Posts tagged “Northeast Division

710 Reasons To Watch: Habs/Bruins Preview

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?

Digits…

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.

Etcetera…
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

Enjoy!

 

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Time to Grease the Lightning: Habs/Bolts Preview

The Montreal Canadiens are looking to wrap up the greatest Spring Break ever with a bonfire win over the Southeast-division leading TB Lightning ce soir.  As per usual, Saturday night’s start time is at 7:00 PM EST (8:30 PM CT).  Fresh off his seventh shutout of the season, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start in goal for le bleu, blanc et rouge.

Spring Break Memories for the family…

Hey Ma,

It’s Carey writing to you from sunny Florida.  I’m having fun; today I’m going to play the Lightning.  I don’t like them very much; the last time I played TB was back on December 30th, 2010.  We not only lost the game 4-1, but it was made official that we lost one of my BFF’s, Josh Gorges, for the remainder of the season with a  messed up MCL in his knee.

Oh well, I think I’m having more fun on this trip than my Christmas trip.  Mommy look, in my last two games, I’ve only allowed one goal, on 71 shots with a .988 SV% against Atlanta and Florida.  You can see my stats on my FB wall!

Got to run, PK’s trying to ‘antique’ me.

Love you!

Carey

Well wasn’t that sweet?  Back to the stats, Carey Price is winless versus the Lightning this year and in all truthfulness, hasn’t faired entirely well against Vinny and Co throughout his short career.  Price has a less-than-stellar 3-4-2 record against the Bolts lifetime.  Alas, there is a silver lining, Price has been off-the-charts amazing this year on Saturday’s, boasting a 11-2-1 record with a 1.56 GAA and 4 shutouts this season.  Yup, the kid was born to play for Montreal.  Saturday night’s all right indeed…

Brother Andrei and Helter Sk-Eller will look to be the X-Factors on offence once again.  AK is looking to make it six straight games that he registers at least one point and Lars Eller will be looking for him.  These two wild and crazy guys are starting to carve their own niche on this team.  A few weeks prior to this road trip it looked as if ‘George’ and ‘Yortuk’ would be bussed out-of town; one going to Hamilton, the other going to Parts Unknown.  Now that these guys are working like a tandem, there is nothing they can’t achieve together…

Jacques Martin, the bane of my existence, was quoted yesterday saying his team must approach this game as a playoff game.  Dummy, I wrote that yesterday.  If the playoffs would start today, the Habs would be playing… wait for it…wait for it, The Tamp Bay freaking Lightning!  Hello?!?!?!  Of course the Habs need to approach this game like a playoff game, THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONE MONTH AWAY!  And the last time I checked, the bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Toronto, Atlanta and even freaking New Jersey) can still make it.

Details, details…

Tampa Bay needs this win, bad.  The Bolts have dropped their last two games and are currently 3rd place in the Eastern standings after surrendering 2nd place to the Boston Bruins two days earlier.  A convincing win at home over a hot team like Montreal will definitely send a message throughout the ranks.  The NHL’s leading scorer (41 goals) and 2nd in total points (78 pts), Steven Stamkos will be looking to surpass Vancouver Canuck’s forward, Daniel Sedin, in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.

Tampa Bay will go with ‘Rollie the Goalie’, Dwayne Roloson, as its starting netminder tonight.  In 20 games with the Lightning this year, Roloson has a 12-7-2 record with 4 shutouts and a 2.63 GAA.  In 11 career games against the Canadiens, Rollie is 4-4-2 with 1 tie.

Spring Break concludes this evening for the Habs.  Montreal will return home and prepare for Tuesday’s tilt against…the Boston Bruins.

17 games remaining, check me…


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!

—–

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!


Slippery Tuesday: Habs vs Sabres Preview and Other Stuff

The Sabres from Buffalo have roamed over to the Bell Centre, where the Montreal Canadiens will host yet another Northeast divisional rival tonight (4:30 PM/PST).

Coming off their 3-0 blanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs are looking to make it two in a row while simultaneously attempting to obliterate any playoff hopes for the Sabres.

Buffalo sits 10th place in the Conference, 4 points back from a playoff spot.  Eighth place is currently occupied by the Carolina Hurricanes.  Good news for the Habs: the Phoenix Coyotes did the Canadiens a HUGE solid by defeating Ovie #8 and the rest of his Capitals comrades, 3-2 in regulation (phew).  The Phoenix win makes NHL profit-sharing all the more palpable. The Capitals loss officially slides Montreal into 5th place in the East.  A Montreal win tonight coupled with a Boston loss in regulation to the new-look Toronto Maple Leafs (Kris Versteeg traded to Philadelphia, and the Leafs acquire Voros) will leapfrog the Canadiens into the Northeast division lead and 3rd place overall in the East.

