 46 career regular season games, Lecavalier has scored 15 goals and added 22 assists.

This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this season with the Lightning holding the edge with two wins and only one loss.  Carey Price and Dwayne Roloson will likely start for their respective teams.  Start time is 7:30 PM

Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo and once again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Be safe folks.

Monster (non-Truculent) Rally; Protest Success, Habs & Other News

First Off:

Well, that was a rough 24 hours. The powers that be at WordPress accused yours truly of breaking WordPress’ ‘Terms of Service’ agreement.  After filing through every detail with a fine toothcomb and after many phone calls with my crack team of super geniuses (or genii, whatever the plural is) the issue has been resolved.  WordPress sent this message to me early this morning:

“Hi,

Our apologies. The system should not have done that.

We have removed the warning in your dashboard and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.  “

Beautiful, now back to business…

The Rally

A few hundred-hockey fans, mostly from Montreal, attended a rally to protest excessive and unnecessary shots to the head and support player safety.  The protest took place outside the Bell Centre, at Centennial Plaza, right before the Montreal/Washington game.

One of the rally organizers, Alex Gatti, arrived at Centennial Plaza equipped with protest signs, petitions and a donation bucket to aid Japan in the relief effort following last Sunday’s tragic event.  Gatti, a native Montrealer and a big hockey fan, got the ball rolling shortly after the ‘Incident’.  He used social media (facebook) to organize the event and within 36-hours had amassed a following in the thousands.  Gatti felt the rally would send a strong message to the NHL.

“This is about player safety, the game has changed so much, the last thing I want to see is someone dying on the ice.” said Gatti, as he was fielding questions from reporters, “We want to sign these petitions and send them directly to the commissioner’s office.”

The petition, signed by everyone who attended, highlighted some of the recent issues that have boiled over since last week’s incident involving Max Pacioretty/Zdeno Chara, provided some rule change suggestions and a paragraph voicing their collective concerns.

The most refreshing site at the rally was witnessing 30-or-so young families in attendance.  Parents, who truly care for the game of hockey and the safety of others, were setting the right example by bringing their next of kin to the event.

Things got a little boisterous when a few ‘Chara Sucks’ and ‘Bettman Sucks’ chants could be heard around Centennial Plaza, but most of the people who attended were focused on the matter at hand.

At approximately 7:00PM, the crowd dispersed, the event had wrapped up and Alex Gatti was closing-up shop.  He characterized the event as a success.

“It was a peaceful protest, no issues whatsoever, I think we got the message across” said Gatti, “we have over 1000 signatures, this is good.”

Alas, no fire and brimstone to report, many news outlets attended the rally but were mostly there to see a re-enactment of last year’s riots.  They got that from the anti-brutality protest on St. Denis St. between Marie Anne St. and Mount Royal Ave. where 258 arrests were made.

The organizers deserve a round of applause, too bad CNN, FOX news, and others were not present at the rally, they only cover hockey matters when the city’s about to burst into flames.  I guess Bad news travels faster, oh well.

The Game

You all saw it, the Caps are hot, the Habs are on the mend.  Plekky’s out, Halpern looks out, Pacioretty’s definitely out, Markov, Gorges, Spacek and maybe Wiz are out!

4-2 final score

Carey Price will have to summon the goaltending Gods if he hopes to make a dent in this year’s playoffs.  Carey Price made 37 saves last night.  The Habs surrendering 41-shots to an offensive dynamo like the Capitals will not provide positive results.

Here are some highlights (if you can stomach it):

Yup, pretty crusty.  Habs play the Lightning tomorrow night at the Bell.  Full preview on JB.com tomorrow.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

Laters

All Eyes on Montreal: Habs/Caps/Rally Preview

It’s back to the task at hand, the Montreal Canadiens, currently sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 83 points will host the Southeast leading Washington Capitals tonight at the Bell Centre.  This will be the first Montreal home game since last Tuesday’s infamous ‘incident’ involving Max Pacioretty and Lurch, I mean Zdeno Chara.

Tonight’s foes, the Washington Capitals, currently second place in the Eastern Conference with 90 points, are a stone’s throw away from first place Philadelphia (91 points with two games in-hand) in the Conference.  Looking to make it nine straight victories, a Capitals win coupled with a Flyers loss to the Florida Panthers tonight would propel Ovechkin and the Caps to top spot in the East.

The Habs, winners of their last two home games dating back to February 26th against the Carolina Hurricanes, will make a bittersweet return to the Bell Centre tonight.  As important as this game is to both the Canadiens and the Capitals, the real event’s taking place outside the Bell Centre, at Centennial Plaza (go to the bottom of the post).

Digits:

Carey Price, who’s looking to make some space on his trophy mantle, is a 99.99998% lock to start tonight’s game.  Price is boasting a 33-22-6 record with a.924 SV% and 2.29 GAA and 8 shutouts.  His 33 wins are good enough for the league lead and his 8 shutouts are second to New York Rangers netminder, Henrik Lundqvist.  CP is looking for career win #94 tonight

Prior to last week’s road swing in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Andrei Kostitsyn was enjoying a seven game point streak.  AK 46 has been blanked in the two last road games, but there is a silver lining for the Belorussian.  AK’s looking to make it four straight games that he registers at least a point at the Bell Centre.

Tomas Plekanec is looking to extend a home point streak of his own.  Plekky is currently enjoying a four game point streak at the Phone Booth and has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his last eight games.  The Centre out of Kladno, Czechoslovakia has averaged just under a point a game against the Capitals lifetime.  In 22 games regulkar season games against the Caps, Plekky has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) woth a plus-6 rating.

Alexander the GR8 has found his form and that does not bode well for the Habs.  In his last 14 games, Ovechkin has registered 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) and has registered at least one point in his last 7 road games.  Ovechkin loves the bright lights of Montreal and especially loves to play against the bleu, blanc, et rouge.  In 22 games against the Habs, the Caps captain’s accumulated 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists).

The big question is, who will start in goal for the Capitals?  Capitals rookie netminder, Braden Holtby, thrust into a starting role after a string of injuries to incumbent goaltenders, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, went 4-0-0 last week and claimed NHL First Star honours.  The 2008 4th round selection for Capitals had a 1.05 GAA and .965 SV% and 1 shutout in that span.  Reports indicate that Michal Neuvirth is ready to go, after leaving a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning because small pieces of metal broke off from his mask and became embedded in his eye.  It looks as if Capitals head coach, Bruce Boudreau, will make his decision right before tonight’s game.

Etcetera

This is the third meeting between these two teams with the season series currently tied at one apiece. The last time these two teams locked horns was back on February the 1st in Washington.  That game witnessed the Canadiens defeating the Capitals 3-2 in a shootout.  Habs captain, Brian Gionta scored the winning shootout goal.  These two teams will meet for the fourth and final time this season on Saturday, March 26th in Montreal.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:00PM, check your local listings.

PostScript

Before tonight’s Habs/Caps game, a rally to protest excessive violence in hockey, vicious/unnecessary shots to the head and support player safety will commence at 5PM at Centennial Plaza.  The peaceful rally is aimed at bringing attention to a very hot-button issue that has been thrust into the limelight following last week’s ‘incident’ in Montreal.  As mentioned numerous times before, the rally is not a protest against the Boston Bruins or Zdeno Chara.  It’s a rally against the type of vicious hits resulting in unnecessary injuries and the NHL clearly showing its downfall in dealing with this matter properly.

Please represent the city of Montreal with class; I would like to write about the successes of Tuesday night’s rally and how it brought us one step closer in resolving this growing epidemic infecting the game of hockey.  Be safe.

This rally is for Max Pacioretty and Marc Savard.  For Patrice Bergeron and David Booth.  For Sidney Crosby and Steve Moore and the scores of other players currently suffering from the after effects because too many people have been saying for far too long, “It is, what it is”.

Go Hockey Go

NOTE: I WILL BE AT THE RALLY, PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @JOHNNYBERTOLO

 

 

 

 

Old School Approach to a Fresh Issue; Hockey Fans Unite: Habs & Other News

It’s been a few days since I wrote my last article, so please bear with me as I attempt to sift through the madness that is before explaining (and jumping into) the madness that is yet to come.

The Game:

In a rather boring Saturday matinée, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Crosby and Malkin-less Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 at the Consol Energy Center.

Carey Price stopped all 26 Pittsburgh Penguins shots to earn his eighth shutout of the season, good enough for second in the league behind New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist (9 SO).

The Habs received goals from: Tomas Plekanec (21st, assisted by M. Cammalleri), who scored on a backhand after a miffed Marc Andre Fleury poke check, Travis Moen (4th, assisted by Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez) and Mike Cammalleri (16th, assisted by Jeff Halpern) providing Habs fans with a much needed…

Upon returning home to Montreal Saturday afternoon, the Canadiens received some much needed R&R.  The Habs had Sunday off and returned to work on Monday for practice.  It’s been an emotional roller coaster for the Habs in the last six days as they witnessed “the incident’, locked horns with former friends-turned-foes in Jaro Halak and Matt D’Agostini; finally avenging the loss of their comrade and Thursday’s game with an impressive afternoon road victory.

The Incident

Let’s be frank, last week’s events left the hockey world shaken, no question about that.  What separated this incident from any other that preceded it, is that in this instance, the incident simply will not be forgotten.  Maybe it takes a near death experience in one the sport’s ‘hotbeds’  to spark some change in a game where vigilantism seems to have superseded respect for thy fellow competitor and the scores of preventable concussions, head and neck related injuries becoming an epidemic.  But the events and discussions, which have followed, have hindered any sort of advancement on the issue and it seems, once again, the league is treading tires.

If the League Won’t do Anything…

Many Montreal Canadiens fans and others have taken to Twitter and other forms of social media to gripe alongside those who share their core values on the subject and challenge anyone who is simply brushing off the incident as ‘part of the game’, or ‘a hockey play gone awry’.

To clearly define what’s transpired since last Tuesday’s events, the event can be characterized as such:  1) A Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty rivalry within a Montreal/Boston rivalry perpetuated by the latter during an overtime celebration gone over-the-top back in January.

2) The incident itself, which came under heavy fire as it took place in one of the biggest hockey markets in the world.  With the lack of a suspension provided, the event turned into a ‘Montreal vs. The Hockey World’ issue.  Investigations were opened, sponsors threatened pull outs and the NHL chose to stand by their decision when it seemed like the Roman Empire was on fire.

3) The continued barrage of excuses from certain broadcasters at the (alleged) behest of some of the high ranking NHL board members who feed them their ‘scoops’ from some of the more ‘reputable’ sports TV and Radio organizations across North America, taking time at their busy schedules to tell the Montreal hockey world, ‘The Stanchion did it’, or ‘The Architect that built the Bell Centre did it.”  No NHL, YOU did it.  You did it when you chose to do nothing when it came to Mike Richards on David Booth:

YOU did it when it came to Matt Cooke’s blatant disregard of Marc Savard’s health and career:

And YOU did it again when Chara broke Pacioretty’s neck last week:

So the professional hockey world mouthpieces, in a spin doctor-ish kind of way, took the incident, flipped-it and made Pacioretty, the Habs and their fans look like guilty culprits.  Pacioretty, for (allegedly) leaving his feet at the time of the hit followed with the age old, draconian, “he should have known where he was” excuse.  The Habs and their fans for obviously caring toooooooooo much about their team and the all-around safety of the NHL players after witnessing a near fatality at centre ice.  The fact that any and all attempts to start a proper dialogue about player safety (this is still the issue, right?) is quickly brushed aside with ‘oh, it’s Montreal and they care about their hockey a little toooooooooo much’ and ‘ aren’t they the same fans who torched the city numerous times following 1st round victories in the playoffs?”

First of all, if hockey fans in Montreal didn’t care about the game of hockey a little toooooooooo much, there wouldn’t even be an NHL to piss on.  Yes, the Pacioretty incident magnified the situation, especially when others outside of Montreal cried fowl over the Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard both sustaining concussions because it was ‘part of the game’.  The hockey fans in Montreal who happened to catch those games live were just as incensed as the Penguins or Bruins fan who witnessed one of their own go down after a vicious ‘part of the game’ hit.  The reason the Chara/Pacioretty incident is getting so much press is because MORE PEOPLE WERE WATCHING…HELLO?!?!?

If the NHL didn’t piggy-back on the history and the glory of the Montreal Canadiens, the league would be scrambling for TV time against the United Football League and Curling.  That being said, it’s not that Montreal deserves any type of special treatment at the NHL level, but after being historically viewed as the bastard cousin of Canada for the last 300-or-so years and recently witnessing a grave injustice without anyone being held accountable whilst being cleaned-up like a mob hit on the  ‘The Sopranos’ you can understand where the frustration is stemming from, right?

Second, really, that’s your big comeback?  Bringing up a stupid event ad nauseum to back-up your argument whenever it seems fit.  This is grossly unfair that an entire city must bear the brunt of the whip for a select few bad apples that obviously used the Canadiens successes to further their own personal gain.

