Posts tagged “Eastern Conference

Mauled: Habs get Thumped 7-0; Bruins still Hungry

So, what happened last night?  As you can clearly see, I haven’t been around these last few days…you know…kissing hands…shaking babies…. that sorta thing.

In all seriousness (barely), I started a new job. Yours truly is dealing with some ‘stuff’ at this present juncture, and no, I am not ‘Chasing the Dragon’, I’ll never let that happen… again.  But after watching last night’s Bruins vs. Habs tilt for the 711th time, there’s no shame in falling ass-backwards into your vice of choice; to quote the late, great Bill Hicks:

“The idea of getting a, you know, syringe full of heroin and shooting it in the vein under my c*** right now seems like almost a productive act.”

Ah Bill, thanks for putting things into perspective.

This is where I’d usually spare you the indignity of going over every detail from the game; the replays from TSN and the snarky, arrogant remarks from everyone outside MontRÉAL are punishment enough.  Alas, I am petty and a good laugh is in order so without further adieu, here is last night’s game, re-enacted for your viewing pleasure.

 

Pretty darn close, huh?  I’m predicting more life out of Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral than last night’s Habs performance, at least we know someone’s gonna score, right?  The Bruins distanced themselves further from the Habs in the Eastern Conference, now five points up on Montreal with two games in hand.  The Ottawa Senators did the Habs a half-a-solid, defeating the seventh place New York Rangers in a shootout, 2-1 F/SO.  The Rangers are chomping at the bit of the Habs, now only two points back.  To say the Habs are burning the candle at both ends is both an understatement and a great way to get your keister parked.

 

Digits:

The Habs led the game in hits?  Really?  How? Montreal’s 25, to Boston’s 11.  I am not kidding you.  Helter-Lars-Sk-Eller led the team in the hit category with five.

Carey Price was chased from the Montreal goal for the second time in his last three starts.  I should say, the Canadiens allowed Price to get chased from the Montreal goal for the second time in his last three starts. Price was scored on five times last night on 33 shots.  CP31 finished last night’s game with a 6.74 GAA and a .848 SV%.

Biggest waste of money since Kevin Costner’s ‘Waterworld’, Scott Gomez finished up yet another pointless outing with a –1 and going 9-for-20 in the face-off circle.  Oh, and while we’re at it, he logged over 20 minutes in last night’s game, good enough for 5th on the Habs after Wiz, PK, Hamr and Gio.

Thank God the Habs are not trying to have a baby, ‘cause they’re shooting blanks.  The Habs have not scored a goal since last Sunday’s Minnesota game.  Since then, the Habs have gone just over 126 minutes without ripping the twine.

Habs Killer (literally), Lurch, I mean, Zdeno Chara, had three assists and logged just under 21 minutes last night.

Daddy’s boy, Gregory Campbell, notched 2 goals for his first multi-goal game since November 12th, 2008 when he was a member of the Florida Panthers.  He also fought Habs D-Man, Paul Mara, in the latter stages of the second period, without the use of a wrist guard.

Tim Thomas * cough * earned * cough * his eighth shutout of the season stopping all 24 shots he faced.  Credit goes out to the Bruins D-Core for forcing the Habs to shoot outside the perimeter, last night’s shutout goes to them.

There’s Always Tomorrow:

Habs return (limp) home to face the Caps at the Bell demain soir.  Washington is sans Alexander the GR8, Jason Arnott and Mike Green for their current tour of Eastern Canada.  JB.com predicts the Habs winning 1-0 in a shootout.

Have a wonderful weekend folks.  Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

-Laters

*Note:  Dear fellow readers, I am not a heroin addict, but I play one on TV. 😉


I like Smoking Lightning; Heavy Metal Thunder in NYC: Habs Friday Edition

Well, you know what day it is:

(Warning: Strong Language and Drug Use)

Just when you thought the Habs were done like the proverbial Sunday dinner, they escaped last night’s game at the Bell Centre with the deuce in the bank account.  The Tampa Bay Lightning, still in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, salvaged the lone point following the Shootout loss.  Both teams have suffered injuries to some key players over the last while.  The Lightning, without Ryan Malone and Steve Downie, two key contributors the Lightning’s successes in the first frame of the 2010-11 are still on the mend

The Habs, obviously without Pacioretty, Plekanec and Halpern up front and sans Gill and Sopel who joined Markov, Gorges and Spacek in a bid to resurrect Motown Records and form the second coming of The Temptations 2.0 They will tour various arenas across North America soon!

Jokes aside, the rashes of injuries sustained by both teams are clearly having an impact on both teams ascension in the standings.  The Captials seem to be doing just fine without Backstrom and Arnott up-front.  But the acquisition of both Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm have shored up the woes on the back-end, thus providing some balance for the team.

Kudos to teams like the Capitals and the Bruins for acquiring depth pieces for the long haul.  As the season winds down to a close, you can clearly see who’s healthy and who’s limping like a dog in Michael Vick’s backyard.  The Habs are clearly that mutt, but they’re still kicking, ready to fight for another day.

Last night was no different, as it was expected that the old dogs (Gomez, Gionta, Moen and Mr. 1300, Roman Hamrlik) would pick up the slack for their fallen teammates.  Aside from the captain and Mr. 1300, it was the young pups, Lars Eller and David Desharnais, who played up to their coach’s standards.

Lars Eller was a stud all over the ice, the numbers might not show it, but as many Habs scribes have pointed out, Lars played just under 19 minutes to set a career high and went 5-for-10 in the face-off circle.

The DD assisted on Andrei Kostitsyn’s second period goal, extending AK 46’s home point streak to five games (three goals, three assists in that span).  Desharnais finished the game plus-1 and played just over 18 minutes last night.

Following every game, after every save, Carey Price’s argument for the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player gets stronger and stronger.  Price, once again, had another stellar outing, stopping 35-of-37 shots and 3-out-of-4 shootout attempts to preserve the victory.  The cool, calm and collected Price improved his GAA (2.31) and SV% (.924) and ranks 1st in wins for a goaltender this year (34).

