Following 48-hours of anger, despair and worry for their fallen comrade, it was back to business for the Montreal Canadiens as they returned to action Thursday to face the St. Louis Blues and one –time Montreal mega-hero Jaroslav Halak.
Thursday’s meeting was the first time Halak locked horns with his former club, along with another former Montreal Canadien, Matt D’Agostini. The former Habs both enjoyed a splendid evening with their current club, exacting some revenge on the team who had cast them off a year ago.
St. Louis’ 4-1 victory over the emotionally depleted Montreal Canadiens extended the Blues winning streak to 3-games. The team is still leaps and bounds behind in the Western Conference playoff race, sitting 13th place in the standings, nine-points behind 8th place Los Angeles.
The Canadiens opened the scoring on the power play at the 12:30 mark when Jeff Halpern redirected an Alexandre Picard pass from the point past Jaroslav Halak. Halpern’s goal would prove to be the only one to get by Halak, as the Blues netminder shut the door the rest of the way; stopping 27-of-28 shots to preserve the victory.
A late first period goal by David Backes tied the game shortly thereafter. Scott Gomez was removed from the face-off circle; Benoit Pouliot lost the draw to Andy McDonald cleanly. Backes was in a perfect position and rifled a hard shot that stunned Carey Price. It was evident that the late goal suffocated Montreal’s momentum going into intermission.
The Canadiens looked lethargic the rest of the way. Carey Price attempted to thwart every St. Louis attempt, but to no avail. Goals by Andy McDonald (17th of the season), former Montreal Canadien, Matt D’Agostini (14th of the season) and TJ Oshie’s (8th goal) empty netter were too much for the Habs as they lost their first since February 24th versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Benoit Pouliot’s grand return to the top six was anything but as the former 2005 1st round draft selection finished the game –2 and found himself relegated to the fourth line for most of the third period.
Habs goaltender Carey Price finished the game with a .885 SV% stopping 23-of-26 shots.
The tandem of Eller and Kostitsyn could not continue their respective point streaks in consecutive games, finishing-up –1 and –2 respectively.
Davis Desharnais’ 4-game point streak came to a close last night. The native of Laurier-Station, Quebec played just under 10-minutes, registering one shot.
The Canadiens travel to Pittsburgh to face Alex Kovalev, James Neal and the rest of the Penguins for a Saturday matinee at the Consol Energy Center. Start time is 2PM. Full Montreal/Pittsburgh preview tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo
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…
…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…