Silver Lining…

As I had mentioned many times on Twitter, ‘If everyone’s so righteous, why don’t we do something about it?” and it seems many are doing the same.  Fans have suggested the boycotting of games, refusal to buy NHL merchandise and so forth.  The suggestion that has picked up the most steam is a peaceful protest in front of the Bell Centre before Tuesday’s Montreal/Washington game.  The protest is aimed at bringing attention to severely violent hits to the head resulting in concussions and other injuries.

Granted, not everyone’s there to have a bonfire, puff on the peace pipe and sing ‘Kumbaya’.  Just like in the NHL, there are stupid people roaming the streets of Montreal looking to cause mischief.  If you are reading this post and you are heading down to Tuesday’s game and you happen to witness something mischievous happening or about to happen, please notify the authorities.  The last thing the city of Montreal needs is to draw attention for all the wrong reasons.

Etcetera

All 30 NHL General Managers are in Boca Raton, Florida to discuss a myriad of issues in regards to the NHL and how they can make more money it better.  According to the very same esteemed broadcasters, the issue of concussions and vicious shots to the head is the first item up for discussion.  So after a dozen-or-so rounds of golf, comp’d meals, drinks and orgies involving Cuban pros doing ‘snow angels’ off of each other’s ‘mountainous peaks and valleys’ (allegedly), they will finally have an opportunity to skim over the documents.

Do you want me to tell you what they’re going to say?  I’m pretty sure you know the answer as well…

So after the 30 NHL GM’s work on their tan for the next few days, the people who pay for the GM’s sun tan lotion, the one’s who truly care about the sport and safety of its players will rally at the Bell Centre; taking an old-school approach to a very fresh issue.

Hope to see you all on Tuesday.  Please follow me on twitter @JohnnyBertolo and Go Hockey Go

Melancholy Montreal Lose to the Blues: 4-1 Final

Following 48-hours of anger, despair and worry for their fallen comrade, it was back to business for the Montreal Canadiens as they returned to action Thursday to face the St. Louis Blues and one –time Montreal mega-hero Jaroslav Halak.

Thursday’s meeting was the first time Halak locked horns with his former club, along with another former Montreal Canadien, Matt D’Agostini.  The former Habs both enjoyed a splendid evening with their current club, exacting some revenge on the team who had cast them off a year ago.

St. Louis’ 4-1 victory over the emotionally depleted Montreal Canadiens extended the Blues winning streak to 3-games.  The team is still leaps and bounds behind in the Western Conference playoff race, sitting 13th place in the standings, nine-points behind 8th place Los Angeles.

The Canadiens opened the scoring on the power play at the 12:30 mark when Jeff Halpern redirected an Alexandre Picard pass from the point past Jaroslav Halak.  Halpern’s goal would prove to be the only one to get by Halak, as the Blues netminder shut the door the rest of the way; stopping 27-of-28 shots to preserve the victory.

A late first period goal by David Backes tied the game shortly thereafter.  Scott Gomez was removed from the face-off circle; Benoit Pouliot lost the draw to Andy McDonald cleanly.  Backes was in a perfect position and rifled a hard shot that stunned Carey Price. It was evident that the late goal suffocated Montreal’s momentum going into intermission.

The Canadiens looked lethargic the rest of the way.  Carey Price attempted to thwart every St. Louis attempt, but to no avail.  Goals by Andy McDonald (17th of the season), former Montreal Canadien, Matt D’Agostini (14th of the season) and TJ Oshie’s (8th goal) empty netter were too much for the Habs as they lost their first since February 24th versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Digits

Benoit Pouliot’s grand return to the top six was anything but as the former 2005 1st round draft selection finished the game –2 and found himself relegated to the fourth line for most of the third period.

Habs goaltender Carey Price finished the game with a .885 SV% stopping 23-of-26 shots.

The tandem of Eller and Kostitsyn could not continue their respective point streaks in consecutive games, finishing-up  –1 and –2 respectively.

Davis Desharnais’ 4-game point streak came to a close last night.  The native of Laurier-Station, Quebec played just under 10-minutes, registering one shot.

Next…

The Canadiens travel to Pittsburgh to face Alex Kovalev, James Neal and the rest of the Penguins for a Saturday matinee at the Consol Energy Center.  Start time is 2PM.  Full Montreal/Pittsburgh preview tomorrow.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

“BULLS%#T…Complete Utter Bulls%#t”: The Fallout

I don’t get it; I simply do not get it.  I guess if we live in a society where people like OJ Simpson can escape jail after ALLEGEDLY killing both his wife and her love interest, then anything’s possible, right?  You may or may not be thinking that my last comparison was a little too over the top, tell that to the guy who’s lying in a bed with a neck brace in a Montreal hospital, searching for justice.

Max Pacioretty is alive, that’s all that matters.

It was horrific enough to see his motionless body laid out on the Bell Centre ice, or finding out that his parents were both in attendance Tuesday night to witness this travesty.  But the NHL’s refusal to acknowledge the seriousness and the long-term trauma that could face Pacioretty is the greatest crime of all.

Max Pacioretty spoke out last night and didn’t hold back any punches.  He told TSN’s Bob McKenzie,

I am upset and disgusted that the league didn’t think enough of (the hit) to suspend him…I’m not mad for myself, I’m mad because if other players see a hit like that and think it’s okay, they won’t be suspended, then other players will get hurt like I got hurt.”

“It’s been an emotional day. I saw the video for the first time this morning. You see the hit, I’ve got a fractured vertebrae, I’m in hospital and I thought the league would do something, a little something.”

“I’m not talking a big number, I don’t know, one game, two games, three games…whatever, but something to show that it’s not right.”

The brain tanks at the NHL did it again.  NHL VP of Operations, Head Disciplinarian and Hockey Dad to his son Gregory (who plays for the, wait for it, the Boston Bruins) was exempt from the hearing due to conflict of interest.  So they get his minion, Mike Murphy, another VP of whatever, to step in and make the ruling.

After Campbell, Chara, Chiarelli made Murphy their ‘Lucky Pierre’, he finally renders a decision:

After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline.  This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly… with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards…I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous….This was a hockey play that resulted in an injury because of the player colliding with the stanchion and then the ice surface.  In reviewing this play, I also took into consideration that Chara has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident during his 13-year NHL career.”

So, if I understand the NHL correctly, you can put someone’s life at risk as long as you perform a proper hockey move without leaving your feet?  So unless someone gets proactive, an NHL player will eventually die, it’s just a matter of time.  The NFL got proactive, changed the rules DURING the season and handed out fines like Halloween candy.  Why you ask, because the NFL wants to protect its investment.  The young men, who make the catches, score the touchdowns and run 40 yards less than four-and-a-half seconds are what makes the league money.  The NFL wanted to protect its players while attempting to curb the scores of concussions, head and neck related injuries.  The NFL took a stand, why couldn’t the NHL?

Fallout

Following the NHL brass’ bukkake-fest all over its players and fans, the twitter-verse exploded.  Many fans took to social media and un-followed the @NHL on Twitter and dropped the NHL fan page on facebook.  Fans had suggested boycotting the next Montreal Canadiens’ next home game to protest the league’s ruling and send a clear message…not likely.  Most fans have shelled out some serious coin for this game; it’s simply not feasible.  One of my blog colleagues suggested that each of the 21, 273 fans in attendance wears paper bags with the #67 written on it for the next game.  This gesture would show solidarity and would simultaneously send a crystal clear message to the league that its prime market, its cash cow, is not pleased.  Do not bite the hand that feeds NHL.  Strength in numbers, folks.  Strength in numbers.

Air Canada announced that they will review their current advertisement agreement with the NHL following the incident, taking a stand that the NHL refused to take.  At the request of Montreal prosecutor, Louis Dionne, Montreal police will conduct a criminal investigation into the incident, a move supported by many Montrealers.

It’s been over 36 hours since Tuesday’s ugly incident and the Montreal Canadiens, its fans and especially the Pacioretty family have been victimized once more.

The Blowhards

Frankly, I’m getting sick and tired of the league apologists (fans and media folk alike) saying that this was an ‘unfortunate accident’ and there’s a thin line between ‘hurting someone’ and ‘injuring someone’ and ‘you can’t read Chara’s mind so we’ll never know the truth’…BULLSHIT.  Complete utter bullshit.  You don’t need to be a mind reader to know Chara was gunning after him.  How many former Norris Trophy winners do you know who have been in the league for over a decade simply allow a rookie to burn past him on the outside at centre ice?  Two things comes to mind in a situation like this:  This kid is really, really, really, good, or, Chara’s getting really, really, really old.  Both thoughts fully support Chara trying to remove Pacioretty from the play.  But with the history between these two players, the video evidence from three past games, the seething hatred between these two teams, a loud-mouth play-by-play analyst from NESN foreshadowing an attack on MaxPac two months prior to the incident and hours upon hours of mp3 recordings from Boston Bruins players seeking revenge on Pacioretty; there is enough evidence here to suggest that Chara wanted Pacioretty out.

I’m not saying Chara purposely intended to fracture Pacioretty’s vertebrae and put his career in jeopardy, but he did and thus should be held accountable.  To make matters worse, if Chara was indeed remorseful, what was the big rush to abscond to the back of the Bruins bus and refusal to initially speak to the media following his game-misconduct?

The culture and the vendetta-like mentality needs to change.  Following Tuesday’s incident, Montreal Canadiens forward Ryan White told the Globe and Mail that if the roles were reversed, he would certainly take the opportunity to smash Chara or any other Bruin into the partition of given the opportunity.

It’s images like Tuesday, the myriad of concussions, sound bytes like White’s that truly indicate there is a fundamental disconnect between the actual game and respect for your fellow competitor.  Someone’s going to die and the blood will be on the hands of those who were too scared, too intimidated and too stupid to do anything to change it.

This is a sad time to be a hockey fan.

Please Leave Comments and follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

Once Again, Stupidity Prevails: Habs / Bruins Breakdown

STATUS UPDATE (3:42 pm): According to the NHL and the VP  of Hockey Operations, Mike Murphy, the reasoning behind the ruling,

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline.  This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards,” continued Murphy. “I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.”

Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

 

Status Update (3:30pm) According to the Boston Bruins via Twitter: “@NHLBruins: The NHL has informed the Bruins that there will be no fine and no suspension for Chara.  The Montreal Canadiens at their fans will not pleased when they get word of this.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

STATUS UPDATE (2:30pm): According to Renaud Lavoie of RDS, “@renhockey Pacioretty: neck fracture-out 2 to 4 weeks only for that injury. He’s got a plastic cast around.”

According to Pacioretty’s agent, Alec Shall, via twitter, “@aschall21 Max sounds like himself. It is going to be a lot of work to heal and rehab, but his will power is one of his strengths.”

Remember, Pacioretty did suffer a concussion on the play.  He must be evaluated numerous times before he’s given the green light to return.  Stay updated Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

STATUS UPDATE (12:38pm): Max Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced fracture of his 4th cervical vertebrae.  The Montreal Canadiens will continue updating his condition.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo for further details.

———-

In the legendary words of one Jeremy Roenick, “NHL, wake the f$%k up”.

Last night’s Montreal/Boston tilt was supposed to be a celebration of the game.   Finally, skill and speed had once again trumped over thuggish goonery and intimidation.

The Montreal Canadiens had returned to respectable form following last month’s abortion of a game in Baaaston.  In the eyes of its fans, the Habs completely outworked, yes you heard me, OUTWORKED, their slower, braindead opponents to perfection and the B’s simply couldn’t handle it.

The Modern day Canandiens showed flashes of the 1970’s Habs against their longtime, bitter rival.  As much as the Bruins slashed, hooked, punched and cheated their way to an advantage, the Habs were equally up to the task, just simply executing better.

The Habs were not going to allow a sequel to the “Bedlam in Beantown” unravel on Bell Centre ice.  Even when jackass Johnny Boychuk was headhunting early on in the 1st period, it was Ryan White who stepped in and made Johnny Boy’s face look like Tom Pyatt’s following last month’s fight with Gregory Campbell (without the help of an elbow pad I might add).

From that point on, you knew the Habs weren’t f$%king around. After the Habs notched goal, after goal, after goal, after goal, the Canadiens and their fans were preparing themselves for a good old-fashioned Tuesday party in downtown Montreal.  The champagne was chilled; people couldn’t wait to talk about Lars Eller and his first two-goal night in the NHL, or Andrei Kostitsyn extending his point streak to seven games, or Gionta’s 24th, or Wiz’s Wizzer from the point.

Enter Lurch…

This 7-foot former butler from The Addams Family somehow lucked his big carcass into a contract with the Bruins after he was left for dead in Ottawa.  Under the guise of Claude Julien (who bears a striking resemblance to Hank’s neighbour, Bill Dauterive, from King of the Hill, thank you Habs blogger Kyle Roussel for the laugh), Chara has been transformed into one of the most dominant defenders in the game and simultaneously one of the worst dressers (even by Slovakian standards) on the planet.

Exhibit A

Ever since Max Pacioretty scored the overtime winner against Boston and shoved Chara following the goal to celebrate with his mates on January 8th, 2011 a huge target was automatically painted on the back of the PacMan.  The Bruins had focused their collective hatred for the Habs on #67 and viewed him as the next big threat in the MTL/BOS rivalry.