Price has been the shining light for the Canadiens all season long.  With lingering injuries and some inconsistent play by certain top-tier * cough * * cough * players (well, I shouldn’t say ‘inconsistent’ if you don’t score in 27, 28, 29 whatever games, well, you’re pretty consistent at being bad in my book) and stupid, selfish, irresponsible penalties by a former 4th overall selection, it’s no wonder Price is being heralded as the neighbourhood hero after saving the bacon.

The Habs travel to the Big Apple ce soir to take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.  The Rangers are holding on to the 7th spot in the East with 78 points.  With a win over the Habs tonight, the Rangers will be five points away from 6th.

The Habs, 3-0-0 this season against the Rangers will meet their original 6 rival for the last time this regular season.  The Rangers, coming off a 6-2 win over cross-town rival, New York Islanders on Tuesday are looking for their 3rd straight win.  Henrik Lundqvist looks like the clear-cut starter tonight.  It’s unknown whether Carey Price will get the nod; Price has started in the last eight consecutive games for the bleu, blanc et rouge.

Happy Weekend folks!  Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @JohnnyBertolo


Drinking, Debauchery and a Damn Fine Hockey Game: Habs/Lightning Preview

Happy Greatest-Day-in-the-World-Ever, or as the Irish would call it, St. Patrick’s Day!  An annual tradition across the globe, the great city of Montreal, more times than not, will indubitably pull out all the stops this weekend.  Irishmen (and women), Montreal citizens and local drunks will freely stumble through downtown Montreal this weekend chanting, dancing and a few other –ing’s not suitable for this post.  It has been announced that the population will double in drunks-per-capita every hour until Sunday Night, so you may want to leave your car at home.

In keeping up with St. Patty’s Day tradition in Montreal; there is no better way to kick-off the festivities than with a hockey game tonight at the Bell Centre.  Hopefully the Montreal faithful will not be coerced into the re-enactment of the ‘Richard Riot’, it’s been 56 years since then NHL President, Clarence Campbell (no relation to the current NHL VP of Operations, Colin Campbell) arrogantly attended the Montreal/Detroit game at the Forum following the Maurice Richard season and playoff ending suspension.  Campbell’s presence sparked anger and outrage at the Forum.  A riot ensued an the rest was as they say, ‘history’.

So get your green brew ready, put away that shillelagh for now and let’s get busy.

Habs vs. Lightning

Not your typical St. Patrick’s Day hockey match-up, but alas, a hockey match-up nonetheless.  The Lightning, 5th place in the Eastern Conference with 87 points are looking to avenge their 4-2 loss to the Canadiens two weeks ago.  The Habs, holding onto 6th place in the Conference with 83 points are looking to close the gap with the Lightning with a win tonight.

The Habs, coming off a disastrous 4-2 loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals Tuesday are looking to get back into the win column.  Montreal certainly gave goaltender Carey Price a workout, facing 41 shots against the Caps while surrendering four goals. Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern were lost due to lower-body injuries.  Both are listed as day-to-day.  With the rash of injuries plaguing the Habs, the team has summoned both Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj from the Hamilton Bulldogs, both are currently practicing with the Habs.

Joining Plekanec and Halpern with boo-boo’s and illnesses include:  Hal Gill (sick/flu like symptoms) Max Pacioretty (fractured vertebrae/concussion), Brent Sopel (broken hand/arm), Mathieu Darche (groin) Markov, Gorges, Spacek (lower-body) and the list goes on.

Digits

Tonight will mark the 1300th career NHL game for Montreal Canadiens defenceman, Roman Hamrlik.  Hamr’ is second behind fellow Czech countryman, Bobby Holik (1314 NHL games), for most NHL games played by a Czech-Republican and joins 48 other esteemed players in that category.  To make the evening apropos, Hamr’s will face the team that selected him 1st overall in the 1992 NHL entry draft

The Habs PP could seriously use a shot of green beer; in the last three games the Habs have gone 0-for-8 on the man advantage but managed two power play goals against the Lightning in their last meeting.

For the Lightning, fellow Quebecois and Tampa captain, Vincent Lecavalier, is looking to score in his third straight game.  The Ile-Bizard native has enjoyed playing against his former childhood team.  In 46 career regular season games, Lecavalier has scored 15 goals and added 22 assists.

This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this season with the Lightning holding the edge with two wins and only one loss.  Carey Price and Dwayne Roloson will likely start for their respective teams.  Start time is 7:30 PM

Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo and once again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Be safe folks.


All Eyes on Montreal: Habs/Caps/Rally Preview

It’s back to the task at hand, the Montreal Canadiens, currently sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 83 points will host the Southeast leading Washington Capitals tonight at the Bell Centre.  This will be the first Montreal home game since last Tuesday’s infamous ‘incident’ involving Max Pacioretty and Lurch, I mean Zdeno Chara.

Tonight’s foes, the Washington Capitals, currently second place in the Eastern Conference with 90 points, are a stone’s throw away from first place Philadelphia (91 points with two games in-hand) in the Conference.  Looking to make it nine straight victories, a Capitals win coupled with a Flyers loss to the Florida Panthers tonight would propel Ovechkin and the Caps to top spot in the East.

The Habs, winners of their last two home games dating back to February 26th against the Carolina Hurricanes, will make a bittersweet return to the Bell Centre tonight.  As important as this game is to both the Canadiens and the Capitals, the real event’s taking place outside the Bell Centre, at Centennial Plaza (go to the bottom of the post).

Digits:

Carey Price, who’s looking to make some space on his trophy mantle, is a 99.99998% lock to start tonight’s game.  Price is boasting a 33-22-6 record with a.924 SV% and 2.29 GAA and 8 shutouts.  His 33 wins are good enough for the league lead and his 8 shutouts are second to New York Rangers netminder, Henrik Lundqvist.  CP is looking for career win #94 tonight

Prior to last week’s road swing in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Andrei Kostitsyn was enjoying a seven game point streak.  AK 46 has been blanked in the two last road games, but there is a silver lining for the Belorussian.  AK’s looking to make it four straight games that he registers at least a point at the Bell Centre.

Tomas Plekanec is looking to extend a home point streak of his own.  Plekky is currently enjoying a four game point streak at the Phone Booth and has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his last eight games.  The Centre out of Kladno, Czechoslovakia has averaged just under a point a game against the Capitals lifetime.  In 22 games regulkar season games against the Caps, Plekky has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) woth a plus-6 rating.

