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.
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.
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!
Here we go again, Canada’s most storied (and exaggerated) rivalry will add page number 706 to its increasingly irrelevant book. The Montreal Canadiens, who are currently mired in a 3-game losing streak, will host Joffrey Lupul and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs @ the Bell Centre stasera. No doubt, both teams are looking to redeem themselves following extra frame losses on Thursday.
I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve grown progressively more, shall we say, “annoyed” with this particular cross-province rivalry.
The Montreal/Ottawa “rivalry” is laughable at best.
But seriously, 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.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Team 990’s Mitch Melnick over a couple pints of “spirited beverages” at a reputable downtown watering hole some while ago. Ok, I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but we were discussing the relevance of rivalries in today’s modern game and how each stacked up. During the discussion, I bring up the TOR/MTL rivalry – he completely shot down that notion. Confused (or in a haze) I wondered why? The reason? Simple. What’s the one thing that makes a rivalry truly special? Playoffs.
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.
The Habs need to teach the dog, in other words, they must out-skate, out-manoeuvre, out-think and pretty much out-class their divisional opponent in every statistical category. The Canadiens have been knocked around this past week and nothing puts you in a great mood like beating the crap out of a futile opponent. Looks like Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the start for the Leafs. He may brag about his 7-2-1-career record against Montreal, but he’s 2-4 on the road this year.
No word on whether we’ll see Hal Gill or Mathieu Darche in the line-up. Though, I’m pretty sure Ryan White’s good to go. Crossing my fingers for a Grabovski/Kostitsyn battle royal, duel to the death. Maybe that will jump-start Kostitsyn’s engine, just in time to drive out of Montreal into the sunset.
Greatest goalie in the world ever (and prompt taxpayer), Carey Price is a lock to start,
Game starts at 7:00 PM.