Exhibit B

During the clown show in Boston last February the 8th, Chara showed his pettiness by slashing Pacioretty on his calf and watched has he slowly skated back to the Montreal bench.  If this were Babylon in 1011 BC the 2nd Sealed Dynasty would throw the case out citing the classic argument, “An eye for an eye” or in this case, “A love-tap for a love-tap”.  Finito, finished, done, move on.

Exhibit C

If that’s not intent to injure, then the Quebec government is run by some of the smartest, most talented people roaming the Earth. Following the game, after Chara cowered to the back of the Bruins bus to escape the ever-glaring Montreal media eye, Lurch emerged and spewed forth his reasoning behind the hit “…very unfortunate when I pushed him that he leaned & jumped a little bit & just hit the glass extension”

Yeah and I’m pretty sure JFK assassinated himself using the magic bullet and an invisible gun.  What a crock of sh%t, he knew where Pacioretty was, he knew he was off-balance and vulnerable and the f$%ker shoved him anyway. The act was so premeditated, the NHL has three games worth of footage to cycle through before making an educated decision regarding Chara’s fate.

So now the Bruins and Chara play the waiting game as Lurch will sit down with another NHL VP clone, Mike Murphy, who will surely evaluate the hit on the after effects of Pacioretty rather than the intent to maliciously end the guy’s career.

Bravo NHL, Bra-F$%king-Vo! —

Digits…

Carey Price was brilliant, again, stopping 30-of-31 shots to preserve the win for le bleu, blanc et rouge.  Price improves his career record against the B’s to 13-3-2.

Lars Eller certainly had a better outing this time against the Bruins, scoring two goals and finishing the game plus-1.  Last time Eller played the B’s he was lined up with Gomez and finished the game -4.

Andrei Kostitsyn extended his point streak to seven games and has assisted in six straight.

James Wisniewski scored his 8th goal of the season with a blast from the point.

Captain Brian Gionta scored a rather easy goal on Tukka Rask following much confusion in the Boston crease.

—–

Tuukka Rask certainly had a night to forget.  Filling in for the injured Tim Thomas (Hand), Rask allowed four goals on 26 shots and finished the game with a .846 SV%.  Lifetime against the Habs, Rask is an unflattering 1-5-1.

Hab Killer Milan Lucic got the lone goal for the B’s late in the 3rd period.  In his last 9 games, Lucic has six goals and six assists and leads the B’s in the scoring category with 29 and tied for second on the team in points with 50.

Etcetera

Habs are back on the road, travelling to St. Louis to play last year’s Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak, on Thursday. We will have a full evaluation on Max Pacioretty’s condition and a MTL/STL preview tomorrow on JB.com Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo Please leave Comments. Laters!

710 Reasons To Watch: Habs/Bruins Preview

Are you ready?  The Montreal Canadiens and their fans have had four weeks to recover, reminisce and reload following last months drubbing at the hands of the long-time rival, Boston Bruins.

182 penalty minutes, scores of fights, trails of blood, no control, no sanity and simply no way out.  Last month’s Montreal Canadiens were clearly in over their head as they battled a Boston Bruins team undoubtedly looking to send a message, using their fists rather than their scoring touch.  Doubt can be sown in a game like that and the fear that is cultivated could very well unravel a team’s psyche down the stretch.

8-6 was the final score, if my memory serves me correctly.  Flash forward a month, the present-day Montreal Canadiens are carrying themselves with the right attitude as of late, feigning amnesia when questions arise pertaining to the last MTL/BOS meeting.

And rightfully so.  The Canadiens have much to be proud of lately, winners of four straight games, a successful showing on the road in the Southern US belt, securely in 6th place in the Eastern Conference standings with time to move up, and the solidification of Carey Price as one of the premier goaltenders in the league.

Yup, all the good and the bad will culminate ce soir at the Bell where the Habs and B’s will tangle in game number 710 in their illustrious history.  We shall certainly see if the February 9th, ‘Slapshot:  The Broadway Musical’ stage debut is a distant memory for le bleu, blanc et rouge, or if tonight’s game will reinforce some of the negative points made about team toughness and physicality.

Leading Down a Garden Path?

Jacques Martin may be receiving praise from some local writers who are currently out of favour with the Montreal populace, but we know we’re just a little wiser when it comes to praising the head coach.  JM’s system is still lacking in many areas, like, I don’t know, securing a lead without giving your fans pains in their chest on the regular, and having your star goalie bail you out more times than the patriarch of the Kennedy family?  I will credit Martin for this; JM’s Montreal Canadiens have started the previous four games with some fire, scoring seven 1st period goals in that span.  What perplexes yours truly is the Canadiens’ inability to display pressure throughout three consecutive 20-minute periods, the constant barrage of lazy penalties (holding, hooking, delay of game, too many men on the ice, etc.) taken in the latter stages of periods, and the laughable description of the team philosophy.  Martin has stated numerous times that the Canadiens are a puck-possession team who pride themselves on a strong defensive core and great goaltending.  Minus the goaltending part, under Martin’s guise, more times than not, they never have the puck and  the play is regularly in the Canadiens zone, as the D-Core and Price must continue to thwart over 30-shots a game on the regular.  *News Flash* Jacques, if you want great defence, wouldn’t a strong, accomplished offence capable of keeping the puck in the opposition’s zone, ultimately reducing the shots and scoring chances for the other team result in a more successful defence?  I don’t know, I just write, right?

Digits…

Speaking of stopping over 30 shots on the regular…Carey Price has been en fuego as of late, stopping 113-of-116 shots in his last three games and being named one of the NHL’s 3 Stars of the Week.  Despite his last outing versus the Bruins , during which he let up all eight goals on 34 shots, Price boats a very good record against his Northeast division counterpart.  In 17 career games against the B’s, Price has 12 wins, a 2.64 GAA with a .916 SV%.  If the Habs want to stay competitive against the Bruins, Price’s numbers tonight must mirror or surpass his career numbers.

The reincarnation of Paul Coffee, Hal Gill, will be looking to score in his third straight game.  The Habs’ newest sniper has opened the scoring in Montreal’s last two contests against Florida and Tampa respectively.  Gill has been credited with teaching PK Subban the professional ropes, I wonder if the elder Gill is learning some new tricks of his own from his young apprentice?

Andrei Kostitsyn’s currently on a six-game point streak with three goals and five assists in that span.  His linemate Yortuk, I mean George, I mean Lars Eller has provided Montreal’s 2003 1st round selection with some nifty set-ups and AK 46 has returned the favour.

Everyone’s favourite little guy, David Desharnais, is on a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist) and is certainly making the most of the limited time he’s received.

Finally, Max Pacioretty, product out of New Haven Connecticut, is giving Montreal fans a glimpse of what he will look like when he’s riding his prime.  MaxPac has breathed some life into the $8-million-dollar-per-year carcass known as Scott Gomez,  finding his groove alongside the Captain, Brian Gionta.  In his last three games, the Pac Man (TM pending) has three goals, one assist and his plus-five.  In three games against the Bruins this year, Pacioretty has notched four goals and added two assists.

The Killer B’s

Carey’s opposite, Tim Thomas, is another Eastern Conference goaltender enjoying a great season.  The Toolman is 29-8-7 this year with a 1.97 GAA and a .939 SV%.  But the Canadiens continue to be Thomas’ Kryptonite to his Superman, as the Bruins netminder has only nine career wins in 27 games with a staggering 3.16 GAA and .904 SV%.

Hab killer, Milan Lucic, continues to steamroll the competition with his stellar physical play, especially in front of the opposition’s goal.  Lucic has five goals and six assists in his last eight and was a tour de force against the Canadiens in their last outing, scoring two goals, an assist and finishing the game plus- five.

Prior to Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bruins were enjoying themselves a seven-game winning streak.  With the win or an overtime/shootout loss tonight, the Bruins will have attained points in nine straight games.

Etcetera…
Tonight’s game commences at 7:30 PM EST, as previously mentioned, this is historical meeting number 710 between these two esteemed institutions.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

Enjoy!

 

Cold as Pr-ice: Habs Ride the Lightning to Victory

The mobile, agile, hostile Carey Price was up to the task yet again stopping 43 of 45 shots en route to a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday.  The Habs wrapped up an impressive three-game road trip going undefeated in that span and surrendering only three goals.

The Canadiens are currently riding a four game winning streak and are undefeated in the month of March.  Last night’s victory was the Habs’ first over Tampa Bay this season.  The Canadiens sit securely in sixth place with a seven-point cushion over seventh place New York Rangers, and only one point back of fifth place Washington.  The Habs are certainly moving up the food chain.

The same can’t be said about the Southeast leading Lightning as they have dropped their third straight game and are only one point ahead of Southeast division rival Washington Capitals.  Key injuries to Steve Downie and Ryan Malone have certainly set this team back.  Maurice Richard Trophy leading candidate, Steven Stamkos, has only one goal in his last 11 games and with little time remaining, Guy Boucher and the rest of his Lightning team will have to figure something out before they lose home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Most if not all of the credit for last night’s triumph has to go to the Habs netminder, Carey Price.  The man who was anointed ‘King of the Island’ before he was fully prepared to sit on his throne, has definitely come into his own after a shaky start to his career, health issues and rumoured tales of lewd behaviour.

The 23-year old Price is having one of those “comeback, feel-good story of the year” seasons and it couldn’t have happened at a more important time.  Especially when this team truly needs him to be the “Thoroughbred” that Bob Gainey predicted.  The boos have ceased, the cheers are rolling in, and confidence has been restored in the Habs goal.

Hit List:

The Habs opened the scoring when (cue lights, camera annnnnnnnd ACTION)…

A View to a Gill 2

That’s right, the guy who hadn’t scored in over a year and a half is putting on his best Al Iafrate impersonation as of late, notching his second goal of the season, from the point, to open the scoring for the second-straight game. Alas, if he continues this scorching pace, one would think the power of negotiation would favour Gill when he becomes a UFA come July 1st.

The Double-D, the Little Engine that Could, the Road Warrior himself, David Desharnais, continues to rack up the points for Montreal, scoring his eighth goal of the season.  In twelve road games this season, Desharnais has six goals and four assists and has netted at least one point in his last four road games.  Desharnais’ goal was set-up by Andrei Kostitsyn for his 21st assist of the season and has now registered a point in six straight games.

Max Pacioretty is turning into the player the Canadiens have so tirelessly sought after for so many years, a skilled power forward.  Parking his big butt at the Tampa goal during Steven Stamkos’  hooking penalty midway through the second period and picking up the garbage goal brought a tear to Shayne Corson’s eye.  Now if MaxPac can do that every game for the next 20-or-so years,I think the Habs will be fine.

Oh yeah, he can shoot too…

Max Pac’s 2nd goal off of a Tampa turnover, assisted by Scott Gomez of all people, showed how lethal this kid’s going to be.  A perfect one-time snap-shot froze veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson and the Habs had their fourth and final goal.

After coasting through the rest of the third period, Carey Price came up with a huge poke-check on a wide-open Steven Stamkos during a 5-on-3 penalty kill, surrendered one final goal to Vincent Lecavalier a few minutes later and celebrated victory on St. Pete Times Forum ice after the horn rang out to signal the end of the game.

Wrapping up the best Spring Break ever, the Habs return home to some much needed (and deserved) R&R.  Practice tomorrow followed by a date with the B’s on Tuesday.

Leave comments and follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo.

Time to Grease the Lightning: Habs/Bolts Preview

The Montreal Canadiens are looking to wrap up the greatest Spring Break ever with a bonfire win over the Southeast-division leading TB Lightning ce soir.  As per usual, Saturday night’s start time is at 7:00 PM EST (8:30 PM CT).  Fresh off his seventh shutout of the season, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start in goal for le bleu, blanc et rouge.

Spring Break Memories for the family…

Hey Ma,

It’s Carey writing to you from sunny Florida.  I’m having fun; today I’m going to play the Lightning.  I don’t like them very much; the last time I played TB was back on December 30th, 2010.  We not only lost the game 4-1, but it was made official that we lost one of my BFF’s, Josh Gorges, for the remainder of the season with a  messed up MCL in his knee.

Oh well, I think I’m having more fun on this trip than my Christmas trip.  Mommy look, in my last two games, I’ve only allowed one goal, on 71 shots with a .988 SV% against Atlanta and Florida.  You can see my stats on my FB wall!

Got to run, PK’s trying to ‘antique’ me.

Love you!

Carey

Well wasn’t that sweet?  Back to the stats, Carey Price is winless versus the Lightning this year and in all truthfulness, hasn’t faired entirely well against Vinny and Co throughout his short career.  Price has a less-than-stellar 3-4-2 record against the Bolts lifetime.  Alas, there is a silver lining, Price has been off-the-charts amazing this year on Saturday’s, boasting a 11-2-1 record with a 1.56 GAA and 4 shutouts this season.  Yup, the kid was born to play for Montreal.  Saturday night’s all right indeed…

Brother Andrei and Helter Sk-Eller will look to be the X-Factors on offence once again.  AK is looking to make it six straight games that he registers at least one point and Lars Eller will be looking for him.  These two wild and crazy guys are starting to carve their own niche on this team.  A few weeks prior to this road trip it looked as if ‘George’ and ‘Yortuk’ would be bussed out-of town; one going to Hamilton, the other going to Parts Unknown.  Now that these guys are working like a tandem, there is nothing they can’t achieve together…

Jacques Martin, the bane of my existence, was quoted yesterday saying his team must approach this game as a playoff game.  Dummy, I wrote that yesterday.  If the playoffs would start today, the Habs would be playing… wait for it…wait for it, The Tamp Bay freaking Lightning!  Hello?!?!?!  Of course the Habs need to approach this game like a playoff game, THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONE MONTH AWAY!  And the last time I checked, the bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Toronto, Atlanta and even freaking New Jersey) can still make it.