Alexander the GR8 has found his form and that does not bode well for the Habs.  In his last 14 games, Ovechkin has registered 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) and has registered at least one point in his last 7 road games.  Ovechkin loves the bright lights of Montreal and especially loves to play against the bleu, blanc, et rouge.  In 22 games against the Habs, the Caps captain’s accumulated 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists).

The big question is, who will start in goal for the Capitals?  Capitals rookie netminder, Braden Holtby, thrust into a starting role after a string of injuries to incumbent goaltenders, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, went 4-0-0 last week and claimed NHL First Star honours.  The 2008 4th round selection for Capitals had a 1.05 GAA and .965 SV% and 1 shutout in that span.  Reports indicate that Michal Neuvirth is ready to go, after leaving a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning because small pieces of metal broke off from his mask and became embedded in his eye.  It looks as if Capitals head coach, Bruce Boudreau, will make his decision right before tonight’s game.

Etcetera

This is the third meeting between these two teams with the season series currently tied at one apiece. The last time these two teams locked horns was back on February the 1st in Washington.  That game witnessed the Canadiens defeating the Capitals 3-2 in a shootout.  Habs captain, Brian Gionta scored the winning shootout goal.  These two teams will meet for the fourth and final time this season on Saturday, March 26th in Montreal.

Tonight’s game starts at 7:00PM, check your local listings.

PostScript

Before tonight’s Habs/Caps game, a rally to protest excessive violence in hockey, vicious/unnecessary shots to the head and support player safety will commence at 5PM at Centennial Plaza.  The peaceful rally is aimed at bringing attention to a very hot-button issue that has been thrust into the limelight following last week’s ‘incident’ in Montreal.  As mentioned numerous times before, the rally is not a protest against the Boston Bruins or Zdeno Chara.  It’s a rally against the type of vicious hits resulting in unnecessary injuries and the NHL clearly showing its downfall in dealing with this matter properly.

Please represent the city of Montreal with class; I would like to write about the successes of Tuesday night’s rally and how it brought us one step closer in resolving this growing epidemic infecting the game of hockey.  Be safe.

This rally is for Max Pacioretty and Marc Savard.  For Patrice Bergeron and David Booth.  For Sidney Crosby and Steve Moore and the scores of other players currently suffering from the after effects because too many people have been saying for far too long, “It is, what it is”.

Go Hockey Go

NOTE: I WILL BE AT THE RALLY, PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @JOHNNYBERTOLO

 

 

 

 


Time to Grease the Lightning: Habs/Bolts Preview

The Montreal Canadiens are looking to wrap up the greatest Spring Break ever with a bonfire win over the Southeast-division leading TB Lightning ce soir.  As per usual, Saturday night’s start time is at 7:00 PM EST (8:30 PM CT).  Fresh off his seventh shutout of the season, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start in goal for le bleu, blanc et rouge.

Spring Break Memories for the family…

Hey Ma,

It’s Carey writing to you from sunny Florida.  I’m having fun; today I’m going to play the Lightning.  I don’t like them very much; the last time I played TB was back on December 30th, 2010.  We not only lost the game 4-1, but it was made official that we lost one of my BFF’s, Josh Gorges, for the remainder of the season with a  messed up MCL in his knee.

Oh well, I think I’m having more fun on this trip than my Christmas trip.  Mommy look, in my last two games, I’ve only allowed one goal, on 71 shots with a .988 SV% against Atlanta and Florida.  You can see my stats on my FB wall!

Got to run, PK’s trying to ‘antique’ me.

Love you!

Carey

Well wasn’t that sweet?  Back to the stats, Carey Price is winless versus the Lightning this year and in all truthfulness, hasn’t faired entirely well against Vinny and Co throughout his short career.  Price has a less-than-stellar 3-4-2 record against the Bolts lifetime.  Alas, there is a silver lining, Price has been off-the-charts amazing this year on Saturday’s, boasting a 11-2-1 record with a 1.56 GAA and 4 shutouts this season.  Yup, the kid was born to play for Montreal.  Saturday night’s all right indeed…

Brother Andrei and Helter Sk-Eller will look to be the X-Factors on offence once again.  AK is looking to make it six straight games that he registers at least one point and Lars Eller will be looking for him.  These two wild and crazy guys are starting to carve their own niche on this team.  A few weeks prior to this road trip it looked as if ‘George’ and ‘Yortuk’ would be bussed out-of town; one going to Hamilton, the other going to Parts Unknown.  Now that these guys are working like a tandem, there is nothing they can’t achieve together…

Jacques Martin, the bane of my existence, was quoted yesterday saying his team must approach this game as a playoff game.  Dummy, I wrote that yesterday.  If the playoffs would start today, the Habs would be playing… wait for it…wait for it, The Tamp Bay freaking Lightning!  Hello?!?!?!  Of course the Habs need to approach this game like a playoff game, THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONE MONTH AWAY!  And the last time I checked, the bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Toronto, Atlanta and even freaking New Jersey) can still make it.

Details, details…

Tampa Bay needs this win, bad.  The Bolts have dropped their last two games and are currently 3rd place in the Eastern standings after surrendering 2nd place to the Boston Bruins two days earlier.  A convincing win at home over a hot team like Montreal will definitely send a message throughout the ranks.  The NHL’s leading scorer (41 goals) and 2nd in total points (78 pts), Steven Stamkos will be looking to surpass Vancouver Canuck’s forward, Daniel Sedin, in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.

Tampa Bay will go with ‘Rollie the Goalie’, Dwayne Roloson, as its starting netminder tonight.  In 20 games with the Lightning this year, Roloson has a 12-7-2 record with 4 shutouts and a 2.63 GAA.  In 11 career games against the Canadiens, Rollie is 4-4-2 with 1 tie.

Spring Break concludes this evening for the Habs.  Montreal will return home and prepare for Tuesday’s tilt against…the Boston Bruins.

17 games remaining, check me…


Dropping a Deuce: Habs win 2nd in a row

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…


Post-Trade Deadline (Accueillons nos Canadiens) Habs/Thrash Preview

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…


A Whale of a Game: Habs vs ‘Canes Preview

It’s a classic Adams division match-up tonight, as the Montreal Canadiens will host the former Hartford Whalers, the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell.

