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
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.
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.
Are you ready? The Montreal Canadiens and their fans have had four weeks to recover, reminisce and reload following last months drubbing at the hands of the long-time rival, Boston Bruins.
182 penalty minutes, scores of fights, trails of blood, no control, no sanity and simply no way out. Last month’s Montreal Canadiens were clearly in over their head as they battled a Boston Bruins team undoubtedly looking to send a message, using their fists rather than their scoring touch. Doubt can be sown in a game like that and the fear that is cultivated could very well unravel a team’s psyche down the stretch.
8-6 was the final score, if my memory serves me correctly. Flash forward a month, the present-day Montreal Canadiens are carrying themselves with the right attitude as of late, feigning amnesia when questions arise pertaining to the last MTL/BOS meeting.
And rightfully so. The Canadiens have much to be proud of lately, winners of four straight games, a successful showing on the road in the Southern US belt, securely in 6th place in the Eastern Conference standings with time to move up, and the solidification of Carey Price as one of the premier goaltenders in the league.
Yup, all the good and the bad will culminate ce soir at the Bell where the Habs and B’s will tangle in game number 710 in their illustrious history. We shall certainly see if the February 9th, ‘Slapshot: The Broadway Musical’ stage debut is a distant memory for le bleu, blanc et rouge, or if tonight’s game will reinforce some of the negative points made about team toughness and physicality.
Leading Down a Garden Path?
Jacques Martin may be receiving praise from some local writers who are currently out of favour with the Montreal populace, but we know we’re just a little wiser when it comes to praising the head coach. JM’s system is still lacking in many areas, like, I don’t know, securing a lead without giving your fans pains in their chest on the regular, and having your star goalie bail you out more times than the patriarch of the Kennedy family? I will credit Martin for this; JM’s Montreal Canadiens have started the previous four games with some fire, scoring seven 1st period goals in that span. What perplexes yours truly is the Canadiens’ inability to display pressure throughout three consecutive 20-minute periods, the constant barrage of lazy penalties (holding, hooking, delay of game, too many men on the ice, etc.) taken in the latter stages of periods, and the laughable description of the team philosophy. Martin has stated numerous times that the Canadiens are a puck-possession team who pride themselves on a strong defensive core and great goaltending. Minus the goaltending part, under Martin’s guise, more times than not, they never have the puck and the play is regularly in the Canadiens zone, as the D-Core and Price must continue to thwart over 30-shots a game on the regular. *News Flash* Jacques, if you want great defence, wouldn’t a strong, accomplished offence capable of keeping the puck in the opposition’s zone, ultimately reducing the shots and scoring chances for the other team result in a more successful defence? I don’t know, I just write, right?
Speaking of stopping over 30 shots on the regular…Carey Price has been en fuego as of late, stopping 113-of-116 shots in his last three games and being named one of the NHL’s 3 Stars of the Week. Despite his last outing versus the Bruins , during which he let up all eight goals on 34 shots, Price boats a very good record against his Northeast division counterpart. In 17 career games against the B’s, Price has 12 wins, a 2.64 GAA with a .916 SV%. If the Habs want to stay competitive against the Bruins, Price’s numbers tonight must mirror or surpass his career numbers.
The reincarnation of Paul Coffee, Hal Gill, will be looking to score in his third straight game. The Habs’ newest sniper has opened the scoring in Montreal’s last two contests against Florida and Tampa respectively. Gill has been credited with teaching PK Subban the professional ropes, I wonder if the elder Gill is learning some new tricks of his own from his young apprentice?
Andrei Kostitsyn’s currently on a six-game point streak with three goals and five assists in that span. His linemate Yortuk, I mean George, I mean Lars Eller has provided Montreal’s 2003 1st round selection with some nifty set-ups and AK 46 has returned the favour.
Everyone’s favourite little guy, David Desharnais, is on a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist) and is certainly making the most of the limited time he’s received.
Finally, Max Pacioretty, product out of New Haven Connecticut, is giving Montreal fans a glimpse of what he will look like when he’s riding his prime. MaxPac has breathed some life into the $8-million-dollar-per-year carcass known as Scott Gomez, finding his groove alongside the Captain, Brian Gionta. In his last three games, the Pac Man (TM pending) has three goals, one assist and his plus-five. In three games against the Bruins this year, Pacioretty has notched four goals and added two assists.
The Killer B’s
Carey’s opposite, Tim Thomas, is another Eastern Conference goaltender enjoying a great season. The Toolman is 29-8-7 this year with a 1.97 GAA and a .939 SV%. But the Canadiens continue to be Thomas’ Kryptonite to his Superman, as the Bruins netminder has only nine career wins in 27 games with a staggering 3.16 GAA and .904 SV%.
Hab killer, Milan Lucic, continues to steamroll the competition with his stellar physical play, especially in front of the opposition’s goal. Lucic has five goals and six assists in his last eight and was a tour de force against the Canadiens in their last outing, scoring two goals, an assist and finishing the game plus- five.
Prior to Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Bruins were enjoying themselves a seven-game winning streak. With the win or an overtime/shootout loss tonight, the Bruins will have attained points in nine straight games.