Details, details…

Tampa Bay needs this win, bad.  The Bolts have dropped their last two games and are currently 3rd place in the Eastern standings after surrendering 2nd place to the Boston Bruins two days earlier.  A convincing win at home over a hot team like Montreal will definitely send a message throughout the ranks.  The NHL’s leading scorer (41 goals) and 2nd in total points (78 pts), Steven Stamkos will be looking to surpass Vancouver Canuck’s forward, Daniel Sedin, in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.

Tampa Bay will go with ‘Rollie the Goalie’, Dwayne Roloson, as its starting netminder tonight.  In 20 games with the Lightning this year, Roloson has a 12-7-2 record with 4 shutouts and a 2.63 GAA.  In 11 career games against the Canadiens, Rollie is 4-4-2 with 1 tie.

Spring Break concludes this evening for the Habs.  Montreal will return home and prepare for Tuesday’s tilt against…the Boston Bruins.

17 games remaining, check me…

A View to a Gill: Habs win 3rd straight

Happy Friday y’all, the sun’s shining, my coffee tastes awesome, the weather…still sucks but whatever, right?  Hal Gill scored a freaking goal!  It was his first goal since December 31st 2009 against the very same Florida Panthers, in the same arena.  Gill’s goal, 5 minutes into the 1st period, would prove to be the game-winner.  If that doesn’t give your team a jump, I don’t know what will?  I petition for Hal Gill to receive the Molson Cup for March simply on principle and because I’m tired of seeing that Carey guy get all the accolades, he he.

The Habs’ Alternate Captain notched his 1st goal of the season and would prove to be the game winner as the Canadiens thoroughly licked the Panthers clean with a 4-0 victory at the Bell centre, I mean, Maurice Richard Arena, I mean Bank Atlantic Centre, uh, more coffee please…

Back to the reigning Molson Cup winner…

Carey Price earned the shutout he should have received in Atlanta if it wasn’t for the Habs’ poor defensive play in the latter stages of Tuesday’s game.  The Price Man stopped all 24 shots he faced earning his seventh shutout of the season and improved his season record to 30-21-6 with a 2.34 GAA and .922 SV%.

Don’t want to point fingers but…

Suddenly, Andrei Kostitsyn is doing his best “I was selected in the 1st round” impersonation, notching yet another goal and assist last night stretching his point streak to five games.  AK’s rocket –slapper surely scorched Tomas Vokoun’s eyebrows as the veteran netminder was chased from the Panthers’ goal after allowing two goals on three shots.

Lars “Helter Sk-Eller” mirrored AK’s numbers last night, scoring a goal, an assist and being a beast in the face-off circle going 8-for-13.   The Little Engine that Could, David Desharnais, continues to be a nightmare for opposing home teams, a road warrior if you will.  Double-D scored probably the easiest goal of his career, giving the Habs a three goal lead.

(To sum up last night’s game, here is an old Looney Tunes cartoon entitled, “Three for Two”.  The Role of the Montreal Canadiens will be played by Chester the Dog, Sylvester the Cat will play the part of the Florida Panthers, and Spike the Dog is there too!)

The real test in this Southeast road trip will come Saturday night as the Habs square-off against the SE division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.  The Bolts are winless in the month of March dropping two back-to-back 2-1 losses to the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins respectively.   The Lightning are currently 3rd place in the Conference, switching spots with the Northeast division leading Boston Bruins following last night’s loss.

Saturday’s Montreal/Tampa Bay tilt may be a Stanley Cup playoff round 1 preview so you can clearly see the importance of the Habs’ next game, a measuring stick game if you will.  More info in tomorrow’s preview.

Etcetera…

…and because it’s Friday, here’s some Zakk Wylde and his band ‘Black Label Society’ to get your mojo working this weekend!

Thanks again folks.  New Habs blog will be posted tomorrow with a TB/MTL preview and much more weekend goodies.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo and please leave comments at the end of the post.

17 games remaining, check me…

Dropping a Deuce: Habs win 2nd in a row

A mere 24 hours following Monday’s mild trade deadline “frenzy”, the Montreal Canadiens rewarded upper management by defeating the A-Town Thrashers 3-1 Tuesday Night in front of a super-packed, electrically charged, Phillips Arena crowd…Ha, almost fooled you, there were probably more people at your son’s Pee-Wee hockey game, or your wife’s basket-weaving class than at last night’s contest.  There is only one thing that comes to mind when you see more people lining up for a Swine Flu vaccination versus a hockey game…relocation.  The Quebec Thrashers, or as Pierre Houde would say, Les TRASHers de Quebec. Has a ring to it, huh?

Back to the game…

Carey Price looked brilliant once again, stopping 40-of-41 shots, garnering 1st Star honours.  If it weren’t for a gruesome turnover in the Montreal zone with less than 6 minutes remaining which led to Atlanta’s only goal via Nik Antropov, Price would be celebrating is 7th shutout of the season.

 

The Thrashers nearly doubled Montreal’s shot total, 41 to Montreal’s 23.  Price had to be extra sharp as once again, the Habs continue to have problems both possessing the puck and clearing the defensive zone during the latter stages of most games.  Carey Price continues to put on his best bondsman impersonation; constantly bailing-out is team on the regular.  Hey Dog, I think you have some competition brewing?

Montreal received its share of goals by Max Pacioretty, The Almighty Wiz, James Wisniewski and the Captain, Brion Gionta with an empty-netter to seal the deal.

The Canadiens’ spring break vacation continues as they travel to Sunrise, Florida to face the Panthers on Thursday.  Weather in Sunrise, Florida for tomorrow:  Partly cloudy with a high of 78°F (26°C).  While the Habs work on their tan today, they have a chance to further their standing in the Eastern Conference come tomorrow.

(The role of Brett Festerling is played by Meg, what the heck, the role of Drew MacIntyre is played by the Mexican Janitor)

The Habs have maintained their 6th place standing in the East with 5th place Washington only 3-points ahead and 4th place Pittsburgh 5-points ahead.  Tuesday’s win further distanced the Canadiens from 9th place Buffalo (8 points back).

Saturday, the Habs round out their Southeast road trip as they face the Canadiens-south, also known as the Southeast leading, Tampa Bay Lightning.

18 games remaining, check me…

Post-Trade Deadline (Accueillons nos Canadiens) Habs/Thrash Preview

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2011 Montreal Canadiens.  I could have easily said that on Thursday, but hey, I enjoy being patient from time-to-time as well.  Other than a minor league deal involving the acquisition of goaltender Drew MacIntyre from the Atlanta Thrashers for defenceman Brett Festerling (the guy who was traded for Maxime Lapierre), the Habs stood pat.

Ironic that the only move Pierre Gauthier made during yesterday’s Trade Deadline involved the team the Habs are playing tonight.  I wondered on my Twitter feed after the trade was announced whether Gauthier actually called Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, or simply threw a rock down the hall of Phillips Arena with a trade proposal tied to it?

Listen Habs fans, I understand you might be fuming at the sight of seeing Dustin Penner riding off to smoggy La-La-Land or Jason Arnott standing side-by-side with the Washington Monument, I really do.  But seriously, what could the Habs do?

A team with all the drama, all the problems, maligned by injury and an unstable fan base is still afloat the Eastern Conference standings: Still in 6th place, if my memory serves me correctly. 19 games remaining with a plethora of opportunities to gain some traction before the real season commences in mid-April.

Let’s be serious for a second.  When you first saw the fake Nick Kypreos account deliver this trade update via Twitter: “Penner to Habs for Tinordi and a 1st”, followed by the rest of the mainstream media running with this fake news item like a thief in the night (ESPN/CBC hockey analyst, Pierre Lebrun for one), you pooped your pants a little, right?

You gasped, felt slighted as if you were robbed?   Am I right?!?!?!  Your first reaction was “the Habs got hosed; they gave up too much”, blah, blah, blah.

Then the real trade surfaced, the Los Angeles Kings snagged Penner from the Edmonton Oilers, sending prospect defenceman Colten Teubert, a 1st round pick and a conditional pick for the big guy. You won’t admit it, but you saluted Pierre Gauthier for not shelving out Tinordi, Weber or Subban and an array of picks to acquire this player.

Honestly, was Dustin Penner, or Jason Arnott for that matter, really to be the Saviour of the 2011 season for the Habs? Was one of them the Rosetta Stone, the missing link that would propel the Habs to their 25th Stanley Cup this season?  I don’t think so.  Neither did Pierre Gauthier, who clearly estimated that they weren’t worth the risk.

So here we are, on the first day of March, the Canadiens setting up to play game #64 against the Atlanta Thrashers – Brent Sopel, Nigel Dawes and Drew MacIntyre’s former team, at Phillips Arena tonight.

The Habs, coming off a rather exciting win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, are looking to make it two wins in a row for the first time since the beginning of February.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (28-21-6), who was absent with the flu during Montreal’s win on Saturday, will certainly start tonight barring any further bouts with illness or injury.  Price’s counterpart, Chris Mason (8-8-3), is expected to start in place of the injured Ondrej Pavelec, who is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

The Thrashers are tied in 10th place, 4-points back of 8th place Carolina in the conference.  Tonight’s game will be the third-of-four meetings between these two teams this season.  The Habs have yet to defeat Atlanta this season, losing 3-0 back in November and dropping their first game of 2011 calendar, 4-3 F/OT at the Bell Centre back on January 2nd.

19 games and counting, check me…

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: NHL Trade Deadline

Get ready to call in sick from work or school and cuddle-up next to your 51’ HDTV screen; the NHL Trade Deadline is literally right around the corner, mere hours away from Monday’s 3:00 P.M. EST deadline.

Over the last few years, the National Hockey League, along with many media outlets (mostly Canadian, what am I saying, ‘mostly’, ha ha) have taken the last day of roster transactions and turned it into a daylong, media frenzy event chopped full of analysis, predictions, interviews and trade breakdowns as early as 8:00 A.M.  A perfect recipe for any hockey-crazed fanatic!

For all of you pseudo general managers out there, tapped into the Twitter-verse, trying to dissect every minute thought detail from your team’s GM, well then, you’re in for a treat; because this year’s trade deadline is shaping up to be better than 10 EA Sports NHL-whatevers (I don’t want to overshoot it, just playing it safe).

For those of you on the other side of the spectrum, I can sense your scepticism…

Since February the 9th, there have been 18 trades involving 49 players, 19 draft picks and 2 future considerations.  Some notable trades include:

February 9th, 2011:  Anaheim Ducks acquire D Francois Beauchemain from the Toronto Maple Leafs for RW Joffrey Lupul and D Jake Gardiner.

February 14th, 2011:  Philadelphia Flyers acquire RW Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2011 1st and 3rd round draft picks.

February 18th, 2011:  Boston Bruins acquire C Rich Peverley and D Boris Valabik from the Atlanta Thrashers for C Blake Wheeler and D Brad Stuart.

February 18th, 2011:  Boston Bruins acquire D Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2011 1st round draft pick, a conditional 2012 2nd round draft pick and C Joe Colborne.

February 19th, 2011:  St. Louis Blues acquire F Chris Stewart, D Kevin Shattenkirk and a 2011 or 2012 2nd round draft pick from the Colorado Avalanche for D Erik Johnson, F Jay McClement and 2011 or 2012 1st round draft pick.

February 21st, 2011:  Pittsburgh Penguins acquire LW James Neal and D Matt Niskanen from the Dallas Stars for D Alex Goligoski.

February 24th, 2011:  Pittsburgh Penguins acquire F Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a Conditional 7th round draft pick.

February 24th, 2011:  Montreal Canadiens acquire D Brent Sopel and F Nigel Dawes from the Atlanta Thrashers for C Ben Maxwell and a 2011 4th round draft pick.

February 26th, 2011:  The New York Rangers acquired D Bryan McCabe from the Florida Panthers for F Tim Kennedy and a 2011 3rd round draft pick.

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have grabbed the bulk of the headlines leading into Monday’s 3:00 P.M. trade deadline.  According to Maple Leafs general manager, Brian Burke, Toronto’s far from finished with the wheelings-and-dealings.  Burke indicated last week following the Kaberle trade to Boston, that the team might have to part ways with breakout stud and team points leader, Clarke MacArthur, if a new deal is not signed before Monday’s deadline.  The recently married MacArthur is looking for a hefty pay raise from the $1.1 million dollars he’s making this year to something around the vicinity of a $2.8 million dollar per year, 3 year contract.

The Maple Leafs GM has also admitted that the team may be looking for a top-5 defenceman.  Colorado Avalanche D John-Michael Liles name has surfaced.  Liles automatically became expendable following the Avalanche’s recent acquisition of D Erik Johnson from the St. Louis Blues.