Ahhhh, I love that clip!

The Canadiens, losers in 7 of their last 9 games, will be looking to maintain their 6th place standing in the East, try to stymie any playoff hopes for Carolina in the process whilst attempting to aid Libya in their Fight for Their Right to PAAAAAAAARTYYYY!!!

(Hey, it’s Saturday, put a smile on your face!)

The Bad News:  The Hurricanes, 4-1 winners last night against the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins are now 4-points back of the Canadiens in the East.  Carolina has had their share of woes in the month of February.  They are 4-5-3 this month, good enough for 8th place in the Conference, with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs (3-points/2 games in hand, 6-points/1 game in hand respectively) breathing down their neck.

The Good News:  ‘Canes Team Captain, drunk and disorderly suspect and the guy who shelved Andrei Markov for the rest of the season (accidently), Eric Staal, left last night’s CAR/PIT with an ‘upper body injury’ but everyone knows that’s just a fancy name for concussion.  With the rash of injuries plaguing the Habs this season it’s time for the rest of the league to catch-up and give Montreal a shot to finish 8th this year.

The Canadiens will be looking for some kind of consistency tonight, both in scoring department and in the Eastern standings.  Thursday’s 5-4 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs may have left a bad taste in their collective mouths, but the Habs aim to close out a disastrous month in style, in front of the Bell Centre faithful.

There’s only one thing…

The fans will learn whether Roman Hamrlik will receive more than 28 minutes worth of ice time tonight and more time on special teams duty, or not.  Hamr’s consistently received first line PP duty alongside James Wisniewski while super-rookie PK Subban has been relegated to the second-tier.  It’s become so glaringly obvious that our old pal Jacques Martin favours his experienced veterans over the kids that it’s not even worth the time to compare minutes.  When you see players like Gomez, Kostitsyn, and Hamr receiving more ice time (especially in the 3rd period) over players like David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty (yes even MaxPac, his minutes have been on the decline lately) and PK Subban, it’s no wonder most fans are clamouring for change behind the Canadiens bench.

In Hamr’s case, yes he’s a veteran, yes he shoots left, yes he’s prone to less mistakes versus his younger counterpart Subban.  Tell me something, how are young players like PK Subban supposed to learn how to roll with the ‘Bigs’ and build-up confidence if experienced coaches like Jacques Martin are willing ‘pull-the-cord’ on minutes at the drop of a hat if there is the slightest error on their part?  Is that how you build trust? Is that how you build a team?

Details, deatails…

Newly acquired defenceman, Brent Sopel is slated to make his Montreal Canadiens debut ce soir.  Sopel, acquired Thursday in a trade with Atlanta along with F Nigel Dawes for Ben Maxwell and a 4th round pick in this year’s entry draft will replace Yannick Weber on blue line and will be paired with Paul Mara (*UPDATE* Jacques Martin announced that Paul Mara, Alexandre Picard and Ryan White will be sitting out tonight’s game).  Sopel will wear the #55 for the Montreal Canadiens.  The last player to don the #55 for the Canadiens was defenceman, Matthieu Descoteaux (for only 5 games in 00/01).  Before that, Igor Ulanov (Uhhhhh).

The Hamilton Bulldogs, 4-1 winners at the Phone Booth last night, hopefully moistened the Montreal faithful in time for tonight’s tilt.  Newly acquired forward, Nigel Dawes, scored in his first game as a Baby Hab.  If his name were Nigel Dawsé (or Dazé, like the former Chicago Blackhawk), he’d be in Montreal bleu, blanc et rouge prepping for the ‘Canes tonight.  Oh well…

Tonight’s game is the 3rd meeting between these two teams; the Canadiens hold a 2-0-0 record this season.  First game was a 7-2 drubbing by the Habs over the ‘Canes at home (a game which saw Andrei Markov’s season end prematurely for a second straight season).  The 2nd game on Christmas-eve-eve (December 23rd, no I’m not having a stroke) witnessed the Habs defeat Carolina on the road, 3-2.

One would assume both All-star goaltenders, Carey Price and Cam Ward, getting the start for their respective teams tonight.  Carey Price was not part of the Morning Skate and he is apparently sick and recuperating at home.  His status for tonight’s game is unknown at this point.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo for an update.

Enjoy the game.

2 days until trade deadline, check me…




Habs look to ‘KO’ the Leafs: Meeting #707

…and here we are again, barely two weeks have gone by since their  last meeting and both teams are set (once again) to renew close to a century of hostilities.  The Toronto Maple Leafs (26-27-7) and Montreal Canadiens (33-22-7) will play game numer 707 before the Bell Centre faithful tonight.

The Habs, coming off a much needed victory over the Vancouver Canucks  in their last of a 3-game western road trip, return home to host Toronto for the last time this season.  Montreal sits comfortably in the 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 71-points while Toronto is on the outside looking in, 11th place in the conferance, 6-points out of a playoff spot.

Instead of boring you with the mundane details watch this video which perfectly describes the mutual hatred that Canadiens fans and Maple leafs fans share (when the rivalry mattered).

Without further adieu, here is “The Hockey Sweater”, known in French as “Le Chandail Hockey”, 1979:

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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.

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Puck drops at 7:30 PM

4 days until trade deadline, check me…


By the Hair of their Chinny Chin Chins

“Show class, have pride, and display character.  If you do, winning takes care of itself”“ -Paul Bryant

The Montreal Canandiens returned to the win column for the first time in 2 weeks, shoring up the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 at Rogers Place Tuesday.  The toast of the town and B.C. native, Carey Price, finally exacted some revenge on his childhood team, defeating the Canucks on home ice following last years disastrous 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Luongo and Co.

The Price man was definitely the busiest of all buzzing bees during the contest, making 37 saves and securing a much needed Montreal Canadiens victory, their first since February 12th vs Toronto.  The Habs return home to Montreal following a 3-game ‘Rocky’ western road trip which finally saw the Canadiens escape with one victory and just 2-points to declare.

Last night’s game surely had its share of storylines.  For instance:

1) Jacques Martin finally decided to show-off his card-dealing skills and shuffled the lines for last night’s match (in a bid to insulate the Sedins, but we won’t give him tooooo much credit, right?).

