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…
Get ready to call in sick from work or school and cuddle-up next to your 51’ HDTV screen; the NHL Trade Deadline is literally right around the corner, mere hours away from Monday’s 3:00 P.M. EST deadline.
Over the last few years, the National Hockey League, along with many media outlets (mostly Canadian, what am I saying, ‘mostly’, ha ha) have taken the last day of roster transactions and turned it into a daylong, media frenzy event chopped full of analysis, predictions, interviews and trade breakdowns as early as 8:00 A.M. A perfect recipe for any hockey-crazed fanatic!
For all of you pseudo general managers out there, tapped into the Twitter-verse, trying to dissect every minute thought detail from your team’s GM, well then, you’re in for a treat; because this year’s trade deadline is shaping up to be better than 10 EA Sports NHL-whatevers (I don’t want to overshoot it, just playing it safe).
For those of you on the other side of the spectrum, I can sense your scepticism…
Since February the 9th, there have been 18 trades involving 49 players, 19 draft picks and 2 future considerations. Some notable trades include:
February 9th, 2011: Anaheim Ducks acquire D Francois Beauchemain from the Toronto Maple Leafs for RW Joffrey Lupul and D Jake Gardiner.
February 14th, 2011: Philadelphia Flyers acquire RW Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2011 1st and 3rd round draft picks.
February 18th, 2011: Boston Bruins acquire C Rich Peverley and D Boris Valabik from the Atlanta Thrashers for C Blake Wheeler and D Brad Stuart.
February 18th, 2011: Boston Bruins acquire D Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2011 1st round draft pick, a conditional 2012 2nd round draft pick and C Joe Colborne.
February 19th, 2011: St. Louis Blues acquire F Chris Stewart, D Kevin Shattenkirk and a 2011 or 2012 2nd round draft pick from the Colorado Avalanche for D Erik Johnson, F Jay McClement and 2011 or 2012 1st round draft pick.
February 21st, 2011: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire LW James Neal and D Matt Niskanen from the Dallas Stars for D Alex Goligoski.
February 24th, 2011: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire F Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a Conditional 7th round draft pick.
February 24th, 2011: Montreal Canadiens acquire D Brent Sopel and F Nigel Dawes from the Atlanta Thrashers for C Ben Maxwell and a 2011 4th round draft pick.
February 26th, 2011: The New York Rangers acquired D Bryan McCabe from the Florida Panthers for F Tim Kennedy and a 2011 3rd round draft pick.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may have grabbed the bulk of the headlines leading into Monday’s 3:00 P.M. trade deadline. According to Maple Leafs general manager, Brian Burke, Toronto’s far from finished with the wheelings-and-dealings. Burke indicated last week following the Kaberle trade to Boston, that the team might have to part ways with breakout stud and team points leader, Clarke MacArthur, if a new deal is not signed before Monday’s deadline. The recently married MacArthur is looking for a hefty pay raise from the $1.1 million dollars he’s making this year to something around the vicinity of a $2.8 million dollar per year, 3 year contract.
The Maple Leafs GM has also admitted that the team may be looking for a top-5 defenceman. Colorado Avalanche D John-Michael Liles name has surfaced. Liles automatically became expendable following the Avalanche’s recent acquisition of D Erik Johnson from the St. Louis Blues.
Other players generating interest:
C Brad Richards, Dallas Stars
Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk has openly admitted to exploring interest for centre Brad Richards. Richards, who will become a free agent on July 1st, is currently dealing with concussion symptoms since mid-February and is slated to resume skating in the near future. This puts GM Joe Nieuwendyk in a serious bind. He would like to keep Richards in the Stars’ system, but with ownership uncertainty and now with Richards’ health issues, it may be difficult to move the 30 year-old native of Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island. This year, Richards is the team leader in points (63) and second in goals (24). He won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Playoff MVP that year. The New York Rangers are one of the many teams still interested in Richards.
D Chris Philips, Ottawa Senators
One of Ottawa’s last remaining superstars from their improbable playoff run of 2007 may be out the door in the next few hours, if he waives his no-trade clause. Chris Phillips has confirmed multiple times that he wants to remain an Ottawa Senator and aide in the Senators’ rebuilding process. After the Montreal Canadiens acquired Brent Sopel via trade with Atlanta Thursday, GM Bryan Murray opened contract discussions with his veteran defenceman, essentially confirming reports that the Habs were courting Phillips. It may be slim pickings for Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, if Phillips balks and Murray’s recent contract proposal. First he must coerce Phillips into waving his no-trade clause to green light a trade to a team of his choosing. Second, Murray has the unenviable task of selling the 13-year NHL veteran, whose statistical numbers have taken a huge fall this year (1 goal, 4 assists and –25), to a GM willing to take the chance on him.