Other players generating interest:

C Brad Richards, Dallas Stars

Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk has openly admitted to exploring interest for centre Brad Richards. Richards, who will become a free agent on July 1st, is currently dealing with concussion symptoms since mid-February and is slated to resume skating in the near future.  This puts GM Joe Nieuwendyk in a serious bind.  He would like to keep Richards in the Stars’ system, but with ownership uncertainty and now with Richards’ health issues, it may be difficult to move the 30 year-old native of Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island.   This year, Richards is the team leader in points (63) and second in goals (24).  He won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Playoff MVP that year.  The New York Rangers are one of the many teams still interested in Richards.

D Chris Philips, Ottawa Senators

One of Ottawa’s last remaining superstars from their improbable playoff run of 2007 may be out the door in the next few hours, if he waives his no-trade clause.  Chris Phillips has confirmed multiple times that he wants to remain an Ottawa Senator and aide in the Senators’ rebuilding process.  After the Montreal Canadiens acquired Brent Sopel via trade with Atlanta Thursday, GM Bryan Murray opened contract discussions with his veteran defenceman, essentially confirming reports that the Habs were courting Phillips. It may be slim pickings for Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, if Phillips balks and Murray’s recent contract proposal.  First he must coerce Phillips into waving his no-trade clause to green light a trade to a team of his choosing.  Second, Murray has the unenviable task of selling the 13-year NHL veteran, whose statistical numbers have taken a huge fall this year (1 goal, 4 assists and –25), to a GM willing to take the chance on him.

(*UPDATE* 12:50 pm.  According to Renaud Lavoie of RDS via twitter (@renhockey): ” #canadiens ne sont plus dans la course pour Chris Phillips. Filip Kuba et Chris Campoli sont sur le marché et pourraient quitter Ottawa.” En: “#habs are out of the chase for Chris Phillips. #senators wants to trade Filip Kuba and Chris Campoli before 3pm Monday.)

*Note: other rumoured Ottawa Senators landing in new area codes by Monday include F Chris Neil (3 goals 157 PIM). Neil is currently nursing a lower body injury and is listed as day-to-day. C Jason Spezza (12 goals, 20 assists)

G Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers

The Panthers have already started dumping salary, sending D Bryan McCabe packing for New York and trading Cory Stillman to the Hurricanes on Friday. The 34 year-old native of the Czech Republic, Vokoun, is set to become a UFA this summer and has generated some interest from teams looking for goaltender depth on the eve of the playoffs.  Vokoun’s expiring contract comes in at a very affordable cap-hit of $1.5 million dollars for the remainder of the year.  The Philadelphia Flyers are highly rumoured to make a play for Vokoun.  The Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche are also in the mix.*Note: other rumoured Florida Panthers on the move include C Stephen Weiss (16 goals, 24 assists, -10).

F Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers

Oilers power forward Dustin Penner, a 2007 Stanley Cup champion with the Anaheim Ducks, has generated all sorts of interest following this month’s flurry of trades.  Teams looking for much needed size and grit may look no further than Penner.  The 6’4 Winkler, Manitoba native might be packing in order to make way for the youth movement in Edmonton.  The 28 year-old has netted 21 goals and 19 assists for an –13 rating.  Albeit, the Edmonton Oilers are statistically the worst team in the league as of this date, with many unproven, raw rookies currently occupying roster spots on the team.  A fresh start in a new area code is what Penner needs.  The Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens are some of the teams rumoured in the mix to land Penner by Monday’s deadline.

F Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers

Another big name Oiler may find a new home in less than 24 hours. Many teams have their eye on the 27 year-old Hemsky if Brad Richards is out of play.  The Los Angeles Kings are heavy front-runners to land Hemsky. The Oilers have let it be known that Hemsky will cost them C Brayden Schenn and maybe a little extra.  The Phoenix Coyotes are the dark horse team in this scenario.  Whispers out of Arizona would suggest C Kyle Turris going to Alberta in exchange for Hemsky.

There are a plethora of many talented players currently rumoured in the trade deadline frenzy forums such as Florida Panthers Forward David Booth.  Utility players like Atlanta Thrashers F Anthony Stewart, Los Angeles Kings F Wayne Simmonds, and New Jersey Devils F Jason Arnott.  As well as Los Angeles Kings G Jonathan Bernier, will generate a lot of interest for teams looking for specialty depth, sandpaper/grit/toughness/intestinal fortitude, or depth in the crease.

So many players, so very few hours remain.  Hopefully, hockey fans around North America are warming up their TV’s, chilling their spirited beverages and already making plans to call the boss and/or principal.  This year’s trade deadline is expected to be a treat and will require your undivided attention.

1 day until trade deadline, check me…

A Whale of a Game: Habs vs ‘Canes Preview

It’s a classic Adams division match-up tonight, as the Montreal Canadiens will host the former Hartford Whalers, the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell.

Ahhhh, I love that clip!

The Canadiens, losers in 7 of their last 9 games, will be looking to maintain their 6th place standing in the East, try to stymie any playoff hopes for Carolina in the process whilst attempting to aid Libya in their Fight for Their Right to PAAAAAAAARTYYYY!!!

(Hey, it’s Saturday, put a smile on your face!)

The Bad News:  The Hurricanes, 4-1 winners last night against the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins are now 4-points back of the Canadiens in the East.  Carolina has had their share of woes in the month of February.  They are 4-5-3 this month, good enough for 8th place in the Conference, with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs (3-points/2 games in hand, 6-points/1 game in hand respectively) breathing down their neck.

The Good News:  ‘Canes Team Captain, drunk and disorderly suspect and the guy who shelved Andrei Markov for the rest of the season (accidently), Eric Staal, left last night’s CAR/PIT with an ‘upper body injury’ but everyone knows that’s just a fancy name for concussion.  With the rash of injuries plaguing the Habs this season it’s time for the rest of the league to catch-up and give Montreal a shot to finish 8th this year.

The Canadiens will be looking for some kind of consistency tonight, both in scoring department and in the Eastern standings.  Thursday’s 5-4 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs may have left a bad taste in their collective mouths, but the Habs aim to close out a disastrous month in style, in front of the Bell Centre faithful.

There’s only one thing…

The fans will learn whether Roman Hamrlik will receive more than 28 minutes worth of ice time tonight and more time on special teams duty, or not.  Hamr’s consistently received first line PP duty alongside James Wisniewski while super-rookie PK Subban has been relegated to the second-tier.  It’s become so glaringly obvious that our old pal Jacques Martin favours his experienced veterans over the kids that it’s not even worth the time to compare minutes.  When you see players like Gomez, Kostitsyn, and Hamr receiving more ice time (especially in the 3rd period) over players like David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty (yes even MaxPac, his minutes have been on the decline lately) and PK Subban, it’s no wonder most fans are clamouring for change behind the Canadiens bench.

In Hamr’s case, yes he’s a veteran, yes he shoots left, yes he’s prone to less mistakes versus his younger counterpart Subban.  Tell me something, how are young players like PK Subban supposed to learn how to roll with the ‘Bigs’ and build-up confidence if experienced coaches like Jacques Martin are willing ‘pull-the-cord’ on minutes at the drop of a hat if there is the slightest error on their part?  Is that how you build trust? Is that how you build a team?

Details, deatails…

Newly acquired defenceman, Brent Sopel is slated to make his Montreal Canadiens debut ce soir.  Sopel, acquired Thursday in a trade with Atlanta along with F Nigel Dawes for Ben Maxwell and a 4th round pick in this year’s entry draft will replace Yannick Weber on blue line and will be paired with Paul Mara (*UPDATE* Jacques Martin announced that Paul Mara, Alexandre Picard and Ryan White will be sitting out tonight’s game).  Sopel will wear the #55 for the Montreal Canadiens.  The last player to don the #55 for the Canadiens was defenceman, Matthieu Descoteaux (for only 5 games in 00/01).  Before that, Igor Ulanov (Uhhhhh).

The Hamilton Bulldogs, 4-1 winners at the Phone Booth last night, hopefully moistened the Montreal faithful in time for tonight’s tilt.  Newly acquired forward, Nigel Dawes, scored in his first game as a Baby Hab.  If his name were Nigel Dawsé (or Dazé, like the former Chicago Blackhawk), he’d be in Montreal bleu, blanc et rouge prepping for the ‘Canes tonight.  Oh well…

Tonight’s game is the 3rd meeting between these two teams; the Canadiens hold a 2-0-0 record this season.  First game was a 7-2 drubbing by the Habs over the ‘Canes at home (a game which saw Andrei Markov’s season end prematurely for a second straight season).  The 2nd game on Christmas-eve-eve (December 23rd, no I’m not having a stroke) witnessed the Habs defeat Carolina on the road, 3-2.

One would assume both All-star goaltenders, Carey Price and Cam Ward, getting the start for their respective teams tonight.  Carey Price was not part of the Morning Skate and he is apparently sick and recuperating at home.  His status for tonight’s game is unknown at this point.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo for an update.

Enjoy the game.

2 days until trade deadline, check me…



All’s well that (Max)well; Sopel/Dawes Welcome Wagon!

It just didn’t work out for Ben Maxwell, huh?  The kid who will always be remembered for being picked right before Milan Lucic (49th,50th) in the 2006 draft, is on his way to “A-Town”.  Maxwell will have his opportunity to flex his stuff alongside Matty Ice, Roddy White, Michael Turner… er…moving on.  Let’s be honest, no one had anything against the kid, he was decent, he just never got a shot.  B-Max along with a 4th round draft pick (props to @HabsWatch for this gem of a stat:  “For what it’s worth, #Habs have gone 0 for 20 in drafting 4th rounders (1993-2008) who managed to play 80+ career NHL games”.)  So perfect, what do the Habs get in return, defenceman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes.

Sopel is +7 this year (1st amongst D-Men in ATL) and ranks 7th in the NHL in the blocked shots category with 130.  It is expected that the Montreal Canadiens will annnounce the end of Jaroslav Spacek’s 2011 campaign.  Spacek has not returned due to a lower body injury and the Habs management has been mum on his condition; a glaring indication via the recent acquisitions on the blue line (Mara via Anaheim, Sopel via Thrashers) in the last few days.

In Dawes the Habs receive some much needed sandpaper, granted, that sandpaper is getting shipped to Hamilton, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.  In 47 games with the Chicago Wolves the AHL, Dawes has 27 goals and 44 points.

Sopel will not be suiting up for the Canadiens tonight.  He’s taking care of some family business back home in Chicago, but should be good to go come Saturday vs Carolina

At least we can all say that Pierre Gauthier is not snoozing behind the wheel of the Habs Express, like some people we know…

Still 3 days until trade deadline, check me…

Habs look to ‘KO’ the Leafs: Meeting #707

…and here we are again, barely two weeks have gone by since their  last meeting and both teams are set (once again) to renew close to a century of hostilities.  The Toronto Maple Leafs (26-27-7) and Montreal Canadiens (33-22-7) will play game numer 707 before the Bell Centre faithful tonight.

The Habs, coming off a much needed victory over the Vancouver Canucks  in their last of a 3-game western road trip, return home to host Toronto for the last time this season.  Montreal sits comfortably in the 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 71-points while Toronto is on the outside looking in, 11th place in the conferance, 6-points out of a playoff spot.

Instead of boring you with the mundane details watch this video which perfectly describes the mutual hatred that Canadiens fans and Maple leafs fans share (when the rivalry mattered).

Without further adieu, here is “The Hockey Sweater”, known in French as “Le Chandail Hockey”, 1979:

——-

Not done reading?  Here’s an excerpt from my previous Montreal/Toronto  preview piece.  I argue that the MON/TOR rivalry has lacked over the last 30-or-so years and I have the numbers to prove it!  Take a look:

Posted February 12th, 2010:

Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs. Leafs (again.)

…the Canadiens/Maple Leafs rivalry has provided fans with little substance over the last 3 decades.  Other than the shared hatred that Montreal and Toronto fans have for each other, we can officially blow the whistle on this perennial meeting of the juggernauts.

The on-ice product between these two teams has lacked for the last while, whether it was the Canadiens of the 80’s or the current roster reigning terror on Toronto, or vice-versa with the Maple Leafs of the late 90’s, early 2000’s.  I am hopeful the rivalry will re-ignite itself once Toronto ices a competitive team (hopefully) in the next few years.

When was the last time the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs locked horns in the playoffs?  1979.  The Maple Leafs were a mere stepping stone for the Canadiens on their way to a 22nd Stanley Cup as they handily defeated Toronto in 4-straight games.

Since the 79 final, the Canadiens have faced the Boston Bruins 14 times (84-92, 94, 02, 04, 08-09), the Buffalo Sabres 5 times (83, 90-91, 93, 98), the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes 6 times (80, 88-89, 92, 02, 06) and the Philadelphia Flyers 4 times (87, 89, 08, 10).  Heck, the Habs even played the Calgary Flames twice (86, 89) and they’re playing in this year’s Heritage Classic.

When not missing the playoffs 14 times out of the last 32 years, the Maple Leafs have faced the St. Louis Blues 5 times (86-87, 90, 93, 96), the Ottawa Senators 4 times (00-02, 04), the Philadelphia Flyers 3 times (99, 03-04).