Tonight’s game commences at 7:30 PM EST, as previously mentioned, this is historical meeting number 710 between these two esteemed institutions.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo
Happy Friday y’all, the sun’s shining, my coffee tastes awesome, the weather…still sucks but whatever, right? Hal Gill scored a freaking goal! It was his first goal since December 31st 2009 against the very same Florida Panthers, in the same arena. Gill’s goal, 5 minutes into the 1st period, would prove to be the game-winner. If that doesn’t give your team a jump, I don’t know what will? I petition for Hal Gill to receive the Molson Cup for March simply on principle and because I’m tired of seeing that Carey guy get all the accolades, he he.
The Habs’ Alternate Captain notched his 1st goal of the season and would prove to be the game winner as the Canadiens thoroughly licked the Panthers clean with a 4-0 victory at the Bell centre, I mean, Maurice Richard Arena, I mean Bank Atlantic Centre, uh, more coffee please…
Back to the reigning Molson Cup winner…
Carey Price earned the shutout he should have received in Atlanta if it wasn’t for the Habs’ poor defensive play in the latter stages of Tuesday’s game. The Price Man stopped all 24 shots he faced earning his seventh shutout of the season and improved his season record to 30-21-6 with a 2.34 GAA and .922 SV%.
Don’t want to point fingers but…
Suddenly, Andrei Kostitsyn is doing his best “I was selected in the 1st round” impersonation, notching yet another goal and assist last night stretching his point streak to five games. AK’s rocket –slapper surely scorched Tomas Vokoun’s eyebrows as the veteran netminder was chased from the Panthers’ goal after allowing two goals on three shots.
Lars “Helter Sk-Eller” mirrored AK’s numbers last night, scoring a goal, an assist and being a beast in the face-off circle going 8-for-13. The Little Engine that Could, David Desharnais, continues to be a nightmare for opposing home teams, a road warrior if you will. Double-D scored probably the easiest goal of his career, giving the Habs a three goal lead.
(To sum up last night’s game, here is an old Looney Tunes cartoon entitled, “Three for Two”. The Role of the Montreal Canadiens will be played by Chester the Dog, Sylvester the Cat will play the part of the Florida Panthers, and Spike the Dog is there too!)
The real test in this Southeast road trip will come Saturday night as the Habs square-off against the SE division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are winless in the month of March dropping two back-to-back 2-1 losses to the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins respectively. The Lightning are currently 3rd place in the Conference, switching spots with the Northeast division leading Boston Bruins following last night’s loss.
Saturday’s Montreal/Tampa Bay tilt may be a Stanley Cup playoff round 1 preview so you can clearly see the importance of the Habs’ next game, a measuring stick game if you will. More info in tomorrow’s preview.
…and because it’s Friday, here’s some Zakk Wylde and his band ‘Black Label Society’ to get your mojo working this weekend!
Thanks again folks. New Habs blog will be posted tomorrow with a TB/MTL preview and much more weekend goodies. Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo and please leave comments at the end of the post.
17 games remaining, check me…
…and here we are again, barely two weeks have gone by since their last meeting and both teams are set (once again) to renew close to a century of hostilities. The Toronto Maple Leafs (26-27-7) and Montreal Canadiens (33-22-7) will play game numer 707 before the Bell Centre faithful tonight.
The Habs, coming off a much needed victory over the Vancouver Canucks in their last of a 3-game western road trip, return home to host Toronto for the last time this season. Montreal sits comfortably in the 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 71-points while Toronto is on the outside looking in, 11th place in the conferance, 6-points out of a playoff spot.
Instead of boring you with the mundane details watch this video which perfectly describes the mutual hatred that Canadiens fans and Maple leafs fans share (when the rivalry mattered).
Without further adieu, here is “The Hockey Sweater”, known in French as “Le Chandail Hockey”, 1979:
Not done reading? Here’s an excerpt from my previous Montreal/Toronto preview piece. I argue that the MON/TOR rivalry has lacked over the last 30-or-so years and I have the numbers to prove it! Take a look:
Posted February 12th, 2010:
Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs. Leafs (again.)
…the Canadiens/Maple Leafs rivalry has provided fans with little substance over the last 3 decades. Other than the shared hatred that Montreal and Toronto fans have for each other, we can officially blow the whistle on this perennial meeting of the juggernauts.
The on-ice product between these two teams has lacked for the last while, whether it was the Canadiens of the 80’s or the current roster reigning terror on Toronto, or vice-versa with the Maple Leafs of the late 90’s, early 2000’s. I am hopeful the rivalry will re-ignite itself once Toronto ices a competitive team (hopefully) in the next few years.
When was the last time the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs locked horns in the playoffs? 1979. The Maple Leafs were a mere stepping stone for the Canadiens on their way to a 22nd Stanley Cup as they handily defeated Toronto in 4-straight games.
Since the 79 final, the Canadiens have faced the Boston Bruins 14 times (84-92, 94, 02, 04, 08-09), the Buffalo Sabres 5 times (83, 90-91, 93, 98), the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes 6 times (80, 88-89, 92, 02, 06) and the Philadelphia Flyers 4 times (87, 89, 08, 10). Heck, the Habs even played the Calgary Flames twice (86, 89) and they’re playing in this year’s Heritage Classic.