Martin combined Plekanec, Cammalleri and Halpern together and reunited the Gomez, Gionta, Pacioretty line.  The moved proved effective, for the first 10-minutes when the Habs capitalized on a stunned Canucks squad and popped in 2 goals in 69-seconds (Desharnais (6) breakaway, Gionta’s (22) rebound).

2) Relegating Kostitsyn to the 4th line; uniting his him with Lars Eller proved beneficial for the Canadiens as AK FINALLY got his name on the stat sheet after a million games.  AK showed some hustle versus the ‘Nucks.  He skated well, he played the body and hey, he even got a goal, his 14th of the season and game-winner.  If the old saying is true and you’re only as good as your last game, well then, the Habs should rethink their trade deadline strategy and possible find a new home for the Belarusian.

3) Roman Hamrlik leading the team in power-play minutes (4:30 to be exact) while PK Subban saw limited offensive special team minutes (1:47) and an increased role on the penalty-kill (6:53, tied with Hal Gill).  First thing that comes to my mind; the Habs are showcasing Roman Hamrlik, but to whom?  The Canucks?  Let’s be frank, Hamrlik played a ‘good’ game, he finished plus-1  and played just under 22 minutes.  An offensive defenceman he is not, so it was quite perplexing to see Hamr getting 1st line PP duty alongside Wisniewski while Subban and Weber occupied the second pairing.  If the Habs are showcasing Hamrlik, what can the Montreal expect in return?

and finally…

4) It was nice to watch the Canadiens play a hockey game for once, albeit for only 10 minutes in the 1st period.  The rest of the way was all Vancouver as the wrestled control away from the Habs and dictated the pace onward.  The change in pace forced the Canadiens to revert back to JM’s system, by habit, not by choice.  The bulk of the credit goes to Carey Price, once again proving to be Montreal’s MVP this year, did you expect anything less?

WHO’S NEXT…

Their bags are packed, they’re ready to go.  The Habs will say Au Revoir to western Canada and return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at the Call Centre, er, Bell Centre.  Yeah, yeah, Original 6 match-up, history, blah, blah, blah. Read my last article from 2 weeks ago on the history of the Habs/ Maple Leafs match-ups and see how I feel about this overrated battle: “Rivalry Shmivalry:  Habs vs Leafs (again.)

Saturday it’s the Carolina  Hurricanes sweeping their way through Montreal.  Hopefully the Habs can pull off a Helen Hunt (Yummy!) and attempt to contain these ‘Canes before they start making a dent in the Conference, like in that movie. Typhoon was it?  Whatever?!?!

Habs remain in 6th place

5 days until trade deadline, check me…


I like my Humble Pie with Ice Cream: What now Habs?

Rise and shine Habs fans, it’s a new day, how ya feelin?  Ok, no one likes a smart-ass, especially on Monday, especially following an embarrassing loss on National TV in a game meant to celebrate hockey’s rich and storied culture.  4-0, I’ll give you a second to digest this one…4-0…final score.

Sunday’s Heritage Classic was everything a fan would want:  glitz, glamour, frozen Molson Canadians, Metric, fireworks, and visuals.  Everything…if you were cheering for the Flames.  Fans of the hometown Calgary Flames (and some Montreal fans) braved the –20C weather, stayed loud and proud throughout the contest, and truly made this spectacle a success.

For the Habs and their fans, digesting a big platter of humble pie (on the eve of the rookie dinner, just to rub it in) was not what the brainiacs in Habs management had in mind once embarking on this Western road trip.

I’m not saying the Habs should press the panic button, but hopefully, the button’s not far out-of-reach.  The countdown is on for Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier to make the necessary changes (if any), whether it’s personnel or strategy (I choose the latter).  Tick-tock, tick-tock gentlemen…

I’m not going to crap all over the players in this post; my focus is on one person.  Montreal Canadiens Head Coach, Jacques Martin’s approach to the game is antiquated, it’s outdated and each of the 29-other teams in the league have dissected his ‘system’.  Martin prides himself on following every intricate detail in his ‘coaching book’.  I, along with the millions…AND MILLIONS…of Habs fans and Rainier Wolfcastle (McBain) from ‘The Simpsons’ realize what should be done about Martin’s book:

And here we are, Habs locked in 6th place, other Eastern Conference rivals (Rangers, Hurricanes, Sabres and Thrashers) can be seen in the rear-view mirror, 22-games to go, losers of 6 in their last 7 with no answers to some very pressing questions.

While everyone in the Habs-Quartier prepares to storm the ivory tower (Bell Centre) with flaming torches upon the Canadiens’ return from Western Canada or next ‘questionable’ acquisition (please say no to Souray and Kovalev), Montreal has one more stop to go.

The Habs travel to Vancouver to visit Canada’s best team in the NHL, the Canucks, tomorrow night at GM Place.  Full https://johnnybertolo.wordpress.com preview will be posted tomorrow.

Until then…your move Gauthier, your move

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Like I promised…

My alcoholic cousin finally awoke from his slumber and uploaded the Heritage Classic photos/videos I demanded graciously asked for:

 

 

 

 

 


Foiled by the Oil: Habs lose 5th game in last 6

Found on TSN.ca

“Why does it always seem like the #Habs always bring out the best in some of the worst teams?” (via @JohnnyBertolo Twitter following Edmonton’s third goal.)

There it is again, Ladies and Gentlemen, everyone’s favourite television rerun.  The same episode you’ve seen a bazillion times before.  It was on full display in front of some 17,000 people at Rexall Place in Edmonton.  A hapless opponent having their way with le bleu, blanc et rouge, leaving the Habs scratching their noggins.

The Habs (69-points/6th place) are spiralling; their main Eastern Conference rivals are picking up steam in the standings.  The Rangers (66-points/7th place) are catching up; the Capitals (70-points/5th place) find themselves in a similar situation, sitting idle, and 1st place in the Northeast division is becoming a far-off memory.

Truth be told, the Habs played somewhat of a decent game against the Oil.  They created chances, they skated well.  I will not give them too much credit, but Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn played a respectable game (more on that a little later).   The problem (other than James Wisniewski’s face exploding all over the Rexall place ice surface) was finishing.

