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.
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…
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?
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…
It just didn’t work out for Ben Maxwell, huh? The kid who will always be remembered for being picked right before Milan Lucic (49th,50th) in the 2006 draft, is on his way to “A-Town”. Maxwell will have his opportunity to flex his stuff alongside Matty Ice, Roddy White, Michael Turner… er…moving on. Let’s be honest, no one had anything against the kid, he was decent, he just never got a shot. B-Max along with a 4th round draft pick (props to @HabsWatch for this gem of a stat: “For what it’s worth, #Habs have gone 0 for 20 in drafting 4th rounders (1993-2008) who managed to play 80+ career NHL games”.) So perfect, what do the Habs get in return, defenceman Brent Sopel and forward Nigel Dawes.
Sopel is +7 this year (1st amongst D-Men in ATL) and ranks 7th in the NHL in the blocked shots category with 130. It is expected that the Montreal Canadiens will annnounce the end of Jaroslav Spacek’s 2011 campaign. Spacek has not returned due to a lower body injury and the Habs management has been mum on his condition; a glaring indication via the recent acquisitions on the blue line (Mara via Anaheim, Sopel via Thrashers) in the last few days.
In Dawes the Habs receive some much needed sandpaper, granted, that sandpaper is getting shipped to Hamilton, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. In 47 games with the Chicago Wolves the AHL, Dawes has 27 goals and 44 points.
Sopel will not be suiting up for the Canadiens tonight. He’s taking care of some family business back home in Chicago, but should be good to go come Saturday vs Carolina
At least we can all say that Pierre Gauthier is not snoozing behind the wheel of the Habs Express, like some people we know…
Still 3 days until trade deadline, check me…