Posts tagged “Eastern Conference

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…



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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

——

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!