Some 32 years later and the closest these two institutions came to facing each other in the playoffs was back in 1993 when the Maple Leafs were one game shy of joining Montreal in an all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final.  The first all-Can final since Montreal/Calgary ’89.  On the 100th Anniversary of the Stanley Cup, just to twist the sword.

The one little thing keeping this cross-province rivalry alive is, in retrospect, not so little after all.  It’s you, the fans, who keep this rivalry alive.  It’s the age-old rivalry between Good and Evil, English and French, Kahn and Kirk, Cats and Dogs.

It’s the same story, right?  Toronto, with their Leaf Nation convoy roll into town, trade annoying barbs with the local Montreal populous on Crescent St. decked out in their retro circa 1998-2003 Domi, Sundin, Roberts and Joseph jerseys.  Blindly championing Brian Burke as he wheels-and-deals himself out of a jam.  Having the audacity to remotely suggest that the Maple Leafs will turn Phil Kessel into the next Wendal Clark, drinking that swill of an excuse they call for a beer “Molson Canadian”, mumbling and stumbling their way down into hockey’s Mecca, hoping to catch a whiff of success; like a coke-addict to an 8-ball, or a Dutch-oven to an unsuspecting girlfriend.

——

Puck drops at 7:30 PM

4 days until trade deadline, check me…

By the Hair of their Chinny Chin Chins

“Show class, have pride, and display character.  If you do, winning takes care of itself”“ -Paul Bryant

The Montreal Canandiens returned to the win column for the first time in 2 weeks, shoring up the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 at Rogers Place Tuesday.  The toast of the town and B.C. native, Carey Price, finally exacted some revenge on his childhood team, defeating the Canucks on home ice following last years disastrous 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Luongo and Co.

The Price man was definitely the busiest of all buzzing bees during the contest, making 37 saves and securing a much needed Montreal Canadiens victory, their first since February 12th vs Toronto.  The Habs return home to Montreal following a 3-game ‘Rocky’ western road trip which finally saw the Canadiens escape with one victory and just 2-points to declare.

Last night’s game surely had its share of storylines.  For instance:

1) Jacques Martin finally decided to show-off his card-dealing skills and shuffled the lines for last night’s match (in a bid to insulate the Sedins, but we won’t give him tooooo much credit, right?).

Martin combined Plekanec, Cammalleri and Halpern together and reunited the Gomez, Gionta, Pacioretty line.  The moved proved effective, for the first 10-minutes when the Habs capitalized on a stunned Canucks squad and popped in 2 goals in 69-seconds (Desharnais (6) breakaway, Gionta’s (22) rebound).

2) Relegating Kostitsyn to the 4th line; uniting his him with Lars Eller proved beneficial for the Canadiens as AK FINALLY got his name on the stat sheet after a million games.  AK showed some hustle versus the ‘Nucks.  He skated well, he played the body and hey, he even got a goal, his 14th of the season and game-winner.  If the old saying is true and you’re only as good as your last game, well then, the Habs should rethink their trade deadline strategy and possible find a new home for the Belarusian.

3) Roman Hamrlik leading the team in power-play minutes (4:30 to be exact) while PK Subban saw limited offensive special team minutes (1:47) and an increased role on the penalty-kill (6:53, tied with Hal Gill).  First thing that comes to my mind; the Habs are showcasing Roman Hamrlik, but to whom?  The Canucks?  Let’s be frank, Hamrlik played a ‘good’ game, he finished plus-1  and played just under 22 minutes.  An offensive defenceman he is not, so it was quite perplexing to see Hamr getting 1st line PP duty alongside Wisniewski while Subban and Weber occupied the second pairing.  If the Habs are showcasing Hamrlik, what can the Montreal expect in return?

and finally…

4) It was nice to watch the Canadiens play a hockey game for once, albeit for only 10 minutes in the 1st period.  The rest of the way was all Vancouver as the wrestled control away from the Habs and dictated the pace onward.  The change in pace forced the Canadiens to revert back to JM’s system, by habit, not by choice.  The bulk of the credit goes to Carey Price, once again proving to be Montreal’s MVP this year, did you expect anything less?

WHO’S NEXT…

Their bags are packed, they’re ready to go.  The Habs will say Au Revoir to western Canada and return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at the Call Centre, er, Bell Centre.  Yeah, yeah, Original 6 match-up, history, blah, blah, blah. Read my last article from 2 weeks ago on the history of the Habs/ Maple Leafs match-ups and see how I feel about this overrated battle: “Rivalry Shmivalry:  Habs vs Leafs (again.)

Saturday it’s the Carolina  Hurricanes sweeping their way through Montreal.  Hopefully the Habs can pull off a Helen Hunt (Yummy!) and attempt to contain these ‘Canes before they start making a dent in the Conference, like in that movie. Typhoon was it?  Whatever?!?!

Habs remain in 6th place

5 days until trade deadline, check me…

One More for the Road: Habs visit Canucks

The further west the Habs travel, the loader the groans get in Montreal.  With Sunday’s Heritage Classic abortion of a game behind them, the Habs will look to avoid a 4th straight loss as they square off against the Mt. Rushmore of opponents, the Drago of opponents, the Vancouver Canucks.  The action all goes down at 10:00 PM EST, so you may want to take a nap before dinnertime, because if the Habs put on a similar show like they did on Sunday, they will be napping like Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, permanently.

Who are you? And what have you done with the real Jacques Martin?

That’s right folks, after being abducted by Colombian dope peddlers 3 weeks ago, the real Jacques Martin has been found, alive and well and will resume his coaching duties Tuesday versus the Canucks.  Upon his recovery, Martin stated that he had no recollection of the abduction but stressed “many mistakes” and “mental errors” on his part.

(Warning:  Graphic Imagery and Strong Language)

Ok, Marvin wasn’t so lucky, but Martin is…

Martin’s impostor, Jean Martin, his cousin on his father’s side, twice removed, sent to sabotage the Canadiens on behalf of the Colombians in a bid to further the collective interests of the Toronto Maple Leafs Evil Empire is currently detained in a maximum security prison with no chance at a trial. The real Jacques Martin has decided to *gasp* split-up the dynamic duo of Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn.  Why now Jacques?  Oh yeah, the abduction thing…

The new lines are as follows:  Gomez anchoring Gionta and Pacioretty; David Desharnais with Benoit Pouliot and Ryan White; the 4th line spectacular: Eller, Moen and Kostitsyn; followed by an intriguing top-6 line:  Plekanec, Cammalleri and Halpern.  Interesting to say the least, but the same result is predicted.  Remember what happened the last time the Habs travelled to Vancouver?

Habs are mired in a scoring funk and it doesn’t bode well for the bleu, blanc et rouge going into Tuesday’s contest.  Pierre Gauthier has the unenviable task of balancing this current roster of castaways and misfits; attempt to acquire a couple of more band aid solutions without sacrificing too much and hope upon his return to Montreal that his car isn’t pelted with eggs and batteries.

Movers and Shakers…

James Neal’s found a new home in Pittsburgh, which made everyone in Montreal collectively say, “WTF?!?!?  That guy was available?” Penguins send Goligoski to Dallas in exchange for Neal and Matt Niskanen.  Really? I truly wonder if the Habs pushed for James Neal, I truly do.  Does Bob Gainey still have friends in Dallas?  Did he call?  Or did Geoff Molson sacrifice long distance service to pay for the Gomez contract? He is exactly what the Habs need, correct?  Gee, a 6’2 gritty power forward with the balls to park his a$$ in front of the net.  Nah, the Habs don’t need that.  Troll out Kovalev!  See if Buffalo wants a 3rd for Rivet?  Come on!  The Funhouse is open for business!

6 days until trade deadline, check me…

I like my Humble Pie with Ice Cream: What now Habs?

Rise and shine Habs fans, it’s a new day, how ya feelin?  Ok, no one likes a smart-ass, especially on Monday, especially following an embarrassing loss on National TV in a game meant to celebrate hockey’s rich and storied culture.  4-0, I’ll give you a second to digest this one…4-0…final score.

Sunday’s Heritage Classic was everything a fan would want:  glitz, glamour, frozen Molson Canadians, Metric, fireworks, and visuals.  Everything…if you were cheering for the Flames.  Fans of the hometown Calgary Flames (and some Montreal fans) braved the –20C weather, stayed loud and proud throughout the contest, and truly made this spectacle a success.

For the Habs and their fans, digesting a big platter of humble pie (on the eve of the rookie dinner, just to rub it in) was not what the brainiacs in Habs management had in mind once embarking on this Western road trip.

I’m not saying the Habs should press the panic button, but hopefully, the button’s not far out-of-reach.  The countdown is on for Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier to make the necessary changes (if any), whether it’s personnel or strategy (I choose the latter).  Tick-tock, tick-tock gentlemen…

I’m not going to crap all over the players in this post; my focus is on one person.  Montreal Canadiens Head Coach, Jacques Martin’s approach to the game is antiquated, it’s outdated and each of the 29-other teams in the league have dissected his ‘system’.  Martin prides himself on following every intricate detail in his ‘coaching book’.  I, along with the millions…AND MILLIONS…of Habs fans and Rainier Wolfcastle (McBain) from ‘The Simpsons’ realize what should be done about Martin’s book:

And here we are, Habs locked in 6th place, other Eastern Conference rivals (Rangers, Hurricanes, Sabres and Thrashers) can be seen in the rear-view mirror, 22-games to go, losers of 6 in their last 7 with no answers to some very pressing questions.

While everyone in the Habs-Quartier prepares to storm the ivory tower (Bell Centre) with flaming torches upon the Canadiens’ return from Western Canada or next ‘questionable’ acquisition (please say no to Souray and Kovalev), Montreal has one more stop to go.

The Habs travel to Vancouver to visit Canada’s best team in the NHL, the Canucks, tomorrow night at GM Place.  Full http://johnnybertolo.wordpress.com preview will be posted tomorrow.

Until then…your move Gauthier, your move

——

Like I promised…

My alcoholic cousin finally awoke from his slumber and uploaded the Heritage Classic photos/videos I demanded graciously asked for:

 

 

 

 

 

WTF, This Game Didn’t Count?: Alumni Game Breakdown; Heritage Classic Preview

From Calgary Sun

So, the old battle axes  still got it, eh?  Keane, Muller, Skrudland and Courtnall.  Haller, Momesso, Green and Brunet too.  Gilchrist, Ludwig, and Eric Fichaud?  Martin Gelinas?  Whatever, makes sense to me.  When my future kid asks me why Martin Gelinas was playing for the Habs Alums during the 2011 Heritage Classic, I’ll lie, I’ll say he was the Canadiens’ waterboy during the ’86 cup run, k?

The most important thing is, the Habs got the win; they picked up the much needed 2-points and played Jacques Martin’s system to perf…

Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s the weekend and I’ve had one too many, shall we say, “Spirited Beverages”, I almost let myself walk right into that one.

Moving on…

Your Montreal Canadiens from yester year put on quite a show for Flames and Habs fans over at McMahon Stadium, effectively kicking off the Heritage Classic weekend in style; winning the contest 5-3.    It was a melting pot of memories, collective recollections of the ’86 and‘89 finals on full display for all to see.   And for the CBC to capitalize financially.

From the Calgary Sun

Skrudland’s tenacity, McDonald’s moustache, Muller’s leadership and Nieuwendyk’s ridiculously long and notoriously difficult name to spell, it was all there.  With one noticeable exception…the absence of #33, Patrick Roy.  With St. Patrick tending to his coaching responsibilities with the QMJHL Quebec Remparts, and no other viable option, it left the Canadiens Alums with a huge void at the goaltending position.  Only Eric Fichaud (0-2 lifetime as a Hab) answered the call.  Wow, for real?  The Habs couldn’t get Hackett?  What about ‘Tugger’ Ron Tugnutt?  Thibault FFS?  ANYONE?!?!?

Getty images

I, along with the rest of the JohnnyBertolo.wordpress.com Mannequins (that’s you), were truly hoping to see Patrick Roy don the jersey of the bleu, blanc et rouge, talk to his goal posts and play one last game as a member of Le Club de Hockey Canadien.   As a diehard Patrick Roy loyalist, it would’ve been a treat for the eyes to see St. Patrick skate over to the Calgary Flames net and pop Mike Vernon straight in the mouth, just for old times sake.

Both the Habs and Flames Alumnus braved the –20-degree temperatures and provided the fans with a somewhat decent game with memories to last a lifetime.  For what it’s worth, former NHL referee, Mick McGeough briefly took over the game, calling back-to-back penalty shots on both teams.    Heck the Alumni’s even cleaned the ice surface during intermissions, which makes me believe that the NHL’s retirement fund has dried up, possibly due to some sort of Ponzi Scheme initiated by current NHLPA President Donald Fehr (allegedly).

Now, let’s get real:

Provided by Dave Stubbs, Habsinsideout.com

Enough with this Celebrating the Game crappola, the Habs need these 2-points like the Tea Part Loyalists down south need a brain, it’s getting terminal folks.  After posting three straight victories to start the month of February, the Habs have dropped 5 of their last 6 games since then.  It looks as if James Wisniewski is gonna go for Montreal after his face exploded all over the Rexall place ice surface on Thursday, what a beauty.