That, and Carey Price needs to find his rhythm.  After starting his league-leading 52nd game of the season, Price is starting to let in those “Price wants that one back” goals again.  The back-to-back 15-second Oiler tallies effectively halted any sort of momentum for the Habs in the first half of the 3rd period.

Back to finishing… Scottie G and AK 46 surely did have their fair amount of scoring chances last night-  they created, they skated, but they couldn’t finish.  Like other reputable Montreal Canadiens writers/bloggers out there, I’ll stop short from giving these two guys too much credit, since they did play the statistically worst team in the NHL last night.

Personally, I wanted to see more goals like Jeff Halpern’s, mass confusion in front of the Edmonton goal, a stuff, a stifle and a score.  That play was brilliant, as I remember yelling at the TV screen, “THAT’S HOW YOU SCORE, RUN THAT F#$KING GOALIE OVER!!!”  After that feat of strength, after all that mass hysteria in front of the Edmonton net, nothing, nada, poof, gone!

Give credit to Edmonton netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, after pulling a Gordon Bombay and miffing his DUI test last summer.  He played probably his best game of the year last night, maybe even his best game as an Oiler.

After resurrecting the “Bulin Wall” last night, Khabibulin made 36 saves with an impressive .973 SV/%.  Very decent numbers, but you also have to look at the Habs’ inability to bury chances, nay opportunities!

The Canadiens could have won last night’s game, they should have won last night’s game.  Losing once to the worst team in the league happens.  Hey, every dog’s got his day, right?  Lose twice to the worst team in the league, well, a blind Stevie Wonder will tell you he sees a problem and it needs fixing.

All of a sudden, Paul Mara has become useful.  The stopgap, the tampon, will undoubtedly dress for Sunday’s Heritage Classic (I know my last few posts I mention the Heritage Classic taking place on Saturday, people make mistakes, sue me!).  Thankfully, James Wisniewski’s exploding face did not require any eye repairs.  My suggestion, if the Wiz will be shelved for more than a couple of weeks, remove Andrei Kostitsyn’s face and put it over Wisniewski’s a la Face-Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.

Or, Plan B, since he knows the system all too well, send a useless 6th round pick to Tampa Bay and re-acquire Marc-Andre Bergeron.  Makes sense to me!

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Taking the day off from writing tomorrow folks, I will provide a breakdown of the Heritage Classic Old Timers game and preview for Sunday , followed by a a full rundown of the Heritage classic with photos and maybe some video provided by my cousin, Ryan Travers (lucky bastard!)

Enjoy the weekend!


Guess Who’s Back? Back Again…(Habs re-acquire Mara, Oilers Preview)

From thehockeynews.com

“The Philadelphia Flyers announce the acquisition of Forward Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 1st and a 3rd round draft picks…”

“The Boston Bruins announce the acquisition of Centre Chris Kelly from the Ottawa Senators for a 2nd round drat pick…”

“The Canadiens re-acquire Paul Mara from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2012 5th round draft pick…”

Notice a pattern here?

While the rest of the Eastern Conference juggernauts are purchasing some serious performance enhancers for the playoff long haul, the Habs are buying tampons simply to curb the bleeding.

There’s not enough cotton in the world to absorb the Habs’ injury woes on defence, so instead of getting pro-active, the Habs decide to travel down the same road and acquire someone simply for convenience.  The devil you know versus the devil you don’t.  It’s time for Montreal Canadiens General Manager, Pierre Gauthier to pull the string (hehe) on a serious trade that will improve the team for the latter stages of the 2011 season and beyond.  Stop with the band-aids and pick up some cement, for crying out loud!

From fusedfilm.comIn Mara (once again), the Habs have found their auxiliary option on the D-Line while Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill are on the mend, recovering from their boo-boos.  The 6 foot 4 former first round draft choice, Mara, returns to the Habs playing 33 games for the Ducks this season, collecting 2-points and a –1 rating.  And if the Mara experiment fails in Montreal (again), he still is the spitting image of Zach Galifianakis.

Business…

Yee-Haw, saddle up partners, the Habs are on the move.  It’s an old time Western showdown tonight between the team of the 80’s and the team of the 20th Century.  So tuck the youngens into bed early, kiss the dame one last time, ’cause you’re parking your Kaboose right in front of that there HD television screen and not movin’ till morn, right?  Alrighty.

Here’s my prediction for tonight’s game (the role of the ‘Montreal Canadiens’ will be played by the very esteemed Gene Hackman.)

Showdown’s at 9:00 PM/EST, the struggling Oilers are 2-6-0 in the month of February and currently hold the worst record in the NHL (17-32-8).

Forward Dustin Penner leads the Edmonton Oilers in goals (20) and points (36) this season.  The former Anaheim Duck is looking to elevate his game tonight and hopefully get his behind traded out of town.

The Kardiac Kids will hope to continue their hot streaks.  Max Pacioretty is on a 5-game point streak and is looking to make it 6.  David Desharnais has been playing like a top-2 NHL centre, so hopefully his stellar play will reward him more ice time.  PK Subban is PK Subban.  ‘Nuff said.  Finally, greatest goalie in the world ever, bringer of rain, Slayer of Theocles, the People’s Champ, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start.

Enjoy my all-time favourite Bugs Bunny clip…

Ciao for now.


What the Hecht? Habs get Buffaloed

One would expect to celebrate a Habs victory going up 2 goals after playing 1 and 4/5th periods against a rookie goaltender in the biggest hockey market in the world, right?  Wrong.  Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth, filling in for Ryan Miller after starting 31 straight games, helped bail out his team last night at the Phone Booth.  Enroth made 32 saves out of 34 shots while stopping 8-out-of-10 in the shootout and Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht scored the winner to secure a 3-2 F/SO victory for the Sabres.

Whether it was Enroth’s heroics, or the Habs and Jacques Martin’s inability to execute an ‘American History X’ curb- stomp to the face of their opponents, the Canadiens are once again scrounging for leftovers.

After surrendering 18 shots and only one goal in the 1st period, Lindy Ruff’s Sabres came back to life in the latter stages of the 2nd.  Goals by the ‘Human Torch’, Drew Stafford (24th of the season) and Jason Pominville helped rally Buffalo from behind.  After stifling Montreal’s futile power play in overtime, the Sabres forced 10 rounds in the shootout after going down 2 goals and made off with 2 points from the cookie jar.

