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…
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.
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.
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 mere 24 hours following Monday’s mild trade deadline “frenzy”, the Montreal Canadiens rewarded upper management by defeating the A-Town Thrashers 3-1 Tuesday Night in front of a super-packed, electrically charged, Phillips Arena crowd…Ha, almost fooled you, there were probably more people at your son’s Pee-Wee hockey game, or your wife’s basket-weaving class than at last night’s contest. There is only one thing that comes to mind when you see more people lining up for a Swine Flu vaccination versus a hockey game…relocation. The Quebec Thrashers, or as Pierre Houde would say, Les TRASHers de Quebec. Has a ring to it, huh?
Back to the game…
Carey Price looked brilliant once again, stopping 40-of-41 shots, garnering 1st Star honours. If it weren’t for a gruesome turnover in the Montreal zone with less than 6 minutes remaining which led to Atlanta’s only goal via Nik Antropov, Price would be celebrating is 7th shutout of the season.
The Thrashers nearly doubled Montreal’s shot total, 41 to Montreal’s 23. Price had to be extra sharp as once again, the Habs continue to have problems both possessing the puck and clearing the defensive zone during the latter stages of most games. Carey Price continues to put on his best bondsman impersonation; constantly bailing-out is team on the regular. Hey Dog, I think you have some competition brewing?
Montreal received its share of goals by Max Pacioretty, The Almighty Wiz, James Wisniewski and the Captain, Brion Gionta with an empty-netter to seal the deal.
The Canadiens’ spring break vacation continues as they travel to Sunrise, Florida to face the Panthers on Thursday. Weather in Sunrise, Florida for tomorrow: Partly cloudy with a high of 78°F (26°C). While the Habs work on their tan today, they have a chance to further their standing in the Eastern Conference come tomorrow.
(The role of Brett Festerling is played by Meg, what the heck, the role of Drew MacIntyre is played by the Mexican Janitor)
The Habs have maintained their 6th place standing in the East with 5th place Washington only 3-points ahead and 4th place Pittsburgh 5-points ahead. Tuesday’s win further distanced the Canadiens from 9th place Buffalo (8 points back).
Saturday, the Habs round out their Southeast road trip as they face the Canadiens-south, also known as the Southeast leading, Tampa Bay Lightning.
18 games remaining, check me…
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…
…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…
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…
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!