Some more good news, Mike Cammalleri practiced with the team Saturday and looks poised to make his return to the Montreal lineup for the first time since January 18th.  Cammy was slotted alongside Benoit Pouliot and David Desharnais during Saturday’s practice.  This new line has the potential to do some damage, most are intrigued to see how Desharnais and Cammy will jive alongside each other.  Pouliot needs to be a serious physical presence for this line to work.

What a thrill, it’s Hal Gill, excellent news!  Gill returned to practice, not a moment too soon as the Habs D-core has been drowning without him.  Big Poppa Gill will provide some much needed support for rookie PK Subban, maybe even a break for the most publicized NHL player in the league.  Subban has logged just shy of 30 minutes in each of his last 2 games.  With the return of Gill and former Canadiens General Manager, Bob Gainey getting Subban’s back on Saturday, telling PK’s naysayers, during a media scrum to, “…[j]ust shut up and play.” Subban has received the much needed ‘pat on the back’ he so rightfully deserves, at the absolute precise moment when he needed it.

Carey Price’s new mask featuring Jacques Plante’s eyes, mouth and overall visage completely stretched over his helmet scares the ever-loving sh%t out of me!  I know that every Montreal Canadien and members of Canadiens management read my blog like everyday, but even they must have taken my suggestion to swap Andrei Kostitsyn’s and James Wisniewski’s faces following Wiz’s accident a little too seriously/one step further than I had expected.  Any who, the kid needs a win.  Bad.  In his last 5 games, Price has a 3.20 GAA with .893 SV/%, far removed from his Vezina trophy calibre numbers not too long ago.  Maybe conjuring up the spirit of the late great Jacques Plante is exactly what the VooDoo Doctor ordered.

The Flames are coming into Sunday’s Heritage Classic winners of their last two, 4-2 over Dallas and a 9-1 thrashing over Colorado.  Both Olli Jokinen (2 goals, 3 assists, plus-3) and Rene Bourque (4 assists, plus-2) have found the stat sheet a lot in the last two games.  Flames Captain and Scotia Bank spokesperson, Jarome Iginla leads the pack in goals (25), assists (31) and of course, points (56) this season.

Mikka Kiprusoff comes into the Heritage Classic with 26-19-4 record with a 2.68 GAA and 3 shutouts.

Should be a great game, hopefully the Habs travel to British Colombia with 2 extra points in hand.  Full breakdown of the Heritage Classic with photos and video (hopefully) from my cousin Ryan, all on Monday!

-Enjoy!


Foiled by the Oil: Habs lose 5th game in last 6

Found on TSN.ca

“Why does it always seem like the #Habs always bring out the best in some of the worst teams?” (via @JohnnyBertolo Twitter following Edmonton’s third goal.)

There it is again, Ladies and Gentlemen, everyone’s favourite television rerun.  The same episode you’ve seen a bazillion times before.  It was on full display in front of some 17,000 people at Rexall Place in Edmonton.  A hapless opponent having their way with le bleu, blanc et rouge, leaving the Habs scratching their noggins.

The Habs (69-points/6th place) are spiralling; their main Eastern Conference rivals are picking up steam in the standings.  The Rangers (66-points/7th place) are catching up; the Capitals (70-points/5th place) find themselves in a similar situation, sitting idle, and 1st place in the Northeast division is becoming a far-off memory.

Truth be told, the Habs played somewhat of a decent game against the Oil.  They created chances, they skated well.  I will not give them too much credit, but Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn played a respectable game (more on that a little later).   The problem (other than James Wisniewski’s face exploding all over the Rexall place ice surface) was finishing.

That, and Carey Price needs to find his rhythm.  After starting his league-leading 52nd game of the season, Price is starting to let in those “Price wants that one back” goals again.  The back-to-back 15-second Oiler tallies effectively halted any sort of momentum for the Habs in the first half of the 3rd period.

Back to finishing… Scottie G and AK 46 surely did have their fair amount of scoring chances last night-  they created, they skated, but they couldn’t finish.  Like other reputable Montreal Canadiens writers/bloggers out there, I’ll stop short from giving these two guys too much credit, since they did play the statistically worst team in the NHL last night.

Personally, I wanted to see more goals like Jeff Halpern’s, mass confusion in front of the Edmonton goal, a stuff, a stifle and a score.  That play was brilliant, as I remember yelling at the TV screen, “THAT’S HOW YOU SCORE, RUN THAT F#$KING GOALIE OVER!!!”  After that feat of strength, after all that mass hysteria in front of the Edmonton net, nothing, nada, poof, gone!

Give credit to Edmonton netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, after pulling a Gordon Bombay and miffing his DUI test last summer.  He played probably his best game of the year last night, maybe even his best game as an Oiler.

After resurrecting the “Bulin Wall” last night, Khabibulin made 36 saves with an impressive .973 SV/%.  Very decent numbers, but you also have to look at the Habs’ inability to bury chances, nay opportunities!

The Canadiens could have won last night’s game, they should have won last night’s game.  Losing once to the worst team in the league happens.  Hey, every dog’s got his day, right?  Lose twice to the worst team in the league, well, a blind Stevie Wonder will tell you he sees a problem and it needs fixing.

All of a sudden, Paul Mara has become useful.  The stopgap, the tampon, will undoubtedly dress for Sunday’s Heritage Classic (I know my last few posts I mention the Heritage Classic taking place on Saturday, people make mistakes, sue me!).  Thankfully, James Wisniewski’s exploding face did not require any eye repairs.  My suggestion, if the Wiz will be shelved for more than a couple of weeks, remove Andrei Kostitsyn’s face and put it over Wisniewski’s a la Face-Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.

Or, Plan B, since he knows the system all too well, send a useless 6th round pick to Tampa Bay and re-acquire Marc-Andre Bergeron.  Makes sense to me!

—–

Taking the day off from writing tomorrow folks, I will provide a breakdown of the Heritage Classic Old Timers game and preview for Sunday , followed by a a full rundown of the Heritage classic with photos and maybe some video provided by my cousin, Ryan Travers (lucky bastard!)

Enjoy the weekend!

Guess Who’s Back? Back Again…(Habs re-acquire Mara, Oilers Preview)

From thehockeynews.com

“The Philadelphia Flyers announce the acquisition of Forward Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 1st and a 3rd round draft picks…”

“The Boston Bruins announce the acquisition of Centre Chris Kelly from the Ottawa Senators for a 2nd round drat pick…”

“The Canadiens re-acquire Paul Mara from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2012 5th round draft pick…”

Notice a pattern here?

While the rest of the Eastern Conference juggernauts are purchasing some serious performance enhancers for the playoff long haul, the Habs are buying tampons simply to curb the bleeding.

There’s not enough cotton in the world to absorb the Habs’ injury woes on defence, so instead of getting pro-active, the Habs decide to travel down the same road and acquire someone simply for convenience.  The devil you know versus the devil you don’t.  It’s time for Montreal Canadiens General Manager, Pierre Gauthier to pull the string (hehe) on a serious trade that will improve the team for the latter stages of the 2011 season and beyond.  Stop with the band-aids and pick up some cement, for crying out loud!

From fusedfilm.comIn Mara (once again), the Habs have found their auxiliary option on the D-Line while Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill are on the mend, recovering from their boo-boos.  The 6 foot 4 former first round draft choice, Mara, returns to the Habs playing 33 games for the Ducks this season, collecting 2-points and a –1 rating.  And if the Mara experiment fails in Montreal (again), he still is the spitting image of Zach Galifianakis.

Business…

Yee-Haw, saddle up partners, the Habs are on the move.  It’s an old time Western showdown tonight between the team of the 80’s and the team of the 20th Century.  So tuck the youngens into bed early, kiss the dame one last time, ’cause you’re parking your Kaboose right in front of that there HD television screen and not movin’ till morn, right?  Alrighty.

Here’s my prediction for tonight’s game (the role of the ‘Montreal Canadiens’ will be played by the very esteemed Gene Hackman.)

Showdown’s at 9:00 PM/EST, the struggling Oilers are 2-6-0 in the month of February and currently hold the worst record in the NHL (17-32-8).

Forward Dustin Penner leads the Edmonton Oilers in goals (20) and points (36) this season.  The former Anaheim Duck is looking to elevate his game tonight and hopefully get his behind traded out of town.

The Kardiac Kids will hope to continue their hot streaks.  Max Pacioretty is on a 5-game point streak and is looking to make it 6.  David Desharnais has been playing like a top-2 NHL centre, so hopefully his stellar play will reward him more ice time.  PK Subban is PK Subban.  ‘Nuff said.  Finally, greatest goalie in the world ever, bringer of rain, Slayer of Theocles, the People’s Champ, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start.

Enjoy my all-time favourite Bugs Bunny clip…

Ciao for now.

What the Hecht? Habs get Buffaloed

One would expect to celebrate a Habs victory going up 2 goals after playing 1 and 4/5th periods against a rookie goaltender in the biggest hockey market in the world, right?  Wrong.  Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth, filling in for Ryan Miller after starting 31 straight games, helped bail out his team last night at the Phone Booth.  Enroth made 32 saves out of 34 shots while stopping 8-out-of-10 in the shootout and Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht scored the winner to secure a 3-2 F/SO victory for the Sabres.

Whether it was Enroth’s heroics, or the Habs and Jacques Martin’s inability to execute an ‘American History X’ curb- stomp to the face of their opponents, the Canadiens are once again scrounging for leftovers.

After surrendering 18 shots and only one goal in the 1st period, Lindy Ruff’s Sabres came back to life in the latter stages of the 2nd.  Goals by the ‘Human Torch’, Drew Stafford (24th of the season) and Jason Pominville helped rally Buffalo from behind.  After stifling Montreal’s futile power play in overtime, the Sabres forced 10 rounds in the shootout after going down 2 goals and made off with 2 points from the cookie jar.

Good news, the Habs came away with one point (I know, you feel like punching your computer screen right now, I feel like punching myself for attempting to look at the positives), the Kardiac Kids: Max Pacioretty (1 goal) PK Subban (+1, 29:22 ice time) and David Desharnais (1 assist, +1) are taking starring roles on the bleu, blanc, et rouge and, most importantly, guys like Cammalleri, Gill and Spacek will be back soon from their respective bumps and bruises.

Here comes the Bad News:  So the Habs had a shot to leapfrog over the Bruins and claim top-spot in the Northeast.  So they had the lead.  So the Canadiens squandered it.  Same TV show folks, I’ve seen this episode before.

Everyone’s favourite de facto 2nd line centre, Scott Gomez, is making a strong case for THE worst $8-million-dollar-plus-salaried professional athlete in the history of the Universe.  Gomez finished last night’s game –1 with 3 shots on goal and 50% in the face-off circle.  Need I say more?  His partner in crime, Robin, er, I mean, Andrei Kostitsyn finished the game –1 with one shot.  Please get Immigration Canada on the phone!  #deportgomez  #deportkostitsyn

Eastern Standings:

Habs are tied with Boston with 69-points, the Bruins have the edge since they have 1-game in hand over the Habs.  The Sabres are breathing down the neck of the Hurricanes.  Last night’s win puts them 2-points behind Carolina for the last playoff spot.

ROAD TRIP!!!

Get your Cowboy Hats ready; the Habs are heading west!  First stop, Rexall place to face the NHL’s team of the 80’s, the Edmonton Oilers (17-32-8).  Yes, the Oilers are statistically the worst team in the league, but that hasn’t stopped the Habs from giving up leads to weaker opponents.  Just saying.

Then it’s off to Calgary for the Heritage Classic, followed by a stop in Vancouver next Tuesday.

Enjoy the week folks!

Slippery Tuesday: Habs vs Sabres Preview and Other Stuff

The Sabres from Buffalo have roamed over to the Bell Centre, where the Montreal Canadiens will host yet another Northeast divisional rival tonight (4:30 PM/PST).

Coming off their 3-0 blanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs are looking to make it two in a row while simultaneously attempting to obliterate any playoff hopes for the Sabres.

Buffalo sits 10th place in the Conference, 4 points back from a playoff spot.  Eighth place is currently occupied by the Carolina Hurricanes.  Good news for the Habs: the Phoenix Coyotes did the Canadiens a HUGE solid by defeating Ovie #8 and the rest of his Capitals comrades, 3-2 in regulation (phew).  The Phoenix win makes NHL profit-sharing all the more palpable. The Capitals loss officially slides Montreal into 5th place in the East.  A Montreal win tonight coupled with a Boston loss in regulation to the new-look Toronto Maple Leafs (Kris Versteeg traded to Philadelphia, and the Leafs acquire Voros) will leapfrog the Canadiens into the Northeast division lead and 3rd place overall in the East.

Details, details…

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Olympic silver medallist, and greasy hair aficionado Ryan Miller has been given the night off.  We here at johnnybertolo.wordpress.com are a little perplexed (and possibly a little turned on) as to why “Miller-Time” won’t be between the pipes ce soir.  Answer:  Miller made 31 straight starts since November, and if Sunday’s 7-6 Overtime loss wasn’t an indication that Drew Miller’s older brother needs a break, I don’t know what is. (Read Mike Harrington’s piece on Miller and the Sabres on BuffaloNews.com)

22-year old Jhonas Enroth will get his first career start versus Montreal tonight.  The greasy-faced Swede has a respectable 2-2-1 record with a 2.89 GAA this season.