Good news, the Habs came away with one point (I know, you feel like punching your computer screen right now, I feel like punching myself for attempting to look at the positives), the Kardiac Kids: Max Pacioretty (1 goal) PK Subban (+1, 29:22 ice time) and David Desharnais (1 assist, +1) are taking starring roles on the bleu, blanc, et rouge and, most importantly, guys like Cammalleri, Gill and Spacek will be back soon from their respective bumps and bruises.

Here comes the Bad News:  So the Habs had a shot to leapfrog over the Bruins and claim top-spot in the Northeast.  So they had the lead.  So the Canadiens squandered it.  Same TV show folks, I’ve seen this episode before.

Everyone’s favourite de facto 2nd line centre, Scott Gomez, is making a strong case for THE worst $8-million-dollar-plus-salaried professional athlete in the history of the Universe.  Gomez finished last night’s game –1 with 3 shots on goal and 50% in the face-off circle.  Need I say more?  His partner in crime, Robin, er, I mean, Andrei Kostitsyn finished the game –1 with one shot.  Please get Immigration Canada on the phone!  #deportgomez  #deportkostitsyn

Eastern Standings:

Habs are tied with Boston with 69-points, the Bruins have the edge since they have 1-game in hand over the Habs.  The Sabres are breathing down the neck of the Hurricanes.  Last night’s win puts them 2-points behind Carolina for the last playoff spot.

ROAD TRIP!!!

Get your Cowboy Hats ready; the Habs are heading west!  First stop, Rexall place to face the NHL’s team of the 80’s, the Edmonton Oilers (17-32-8).  Yes, the Oilers are statistically the worst team in the league, but that hasn’t stopped the Habs from giving up leads to weaker opponents.  Just saying.

Then it’s off to Calgary for the Heritage Classic, followed by a stop in Vancouver next Tuesday.

Enjoy the week folks!


Slippery Tuesday: Habs vs Sabres Preview and Other Stuff

The Sabres from Buffalo have roamed over to the Bell Centre, where the Montreal Canadiens will host yet another Northeast divisional rival tonight (4:30 PM/PST).

Coming off their 3-0 blanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs are looking to make it two in a row while simultaneously attempting to obliterate any playoff hopes for the Sabres.

Buffalo sits 10th place in the Conference, 4 points back from a playoff spot.  Eighth place is currently occupied by the Carolina Hurricanes.  Good news for the Habs: the Phoenix Coyotes did the Canadiens a HUGE solid by defeating Ovie #8 and the rest of his Capitals comrades, 3-2 in regulation (phew).  The Phoenix win makes NHL profit-sharing all the more palpable. The Capitals loss officially slides Montreal into 5th place in the East.  A Montreal win tonight coupled with a Boston loss in regulation to the new-look Toronto Maple Leafs (Kris Versteeg traded to Philadelphia, and the Leafs acquire Voros) will leapfrog the Canadiens into the Northeast division lead and 3rd place overall in the East.

Details, details…

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Olympic silver medallist, and greasy hair aficionado Ryan Miller has been given the night off.  We here at johnnybertolo.wordpress.com are a little perplexed (and possibly a little turned on) as to why “Miller-Time” won’t be between the pipes ce soir.  Answer:  Miller made 31 straight starts since November, and if Sunday’s 7-6 Overtime loss wasn’t an indication that Drew Miller’s older brother needs a break, I don’t know what is. (Read Mike Harrington’s piece on Miller and the Sabres on BuffaloNews.com)

22-year old Jhonas Enroth will get his first career start versus Montreal tonight.  The greasy-faced Swede has a respectable 2-2-1 record with a 2.89 GAA this season.

Because Miller won’t get the call, johnnybertolo.wordpress.com has provided you with a highlight reel of the Sabres “other” MVP.  Here are the Top-10 Rick Jeanneret play-by-play calls:

The heir apparent to the Quebecois-Montreal Candiens-Francophone crown, David Desharnais, AKA Thomas, The Little Engine that Could from ‘Shining Time Station’, is indeed the spark the Habs have been looking for.  In his last three, the native of Laurier-Station, Quebec has 2 goals and 3 tallies.  With the way he’s playing, the Habs will have no choice but to involve Scott Gomez in some kind of underage “Bunga!  Bunga!” sex scandal party à la Silvio Berlusconi, or tag his name to a Construction price-fixing kerfuffle, whichever is cheaper. (WELL, YOU CAN’T TRADE THE GUY!!!)

Big, Bald, Alex Auld is a lock to back up Carey Price tonight.

Enjoy the game, folks.

Update: The Canadiens have called up D-Man Brendon Nash from the Hamilton Bulldogs.  The soon-to-be 24 year-old product out of Cornell University has 3 Goals and 23-points with a +12.  Not too shabby.  The Kamloops, BC native stands 6’3 inches tall and reminds me of another professional athlete with the last name Nash (and I’m not talking about Steve, or Rick).


Put Your Hands Up for Detroit: I Love this City

I guess everyone’s back on the proverbial bandwagon.  The Habs, winners on Saturday versus the lowly Maple Leafs, ending their 3-game losing skid by blanking Toronto 3-0.  The Bruins, losers in back-to-back games (6-1, 4-2) against their Original 6 rival Detroit Red Wings made everyone in Montreal laugh like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop.

(WARNING:  Strong Language)

Thankfully, the Montreal Canadiens wagon has reinforced shocks.  Following Wednesday night’s blood bath against the Bruins and Thursday night’s snooze fest versus the Islanders, the Habs needed a strong showing Saturday night against The Maple Leafs in front of the hometown faithful, or plunge into the St. Lawrence River, cradle and all.

Just like that, the Montreal Canadiens whipped the Maple Leafs like a giggling Homer J. Simpson chasing down a half-naked Uter in the locker-room during that ‘Simpsons’ Hockey episode.

The Canadiens and their fans are breathing a sigh of relief Monday morning.  Worried solely about digging their cars from an icy, snow covered tomb (Current ‘Hot Topic’ on Twitter:  #blamesubban).  Alas, still keeping warm upon viewing the current Eastern Conference standings.  As of today, Valentine’s Day (the holiest of all days) 2011, the Canadiens sit tied in 5th place with the Washington Capitals (Caps have 1-game in hand) and 1-point back of the Northeast division-leading Bruins.