(*UPDATE* 12:50 pm. According to Renaud Lavoie of RDS via twitter (@renhockey): ” #canadiens ne sont plus dans la course pour Chris Phillips. Filip Kuba et Chris Campoli sont sur le marché et pourraient quitter Ottawa.” En: “#habs are out of the chase for Chris Phillips. #senators wants to trade Filip Kuba and Chris Campoli before 3pm Monday.)
*Note: other rumoured Ottawa Senators landing in new area codes by Monday include F Chris Neil (3 goals 157 PIM). Neil is currently nursing a lower body injury and is listed as day-to-day. C Jason Spezza (12 goals, 20 assists)
G Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers
The Panthers have already started dumping salary, sending D Bryan McCabe packing for New York and trading Cory Stillman to the Hurricanes on Friday. The 34 year-old native of the Czech Republic, Vokoun, is set to become a UFA this summer and has generated some interest from teams looking for goaltender depth on the eve of the playoffs. Vokoun’s expiring contract comes in at a very affordable cap-hit of $1.5 million dollars for the remainder of the year. The Philadelphia Flyers are highly rumoured to make a play for Vokoun. The Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche are also in the mix.*Note: other rumoured Florida Panthers on the move include C Stephen Weiss (16 goals, 24 assists, -10).
F Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers
Oilers power forward Dustin Penner, a 2007 Stanley Cup champion with the Anaheim Ducks, has generated all sorts of interest following this month’s flurry of trades. Teams looking for much needed size and grit may look no further than Penner. The 6’4 Winkler, Manitoba native might be packing in order to make way for the youth movement in Edmonton. The 28 year-old has netted 21 goals and 19 assists for an –13 rating. Albeit, the Edmonton Oilers are statistically the worst team in the league as of this date, with many unproven, raw rookies currently occupying roster spots on the team. A fresh start in a new area code is what Penner needs. The Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens are some of the teams rumoured in the mix to land Penner by Monday’s deadline.
F Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers
Another big name Oiler may find a new home in less than 24 hours. Many teams have their eye on the 27 year-old Hemsky if Brad Richards is out of play. The Los Angeles Kings are heavy front-runners to land Hemsky. The Oilers have let it be known that Hemsky will cost them C Brayden Schenn and maybe a little extra. The Phoenix Coyotes are the dark horse team in this scenario. Whispers out of Arizona would suggest C Kyle Turris going to Alberta in exchange for Hemsky.
There are a plethora of many talented players currently rumoured in the trade deadline frenzy forums such as Florida Panthers Forward David Booth. Utility players like Atlanta Thrashers F Anthony Stewart, Los Angeles Kings F Wayne Simmonds, and New Jersey Devils F Jason Arnott. As well as Los Angeles Kings G Jonathan Bernier, will generate a lot of interest for teams looking for specialty depth, sandpaper/grit/toughness/intestinal fortitude, or depth in the crease.
So many players, so very few hours remain. Hopefully, hockey fans around North America are warming up their TV’s, chilling their spirited beverages and already making plans to call the boss and/or principal. This year’s trade deadline is expected to be a treat and will require your undivided attention.
1 day until trade deadline, check me…
So, the old battle axes still got it, eh? Keane, Muller, Skrudland and Courtnall. Haller, Momesso, Green and Brunet too. Gilchrist, Ludwig, and Eric Fichaud? Martin Gelinas? Whatever, makes sense to me. When my future kid asks me why Martin Gelinas was playing for the Habs Alums during the 2011 Heritage Classic, I’ll lie, I’ll say he was the Canadiens’ waterboy during the ’86 cup run, k?
The most important thing is, the Habs got the win; they picked up the much needed 2-points and played Jacques Martin’s system to perf…
Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s the weekend and I’ve had one too many, shall we say, “Spirited Beverages”, I almost let myself walk right into that one.
Your Montreal Canadiens from yester year put on quite a show for Flames and Habs fans over at McMahon Stadium, effectively kicking off the Heritage Classic weekend in style; winning the contest 5-3. It was a melting pot of memories, collective recollections of the ’86 and‘89 finals on full display for all to see. And for the CBC to capitalize financially.