When not missing the playoffs 14 times out of the last 32 years, the Maple Leafs have faced the St. Louis Blues 5 times (86-87, 90, 93, 96), the Ottawa Senators 4 times (00-02, 04), the Philadelphia Flyers 3 times (99, 03-04).
Some 32 years later and the closest these two institutions came to facing each other in the playoffs was back in 1993 when the Maple Leafs were one game shy of joining Montreal in an all-Canadian Stanley Cup Final. The first all-Can final since Montreal/Calgary ’89. On the 100th Anniversary of the Stanley Cup, just to twist the sword.
The one little thing keeping this cross-province rivalry alive is, in retrospect, not so little after all. It’s you, the fans, who keep this rivalry alive. It’s the age-old rivalry between Good and Evil, English and French, Kahn and Kirk, Cats and Dogs.
It’s the same story, right? Toronto, with their Leaf Nation convoy roll into town, trade annoying barbs with the local Montreal populous on Crescent St. decked out in their retro circa 1998-2003 Domi, Sundin, Roberts and Joseph jerseys. Blindly championing Brian Burke as he wheels-and-deals himself out of a jam. Having the audacity to remotely suggest that the Maple Leafs will turn Phil Kessel into the next Wendal Clark, drinking that swill of an excuse they call for a beer “Molson Canadian”, mumbling and stumbling their way down into hockey’s Mecca, hoping to catch a whiff of success; like a coke-addict to an 8-ball, or a Dutch-oven to an unsuspecting girlfriend.
Puck drops at 7:30 PM
4 days until trade deadline, check me…
The Montreal Canandiens returned to the win column for the first time in 2 weeks, shoring up the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 at Rogers Place Tuesday. The toast of the town and B.C. native, Carey Price, finally exacted some revenge on his childhood team, defeating the Canucks on home ice following last years disastrous 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Luongo and Co.
The Price man was definitely the busiest of all buzzing bees during the contest, making 37 saves and securing a much needed Montreal Canadiens victory, their first since February 12th vs Toronto. The Habs return home to Montreal following a 3-game ‘Rocky’ western road trip which finally saw the Canadiens escape with one victory and just 2-points to declare.
Last night’s game surely had its share of storylines. For instance:
1) Jacques Martin finally decided to show-off his card-dealing skills and shuffled the lines for last night’s match (in a bid to insulate the Sedins, but we won’t give him tooooo much credit, right?).
Martin combined Plekanec, Cammalleri and Halpern together and reunited the Gomez, Gionta, Pacioretty line. The moved proved effective, for the first 10-minutes when the Habs capitalized on a stunned Canucks squad and popped in 2 goals in 69-seconds (Desharnais (6) breakaway, Gionta’s (22) rebound).
2) Relegating Kostitsyn to the 4th line; uniting his him with Lars Eller proved beneficial for the Canadiens as AK FINALLY got his name on the stat sheet after a million games. AK showed some hustle versus the ‘Nucks. He skated well, he played the body and hey, he even got a goal, his 14th of the season and game-winner. If the old saying is true and you’re only as good as your last game, well then, the Habs should rethink their trade deadline strategy and possible find a new home for the Belarusian.
3) Roman Hamrlik leading the team in power-play minutes (4:30 to be exact) while PK Subban saw limited offensive special team minutes (1:47) and an increased role on the penalty-kill (6:53, tied with Hal Gill). First thing that comes to my mind; the Habs are showcasing Roman Hamrlik, but to whom? The Canucks? Let’s be frank, Hamrlik played a ‘good’ game, he finished plus-1 and played just under 22 minutes. An offensive defenceman he is not, so it was quite perplexing to see Hamr getting 1st line PP duty alongside Wisniewski while Subban and Weber occupied the second pairing. If the Habs are showcasing Hamrlik, what can the Montreal expect in return?
4) It was nice to watch the Canadiens play a hockey game for once, albeit for only 10 minutes in the 1st period. The rest of the way was all Vancouver as the wrestled control away from the Habs and dictated the pace onward. The change in pace forced the Canadiens to revert back to JM’s system, by habit, not by choice. The bulk of the credit goes to Carey Price, once again proving to be Montreal’s MVP this year, did you expect anything less?
Their bags are packed, they’re ready to go. The Habs will say Au Revoir to western Canada and return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at the Call Centre, er, Bell Centre. Yeah, yeah, Original 6 match-up, history, blah, blah, blah. Read my last article from 2 weeks ago on the history of the Habs/ Maple Leafs match-ups and see how I feel about this overrated battle: “Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs Leafs (again.)”
Saturday it’s the Carolina Hurricanes sweeping their way through Montreal. Hopefully the Habs can pull off a Helen Hunt (Yummy!) and attempt to contain these ‘Canes before they start making a dent in the Conference, like in that movie. Typhoon was it? Whatever?!?!
Habs remain in 6th place
5 days until trade deadline, check me…