Posts tagged “Andrei Kostitsyn

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


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

 

 

 

 


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


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…


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…




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…


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!


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!


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!


Licking their Wounds: Habs Limp Home

Well, that was “entertaining”, right?  Is that the right word?  Combined 14 goals, 182 penalty minutes, a goalie fight (sort of).  If you’re a Boston Bruins fan then of course it was, you dummy!  Resurrecting The Beantown Brawlers, giving Mike Milbury that “funny feeling” from his cozy NESN booth (yes, I watched the 1st period on NESN, you want to talk about biased?), and most importantly, distancing themselves further from the Habs in the standings by winning one of those special “4-point” games.

For the bleu, blanc, et rouge, last night’s game was an eye-opener.  Despite their resiliency, they’re unrelenting never-say-die attitude was admirable to watch, but simply not enough to surpass the B’s.  With the win, Boston holds firm to 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, leaving the Habs still searching for answers.

8-6?  Really?

It wouldn’t be much of a rivalry if the Bruins didn’t win every once in awhile; Boston showed some serious intestinal and testicular fortitude in this game.  Walloping the Habs with every chance they got, earning every goal, hitting every body, punching every face.

Was it pretty?  Of course it wasn’t.  It was downright nasty.  At some points it looked less like a hockey game and more like an audition for Slapshot: The Broadway Musical.   For some of our older fans watching Wednesday’s game, it certainly conjured up memories of O’Reilly, Jonathan, and Wensink going “Tasmanian Devil” on the NHL during the 70’s.

In my previous post, I had mentioned that the Canadiens would win Wednesday night’s tilt vs. the Bruins simply on the lack-of-success displayed by the Boston Bruins goaltenders against Montreal since, well, the beginning of time.  Tim Thomas surrendering 6 goals (in 2 periods none the less) doesn’t surprise me.  What does surprise me is Jacques Martin’s continued trust in Scott Gomez as a 20-22 minute a game centre.  The trio of Eller-Gomez-Kostitsyn combined for –12 and only 5 shots.  Gomez was blanked in the face-off circle and the Big Bad Bruins, with their towering size, completely dismantled the Habs’ defacto second line.

What to do now?

Wednesday night’s game proved once again that the Canadiens need a skilled, physical presence down the stretch.  Ottawa Senators forward, Chris Neil comes to mind, seems unlikely he will be traded to a divisional rival.  The Islanders Trent Hunter is another.  Habs fans are screaming from atop the highest watchtower, “Where’s the Beef?”.  Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier will have to appease the fans soon, before this game becomes the focal point of the Habs’ unravelling in the 2011 season.

***

The Canadiens will return home to face the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre ce soir.  The Islanders are working on goaltender #5 this season as they are going through netminders faster than Larry King goes through wives.

This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this year with the Habs holding a 2-1 series lead.  The Islanders were the victors during their last meeting on Boxing Day, 4-1 in Uniondale.

After surrendering 8 goals last night, it looks as if Big, Bald, Alex Auld will get the start for Les Canadiens in place of Carey Price.  The Habs have called up Ryan White from Hamilton, looks as if Tom Pyatt will be the odd man out after getting his face split-open by Gregory Campbell.

Enjoy!

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