Skrudland’s tenacity, McDonald’s moustache, Muller’s leadership and Nieuwendyk’s ridiculously long and notoriously difficult name to spell, it was all there. With one noticeable exception…the absence of #33, Patrick Roy. With St. Patrick tending to his coaching responsibilities with the QMJHL Quebec Remparts, and no other viable option, it left the Canadiens Alums with a huge void at the goaltending position. Only Eric Fichaud (0-2 lifetime as a Hab) answered the call. Wow, for real? The Habs couldn’t get Hackett? What about ‘Tugger’ Ron Tugnutt? Thibault FFS? ANYONE?!?!?
I, along with the rest of the JohnnyBertolo.wordpress.com Mannequins (that’s you), were truly hoping to see Patrick Roy don the jersey of the bleu, blanc et rouge, talk to his goal posts and play one last game as a member of Le Club de Hockey Canadien. As a diehard Patrick Roy loyalist, it would’ve been a treat for the eyes to see St. Patrick skate over to the Calgary Flames net and pop Mike Vernon straight in the mouth, just for old times sake.
Both the Habs and Flames Alumnus braved the –20-degree temperatures and provided the fans with a somewhat decent game with memories to last a lifetime. For what it’s worth, former NHL referee, Mick McGeough briefly took over the game, calling back-to-back penalty shots on both teams. Heck the Alumni’s even cleaned the ice surface during intermissions, which makes me believe that the NHL’s retirement fund has dried up, possibly due to some sort of Ponzi Scheme initiated by current NHLPA President Donald Fehr (allegedly).
Now, let’s get real:
Enough with this Celebrating the Game crappola, the Habs need these 2-points like the Tea Part Loyalists down south need a brain, it’s getting terminal folks. After posting three straight victories to start the month of February, the Habs have dropped 5 of their last 6 games since then. It looks as if James Wisniewski is gonna go for Montreal after his face exploded all over the Rexall place ice surface on Thursday, what a beauty.
Some more good news, Mike Cammalleri practiced with the team Saturday and looks poised to make his return to the Montreal lineup for the first time since January 18th. Cammy was slotted alongside Benoit Pouliot and David Desharnais during Saturday’s practice. This new line has the potential to do some damage, most are intrigued to see how Desharnais and Cammy will jive alongside each other. Pouliot needs to be a serious physical presence for this line to work.
What a thrill, it’s Hal Gill, excellent news! Gill returned to practice, not a moment too soon as the Habs D-core has been drowning without him. Big Poppa Gill will provide some much needed support for rookie PK Subban, maybe even a break for the most publicized NHL player in the league. Subban has logged just shy of 30 minutes in each of his last 2 games. With the return of Gill and former Canadiens General Manager, Bob Gainey getting Subban’s back on Saturday, telling PK’s naysayers, during a media scrum to, “…[j]ust shut up and play.” Subban has received the much needed ‘pat on the back’ he so rightfully deserves, at the absolute precise moment when he needed it.
Carey Price’s new mask featuring Jacques Plante’s eyes, mouth and overall visage completely stretched over his helmet scares the ever-loving sh%t out of me! I know that every Montreal Canadien and members of Canadiens management read my blog like everyday, but even they must have taken my suggestion to swap Andrei Kostitsyn’s and James Wisniewski’s faces following Wiz’s accident a little too seriously/one step further than I had expected. Any who, the kid needs a win. Bad. In his last 5 games, Price has a 3.20 GAA with .893 SV/%, far removed from his Vezina trophy calibre numbers not too long ago. Maybe conjuring up the spirit of the late great Jacques Plante is exactly what the VooDoo Doctor ordered.
The Flames are coming into Sunday’s Heritage Classic winners of their last two, 4-2 over Dallas and a 9-1 thrashing over Colorado. Both Olli Jokinen (2 goals, 3 assists, plus-3) and Rene Bourque (4 assists, plus-2) have found the stat sheet a lot in the last two games. Flames Captain and Scotia Bank spokesperson, Jarome Iginla leads the pack in goals (25), assists (31) and of course, points (56) this season.
Mikka Kiprusoff comes into the Heritage Classic with 26-19-4 record with a 2.68 GAA and 3 shutouts.
Should be a great game, hopefully the Habs travel to British Colombia with 2 extra points in hand. Full breakdown of the Heritage Classic with photos and video (hopefully) from my cousin Ryan, all on Monday!
“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!
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!