Because Miller won’t get the call, johnnybertolo.wordpress.com has provided you with a highlight reel of the Sabres “other” MVP.  Here are the Top-10 Rick Jeanneret play-by-play calls:

The heir apparent to the Quebecois-Montreal Candiens-Francophone crown, David Desharnais, AKA Thomas, The Little Engine that Could from ‘Shining Time Station’, is indeed the spark the Habs have been looking for.  In his last three, the native of Laurier-Station, Quebec has 2 goals and 3 tallies.  With the way he’s playing, the Habs will have no choice but to involve Scott Gomez in some kind of underage “Bunga!  Bunga!” sex scandal party à la Silvio Berlusconi, or tag his name to a Construction price-fixing kerfuffle, whichever is cheaper. (WELL, YOU CAN’T TRADE THE GUY!!!)

Big, Bald, Alex Auld is a lock to back up Carey Price tonight.

Enjoy the game, folks.

Update: The Canadiens have called up D-Man Brendon Nash from the Hamilton Bulldogs.  The soon-to-be 24 year-old product out of Cornell University has 3 Goals and 23-points with a +12.  Not too shabby.  The Kamloops, BC native stands 6’3 inches tall and reminds me of another professional athlete with the last name Nash (and I’m not talking about Steve, or Rick).

Put Your Hands Up for Detroit: I Love this City

I guess everyone’s back on the proverbial bandwagon.  The Habs, winners on Saturday versus the lowly Maple Leafs, ending their 3-game losing skid by blanking Toronto 3-0.  The Bruins, losers in back-to-back games (6-1, 4-2) against their Original 6 rival Detroit Red Wings made everyone in Montreal laugh like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop.

(WARNING:  Strong Language)

Thankfully, the Montreal Canadiens wagon has reinforced shocks.  Following Wednesday night’s blood bath against the Bruins and Thursday night’s snooze fest versus the Islanders, the Habs needed a strong showing Saturday night against The Maple Leafs in front of the hometown faithful, or plunge into the St. Lawrence River, cradle and all.

Just like that, the Montreal Canadiens whipped the Maple Leafs like a giggling Homer J. Simpson chasing down a half-naked Uter in the locker-room during that ‘Simpsons’ Hockey episode.

The Canadiens and their fans are breathing a sigh of relief Monday morning.  Worried solely about digging their cars from an icy, snow covered tomb (Current ‘Hot Topic’ on Twitter:  #blamesubban).  Alas, still keeping warm upon viewing the current Eastern Conference standings.  As of today, Valentine’s Day (the holiest of all days) 2011, the Canadiens sit tied in 5th place with the Washington Capitals (Caps have 1-game in hand) and 1-point back of the Northeast division-leading Bruins.

After defeating the Habs back on December 10th, 2010, you couldn’t help but feel like the Red Wings owed the Canadiens, right?  I mean, the Habs DID give Detroit a run for their money 2 months ago.  The Red Wings HAVE been the most successful franchise over the last twenty years.  Furthermore, the Red Wings WERE responsible for chasing Patrick Roy out of Montreal…even though that was over a decade and a half ago.

The point is, with so much bad luck befalling the Habs this year (injuries, horror stories involving team cohesion, PK Subban being to ‘cocky’ according to outside media officials, we call him ‘talented’ here), they needed a break from having their head in the noose.  And, with the Red Wings playing the part of the Lone Ranger over the weekend, the Habs may have assured themselves some extra playing time come mid-April.

Meat and Potatoes (Mmmmmm):

It’s back to business for Le bleu, blanc et rouge.  Valentine’s Day, pffffffffff, who cares when you’re hosting another divisional rival at the Centre Bell the following day, right?  The Buffalo Sabres, coming off a Green Bay Packers/ Chicago Bears-like loss (7-6 F/OT) against the suddenly scorching New York Islanders team, will be looking to get back into the win column Tuesday.

The Sabres sit 10th place in the Conference, 4-points back of 8th place Carolina.  This game will mark the 5th time these two teams lock horns this season with the Habs holding a 3-1 series lead.  Buffalo won the last meeting, 2-1 F/OT in January.

Hopefully the Habs will give an update on the status of Max Pacioretty.  The New Haven, Connecticut native was drilled hard into the boards by Maple Leafs defenceman, Luke Schenn during Saturday’s game.  The injury has not been confirmed, but it looks like a left arm/hand injury, more details to follow.

Mathieu Darche is currently skating on the ice in Brossard.  Taking some shots on Habs backup, Alex Auld.  It has been confirmed that Darche, along with Mike Cammalleri, and MaxPac will participate in Monday’s practice.  Hal Gill is skating alone which signifies he may miss some extended time.

Etcetera:

So it’s Valentine’s Day, if you’re sans partner, I can’t help you.  I’m pretty sure there’s a watering hole right around the corner where some person will give you all the attention you desire, at a nominal fee.

Guys, don’t get suckered in to all the hoopla, just show your woman you give a damn, cook her dinner, light some stupid candles, embrace her and make her feel special.

Girls, don’t put too much stock into this day, it’s Monday, it’s sh%#&y outside, the Habs aren’t playing and chances are, your man had to take public transportation to get to work today.  Give him a break, know that he cares and just curl up together and tag-team that bottle of vino!

Enjoy!

Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs. Leafs (again.)

Here we go again, Canada’s most storied (and exaggerated) rivalry will add page number 706 to its increasingly irrelevant book.  The Montreal Canadiens, who are currently mired in a 3-game losing streak, will host Joffrey Lupul and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs @ the Bell Centre stasera. No doubt, both teams are looking to redeem themselves following extra frame losses on Thursday.

I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve grown progressively more, shall we say, “annoyed” with this particular cross-province rivalry.

The Montreal/Ottawa “rivalry” is laughable at best.

But seriously, the Canadiens/Maple Leafs rivalry has provided fans with little substance over the last 3 decades.  Other than the shared hatred that Montreal and Toronto fans have for each other, we can officially blow the whistle on this perennial meeting of the juggernauts.

The on-ice product between these two teams has lacked for the last while, whether it was the Canadiens of the 80’s or the current roster reigning terror on Toronto, or vice-versa with the Maple Leafs of the late 90’s, early 2000’s.  I am hopeful the rivalry will re-ignite itself once Toronto ices a competitive team (hopefully) in the next few years.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Team 990’s Mitch Melnick over a couple pints of “spirited beverages” at a reputable downtown watering hole some while ago.  Ok, I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but we were discussing the relevance of rivalries in today’s modern game and how each stacked up.  During the discussion, I bring up the TOR/MTL rivalry – he completely shot down that notion.  Confused (or in a haze) I wondered why? The reason?  Simple.  What’s the one thing that makes a rivalry truly special?  Playoffs.

When was the last time the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs locked horns in the playoffs?  1979.  The Maple Leafs were a mere stepping stone for the Canadiens on their way to a 22nd Stanley Cup as they handily defeated Toronto in 4-straight games.

Since the 79 final, the Canadiens have faced the Boston Bruins 14 times (84-92, 94, 02, 04, 08-09), the Buffalo Sabres 5 times (83, 90-91, 93, 98), the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes 6 times (80, 88-89, 92, 02, 06) and the Philadelphia Flyers 4 times (87, 89, 08, 10).  Heck, the Habs even played the Calgary Flames twice (86, 89) and they’re playing in this year’s Heritage Classic.

When not missing the playoffs 14 times out of the last 32 years, the Maple Leafs have faced the St. Louis Blues 5 times (86-87, 90, 93, 96), the Ottawa Senators 4 times (00-02, 04), the Philadelphia Flyers 3 times (99, 03-04).

Some 32 years later and the closest these two institutions came to facing each other in the playoffs was back in 1993 when the Maple Leafs were one game shy of joining Montreal in an all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final.  The first all-Can final since Montreal/Calgary ’89.  On the 100th Anniversary of the Stanley Cup, just to twist the sword.

The one little thing keeping this cross-province rivalry alive is, in retrospect, not so little after all.  It’s you, the fans, who keep this rivalry alive.  It’s the age-old rivalry between Good and Evil, English and French, Kahn and Kirk, Cats and Dogs.

It’s the same story, right?  Toronto, with their Leaf Nation convoy roll into town, trade annoying barbs with the local Montreal populous on Crescent St. decked out in their retro circa 1998-2003 Domi, Sundin, Roberts and Joseph jerseys.  Blindly championing Brian Burke as he wheels-and-deals himself out of a jam.  Having the audacity to remotely suggest that the Maple Leafs will turn Phil Kessel into the next Wendal Clark, drinking that swill of an excuse they call for a beer “Molson Canadian”, mumbling and stumbling their way down into hockey’s Mecca, hoping to catch a whiff of success; like a coke-addict to an 8-ball, or a Dutch-oven to an unsuspecting girlfriend.

BREAKDOWN:

The Habs need to teach the dog, in other words, they must out-skate, out-manoeuvre, out-think and pretty much out-class their divisional opponent in every statistical category.  The Canadiens have been knocked around this past week and nothing puts you in a great mood like beating the crap out of a futile opponent.  Looks like Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the start for the Leafs.  He may brag about his 7-2-1-career record against Montreal, but he’s 2-4 on the road this year.

No word on whether we’ll see Hal Gill or Mathieu Darche in the line-up.  Though, I’m pretty sure Ryan White’s good to go.  Crossing my fingers for a Grabovski/Kostitsyn battle royal, duel to the death.  Maybe that will jump-start Kostitsyn’s engine, just in time to drive out of Montreal into the sunset.

Greatest goalie in the world ever (and prompt taxpayer), Carey Price is a lock to start,

Game starts at 7:00 PM.

Let’s make it 3: Habs lose Third Straight to Lowly Isles

3 straight losses, that’s the reality folks.  The latest, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, the New York Islanders.  The Canadiens have reached THAT part of the season where all reasoning goes out-the-window and the L’s, OTL’s and SOL’s* out-number the W’s.  The Habs’ overachieving from the first part of the season is halted and the real nitty-gritty physical/mental games are just getting underway.

Last night’s game bored the crap out of me.  So much so, I headed down to the old Mu Omicron Zeta Fraternity house on Ste. Catherine St., took part in some festive rituals (in other words, I drank a lot), pushed the snooze button on the 2nd period and returned to watch the 3rd period with one eye open.

After verbally berating my fraternity brother Chris “Boxer” Gravel’s television on the 2nd floor of the MOZ house following the shootout loss, I, along with many Montreal Canadiens fans realized that in order to survive the last stanza of the 2010-2011 season, changes must be made.

To quote Jack Nicholson in Batman… you know what, just watch the clip below; you’ll understand what I’m trying to say:

Lars Eller needs to be sent down to Hamilton, nothing personal on the guy, but when you’re playing with Gomez and Kostitsyn and you’re only handed a little over 11 minutes of ice time and no PP time, well, I don’t need to tell you, the writing’s on the wall.  Even Ryan White had more ice time than his Danish counterpart!

Gomez and Kostitsyn, ughhhhhhhh, what more can I say?  Along with Eller they were a combined –3 with only 3 shots on goal.  Out of 37 shots total.  Oh yeah, by the way, they started the damn game after that abortion of a performance against the Bruins Wednesday night!

We all understand that the Habs are trying to showcase AK’s talents (or whatever) for the 29 other General Managers in the league.  Believe me, they’ll find a taker.  As I stare into my crystal ball I can’t help but visualize Sergei’s older brother turning into a mega-superstar in a new area code.

There has to be a bag of pucks out there with the Habs’ name on it in exchange for Scott Gomez’s hefty contract.  There just has to!

James Wisniewski has not fully recovered from the flu.  I credit his offensive prowess since his return (other than his open net gaffe in the 2nd period), but he has become a detriment in his own zone.  He finished last night’s game with a –1, with some ugly giveaways.  With Gill out of the lineup and Picard logging some 15 minutes, an upgrade at defense is likely via trade.

Jacques Martin looked as squeamish and uncomfortable behind the Canadiens bench last night as a certain Egyptian  dictator giving a speech to an angry, hostile crowd.   His continued trust in this defacto 2nd line is making many fans s*%t pancakes!  If a change is needed for the troops then a tactical change is needed from the coaching staff.  Martin needs to be more flexible with his “System”.  The league figured out the Habs’ game plan, just as they did with the Capitals following the first round of last year’s playoffs, when the #1 seeded team in the East was vanquished by the eighth-place Habs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* (Losses, Overtime-Losses, Shootout-Losses)

****

The Canadiens host Hogtown Saturday night at the Phone Booth (Bell Centre for those of you who didn’t get the joke).  The greatest goalie in the world, ever, Carey Price is pretty much a 99.999% shot at starting on Saturday.  The Price man is one game above .500 in his career record against the Maple Leafs, 6-5 with 1 shutout and a .919 save%.

Leave it to Toronto to crap on Joffrey Lupul’s Maple Leafs debut, they lost their last game 2-1 in Overtime, handing New Jersey Devils coach, Jacques Lemaire his 600th career win as an NHL head coach.

Puck drops at 7 PM!

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