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…
“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!