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
Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2011 Montreal Canadiens. I could have easily said that on Thursday, but hey, I enjoy being patient from time-to-time as well. Other than a minor league deal involving the acquisition of goaltender Drew MacIntyre from the Atlanta Thrashers for defenceman Brett Festerling (the guy who was traded for Maxime Lapierre), the Habs stood pat.
Ironic that the only move Pierre Gauthier made during yesterday’s Trade Deadline involved the team the Habs are playing tonight. I wondered on my Twitter feed after the trade was announced whether Gauthier actually called Thrashers GM Rick Dudley, or simply threw a rock down the hall of Phillips Arena with a trade proposal tied to it?
Listen Habs fans, I understand you might be fuming at the sight of seeing Dustin Penner riding off to smoggy La-La-Land or Jason Arnott standing side-by-side with the Washington Monument, I really do. But seriously, what could the Habs do?
A team with all the drama, all the problems, maligned by injury and an unstable fan base is still afloat the Eastern Conference standings: Still in 6th place, if my memory serves me correctly. 19 games remaining with a plethora of opportunities to gain some traction before the real season commences in mid-April.
Let’s be serious for a second. When you first saw the fake Nick Kypreos account deliver this trade update via Twitter: “Penner to Habs for Tinordi and a 1st”, followed by the rest of the mainstream media running with this fake news item like a thief in the night (ESPN/CBC hockey analyst, Pierre Lebrun for one), you pooped your pants a little, right?
You gasped, felt slighted as if you were robbed? Am I right?!?!?! Your first reaction was “the Habs got hosed; they gave up too much”, blah, blah, blah.
Then the real trade surfaced, the Los Angeles Kings snagged Penner from the Edmonton Oilers, sending prospect defenceman Colten Teubert, a 1st round pick and a conditional pick for the big guy. You won’t admit it, but you saluted Pierre Gauthier for not shelving out Tinordi, Weber or Subban and an array of picks to acquire this player.
Honestly, was Dustin Penner, or Jason Arnott for that matter, really to be the Saviour of the 2011 season for the Habs? Was one of them the Rosetta Stone, the missing link that would propel the Habs to their 25th Stanley Cup this season? I don’t think so. Neither did Pierre Gauthier, who clearly estimated that they weren’t worth the risk.
So here we are, on the first day of March, the Canadiens setting up to play game #64 against the Atlanta Thrashers – Brent Sopel, Nigel Dawes and Drew MacIntyre’s former team, at Phillips Arena tonight.
The Habs, coming off a rather exciting win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, are looking to make it two wins in a row for the first time since the beginning of February.
Montreal Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (28-21-6), who was absent with the flu during Montreal’s win on Saturday, will certainly start tonight barring any further bouts with illness or injury. Price’s counterpart, Chris Mason (8-8-3), is expected to start in place of the injured Ondrej Pavelec, who is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
The Thrashers are tied in 10th place, 4-points back of 8th place Carolina in the conference. Tonight’s game will be the third-of-four meetings between these two teams this season. The Habs have yet to defeat Atlanta this season, losing 3-0 back in November and dropping their first game of 2011 calendar, 4-3 F/OT at the Bell Centre back on January 2nd.
19 games and counting, check me…
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…
It just didn’t work out for Ben Maxwell, huh? The kid who will always be remembered for being picked right before Milan Lucic (49th,50th) in the 2006 draft, is on his way to “A-Town”. Maxwell will have his opportunity to flex his stuff alongside Matty Ice, Roddy White, Michael Turner… er…moving on. Let’s be honest, no one had anything against the kid, he was decent, he just never got a shot. B-Max along with a 4th round draft pick (props to @HabsWatch for this gem of a stat: “For what it’s worth, #Habs have gone 0 for 20 in drafting 4th rounders (1993-2008) who managed to play 80+ career NHL games”.) So perfect, what do the Habs get in return, defenceman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes.
Sopel is +7 this year (1st amongst D-Men in ATL) and ranks 7th in the NHL in the blocked shots category with 130. It is expected that the Montreal Canadiens will annnounce the end of Jaroslav Spacek’s 2011 campaign. Spacek has not returned due to a lower body injury and the Habs management has been mum on his condition; a glaring indication via the recent acquisitions on the blue line (Mara via Anaheim, Sopel via Thrashers) in the last few days.
In Dawes the Habs receive some much needed sandpaper, granted, that sandpaper is getting shipped to Hamilton, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. In 47 games with the Chicago Wolves the AHL, Dawes has 27 goals and 44 points.
Sopel will not be suiting up for the Canadiens tonight. He’s taking care of some family business back home in Chicago, but should be good to go come Saturday vs Carolina
At least we can all say that Pierre Gauthier is not snoozing behind the wheel of the Habs Express, like some people we know…
Still 3 days until trade deadline, check me…
…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 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?
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?
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…