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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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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?
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.
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
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.
…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…
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?
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…
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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