After defeating the Habs back on December 10th, 2010, you couldn’t help but feel like the Red Wings owed the Canadiens, right?  I mean, the Habs DID give Detroit a run for their money 2 months ago.  The Red Wings HAVE been the most successful franchise over the last twenty years.  Furthermore, the Red Wings WERE responsible for chasing Patrick Roy out of Montreal…even though that was over a decade and a half ago.

The point is, with so much bad luck befalling the Habs this year (injuries, horror stories involving team cohesion, PK Subban being to ‘cocky’ according to outside media officials, we call him ‘talented’ here), they needed a break from having their head in the noose.  And, with the Red Wings playing the part of the Lone Ranger over the weekend, the Habs may have assured themselves some extra playing time come mid-April.

Meat and Potatoes (Mmmmmm):

It’s back to business for Le bleu, blanc et rouge.  Valentine’s Day, pffffffffff, who cares when you’re hosting another divisional rival at the Centre Bell the following day, right?  The Buffalo Sabres, coming off a Green Bay Packers/ Chicago Bears-like loss (7-6 F/OT) against the suddenly scorching New York Islanders team, will be looking to get back into the win column Tuesday.

The Sabres sit 10th place in the Conference, 4-points back of 8th place Carolina.  This game will mark the 5th time these two teams lock horns this season with the Habs holding a 3-1 series lead.  Buffalo won the last meeting, 2-1 F/OT in January.

Hopefully the Habs will give an update on the status of Max Pacioretty.  The New Haven, Connecticut native was drilled hard into the boards by Maple Leafs defenceman, Luke Schenn during Saturday’s game.  The injury has not been confirmed, but it looks like a left arm/hand injury, more details to follow.

Mathieu Darche is currently skating on the ice in Brossard.  Taking some shots on Habs backup, Alex Auld.  It has been confirmed that Darche, along with Mike Cammalleri, and MaxPac will participate in Monday’s practice.  Hal Gill is skating alone which signifies he may miss some extended time.

Etcetera:

So it’s Valentine’s Day, if you’re sans partner, I can’t help you.  I’m pretty sure there’s a watering hole right around the corner where some person will give you all the attention you desire, at a nominal fee.

Guys, don’t get suckered in to all the hoopla, just show your woman you give a damn, cook her dinner, light some stupid candles, embrace her and make her feel special.

Girls, don’t put too much stock into this day, it’s Monday, it’s sh%#&y outside, the Habs aren’t playing and chances are, your man had to take public transportation to get to work today.  Give him a break, know that he cares and just curl up together and tag-team that bottle of vino!

Enjoy!


Let’s make it 3: Habs lose Third Straight to Lowly Isles

3 straight losses, that’s the reality folks.  The latest, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, the New York Islanders.  The Canadiens have reached THAT part of the season where all reasoning goes out-the-window and the L’s, OTL’s and SOL’s* out-number the W’s.  The Habs’ overachieving from the first part of the season is halted and the real nitty-gritty physical/mental games are just getting underway.

Last night’s game bored the crap out of me.  So much so, I headed down to the old Mu Omicron Zeta Fraternity house on Ste. Catherine St., took part in some festive rituals (in other words, I drank a lot), pushed the snooze button on the 2nd period and returned to watch the 3rd period with one eye open.

After verbally berating my fraternity brother Chris “Boxer” Gravel’s television on the 2nd floor of the MOZ house following the shootout loss, I, along with many Montreal Canadiens fans realized that in order to survive the last stanza of the 2010-2011 season, changes must be made.

To quote Jack Nicholson in Batman… you know what, just watch the clip below; you’ll understand what I’m trying to say:

Lars Eller needs to be sent down to Hamilton, nothing personal on the guy, but when you’re playing with Gomez and Kostitsyn and you’re only handed a little over 11 minutes of ice time and no PP time, well, I don’t need to tell you, the writing’s on the wall.  Even Ryan White had more ice time than his Danish counterpart!

Gomez and Kostitsyn, ughhhhhhhh, what more can I say?  Along with Eller they were a combined –3 with only 3 shots on goal.  Out of 37 shots total.  Oh yeah, by the way, they started the damn game after that abortion of a performance against the Bruins Wednesday night!

We all understand that the Habs are trying to showcase AK’s talents (or whatever) for the 29 other General Managers in the league.  Believe me, they’ll find a taker.  As I stare into my crystal ball I can’t help but visualize Sergei’s older brother turning into a mega-superstar in a new area code.

There has to be a bag of pucks out there with the Habs’ name on it in exchange for Scott Gomez’s hefty contract.  There just has to!

James Wisniewski has not fully recovered from the flu.  I credit his offensive prowess since his return (other than his open net gaffe in the 2nd period), but he has become a detriment in his own zone.  He finished last night’s game with a –1, with some ugly giveaways.  With Gill out of the lineup and Picard logging some 15 minutes, an upgrade at defense is likely via trade.

Jacques Martin looked as squeamish and uncomfortable behind the Canadiens bench last night as a certain Egyptian  dictator giving a speech to an angry, hostile crowd.   His continued trust in this defacto 2nd line is making many fans s*%t pancakes!  If a change is needed for the troops then a tactical change is needed from the coaching staff.  Martin needs to be more flexible with his “System”.  The league figured out the Habs’ game plan, just as they did with the Capitals following the first round of last year’s playoffs, when the #1 seeded team in the East was vanquished by the eighth-place Habs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* (Losses, Overtime-Losses, Shootout-Losses)

****

The Canadiens host Hogtown Saturday night at the Phone Booth (Bell Centre for those of you who didn’t get the joke).  The greatest goalie in the world, ever, Carey Price is pretty much a 99.999% shot at starting on Saturday.  The Price man is one game above .500 in his career record against the Maple Leafs, 6-5 with 1 shutout and a .919 save%.

Leave it to Toronto to crap on Joffrey Lupul’s Maple Leafs debut, they lost their last game 2-1 in Overtime, handing New Jersey Devils coach, Jacques Lemaire his 600th career win as an NHL head coach.

Puck drops at 7 PM!


Licking their Wounds: Habs Limp Home

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

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

8-6?  Really?

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

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

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

What to do now?

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

***

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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