Details, details…

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Olympic silver medallist, and greasy hair aficionado Ryan Miller has been given the night off.  We here at johnnybertolo.wordpress.com are a little perplexed (and possibly a little turned on) as to why “Miller-Time” won’t be between the pipes ce soir.  Answer:  Miller made 31 straight starts since November, and if Sunday’s 7-6 Overtime loss wasn’t an indication that Drew Miller’s older brother needs a break, I don’t know what is. (Read Mike Harrington’s piece on Miller and the Sabres on BuffaloNews.com)

22-year old Jhonas Enroth will get his first career start versus Montreal tonight.  The greasy-faced Swede has a respectable 2-2-1 record with a 2.89 GAA this season.

Because Miller won’t get the call, johnnybertolo.wordpress.com has provided you with a highlight reel of the Sabres “other” MVP.  Here are the Top-10 Rick Jeanneret play-by-play calls:

The heir apparent to the Quebecois-Montreal Candiens-Francophone crown, David Desharnais, AKA Thomas, The Little Engine that Could from ‘Shining Time Station’, is indeed the spark the Habs have been looking for.  In his last three, the native of Laurier-Station, Quebec has 2 goals and 3 tallies.  With the way he’s playing, the Habs will have no choice but to involve Scott Gomez in some kind of underage “Bunga!  Bunga!” sex scandal party à la Silvio Berlusconi, or tag his name to a Construction price-fixing kerfuffle, whichever is cheaper. (WELL, YOU CAN’T TRADE THE GUY!!!)

Big, Bald, Alex Auld is a lock to back up Carey Price tonight.

Enjoy the game, folks.

Update: The Canadiens have called up D-Man Brendon Nash from the Hamilton Bulldogs.  The soon-to-be 24 year-old product out of Cornell University has 3 Goals and 23-points with a +12.  Not too shabby.  The Kamloops, BC native stands 6’3 inches tall and reminds me of another professional athlete with the last name Nash (and I’m not talking about Steve, or Rick).


Put Your Hands Up for Detroit: I Love this City

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.

Etcetera:

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!

Enjoy!


Bruins Goalies are Cursed: Why the Habs will Win Tonight

The Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins will add another chapter to their storied rivalry as both teams renew hostilities ce soir at the TD BankNorth Gaa-den.  Tonight’s game marks the 4th meeting between these two Northeast divisional teams this season with the Canadiens holding a 3-0 series lead going into tonight’s game.

Vezina trophy front-runner, Tim “The Toolman” Thomas is slated to start for the B’s.  Thomas’ last outing vs. Les Canadiens was solid… for 58 minutes, until two soft goals sent both teams to the extra frame and Max Pacioretty sealed the deal (and a shove to Zdeno Chara) with his OT winner.  Thomas’ comeback into the Bruins spotlight is nothing short of spectacular following what many feared to be, a career ending surgery at 36 years old to repair his hip.   He has certainly earned his place atop the league as one of its elite netminders.  Versus the Habs, not so much.

Thomas may a boast .945 save %, a sparkling 25-6-6 record with 7 shutouts this season; against the bleu, blanc, et rouge though, the numbers are not so flattering.  Lifetime vs. Montreal, Thomas has a 8-14-4 record with an alarming 3.05 GAA and a .870 save % a far-cry from his squeaky clean numbers this season. Truth be told, has there ever been a goaltender in the Boston Bruins organization to have ever handled the Canadiens with relative ease?  Other than Andy Moog (on a stacked Bruins team in the late-80’s early 90’s…hello…Cam Neely anyone?), I cannot, for the life of me, remember any Bruins goaltender having continued success against the Habs (including the playoffs) throughout his Bruins tenure.  Not Dafoe (In the playoffs), not Raycroft (regular season and playoffs), not even the great Gerry Cheevers (The Lafleur goal comes to mind)!

As my good friend Anthony Di Domizio would say, “The Bruins goal crease is cursed, CURSED I tell you!  The Bruins could have both goaltenders starting and they would still find a way to lose against the Habs.”

“The Chosen One” Carey Price will be Thomas’ rival tonight, Superman to his Lex Luther, Neo to his Agent Smith and so forth.  Price has garnered a respectable 26-17-5 record this season and leads the NHL in wins.  What’s more impressive is Price’s career record against the B’s.  In 16 regular season games against Boston, #31’s record is an outstanding 12-2-2 with a .926 SV%.  You have to love those numbers!

Speaking of numbers…The Canadiens are only two-points shy of surpassing the Bruins for the Northeast division lead and the #3 spot in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.  The Habs have won 3 out of their last 5 games since the All-Star break and are  9-3-3 in 2011.

***

James Wisniewski should return to the Habs lineup tonight.  The Wiz was battling the flu this past weekend.  The Habs are 0-for-22 on the PP in their last 5 games and 3-for-10 on against the Bruins this year.  The Habs would love to have #20 on the ice tonight to jump-start the Habs power play.

Tonight’s game will mark the 709th meeting between these two bitter rivals with the Habs holding a 342-257-103 lifetime record (Both regulation losses and Overtime/Shootout losses are lumped together).

I will provide highlights of tonight’s game via my tweeter-feed @JohnnyBertolo

Enjoy the game!