It’s back to the task at hand, the Montreal Canadiens, currently sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 83 points will host the Southeast leading Washington Capitals tonight at the Bell Centre. This will be the first Montreal home game since last Tuesday’s infamous ‘incident’ involving Max Pacioretty and Lurch, I mean Zdeno Chara.
Tonight’s foes, the Washington Capitals, currently second place in the Eastern Conference with 90 points, are a stone’s throw away from first place Philadelphia (91 points with two games in-hand) in the Conference. Looking to make it nine straight victories, a Capitals win coupled with a Flyers loss to the Florida Panthers tonight would propel Ovechkin and the Caps to top spot in the East.
The Habs, winners of their last two home games dating back to February 26th against the Carolina Hurricanes, will make a bittersweet return to the Bell Centre tonight. As important as this game is to both the Canadiens and the Capitals, the real event’s taking place outside the Bell Centre, at Centennial Plaza (go to the bottom of the post).
Carey Price, who’s looking to make some space on his trophy mantle, is a 99.99998% lock to start tonight’s game. Price is boasting a 33-22-6 record with a.924 SV% and 2.29 GAA and 8 shutouts. His 33 wins are good enough for the league lead and his 8 shutouts are second to New York Rangers netminder, Henrik Lundqvist. CP is looking for career win #94 tonight
Prior to last week’s road swing in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Andrei Kostitsyn was enjoying a seven game point streak. AK 46 has been blanked in the two last road games, but there is a silver lining for the Belorussian. AK’s looking to make it four straight games that he registers at least a point at the Bell Centre.
Tomas Plekanec is looking to extend a home point streak of his own. Plekky is currently enjoying a four game point streak at the Phone Booth and has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his last eight games. The Centre out of Kladno, Czechoslovakia has averaged just under a point a game against the Capitals lifetime. In 22 games regulkar season games against the Caps, Plekky has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) woth a plus-6 rating.
Alexander the GR8 has found his form and that does not bode well for the Habs. In his last 14 games, Ovechkin has registered 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) and has registered at least one point in his last 7 road games. Ovechkin loves the bright lights of Montreal and especially loves to play against the bleu, blanc, et rouge. In 22 games against the Habs, the Caps captain’s accumulated 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists).
The big question is, who will start in goal for the Capitals? Capitals rookie netminder, Braden Holtby, thrust into a starting role after a string of injuries to incumbent goaltenders, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth, went 4-0-0 last week and claimed NHL First Star honours. The 2008 4th round selection for Capitals had a 1.05 GAA and .965 SV% and 1 shutout in that span. Reports indicate that Michal Neuvirth is ready to go, after leaving a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning because small pieces of metal broke off from his mask and became embedded in his eye. It looks as if Capitals head coach, Bruce Boudreau, will make his decision right before tonight’s game.
This is the third meeting between these two teams with the season series currently tied at one apiece. The last time these two teams locked horns was back on February the 1st in Washington. That game witnessed the Canadiens defeating the Capitals 3-2 in a shootout. Habs captain, Brian Gionta scored the winning shootout goal. These two teams will meet for the fourth and final time this season on Saturday, March 26th in Montreal.
Tonight’s game starts at 7:00PM, check your local listings.
Before tonight’s Habs/Caps game, a rally to protest excessive violence in hockey, vicious/unnecessary shots to the head and support player safety will commence at 5PM at Centennial Plaza. The peaceful rally is aimed at bringing attention to a very hot-button issue that has been thrust into the limelight following last week’s ‘incident’ in Montreal. As mentioned numerous times before, the rally is not a protest against the Boston Bruins or Zdeno Chara. It’s a rally against the type of vicious hits resulting in unnecessary injuries and the NHL clearly showing its downfall in dealing with this matter properly.
Please represent the city of Montreal with class; I would like to write about the successes of Tuesday night’s rally and how it brought us one step closer in resolving this growing epidemic infecting the game of hockey. Be safe.
This rally is for Max Pacioretty and Marc Savard. For Patrice Bergeron and David Booth. For Sidney Crosby and Steve Moore and the scores of other players currently suffering from the after effects because too many people have been saying for far too long, “It is, what it is”.
Go Hockey Go
NOTE: I WILL BE AT THE RALLY, PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @JOHNNYBERTOLO
It’s been a few days since I wrote my last article, so please bear with me as I attempt to sift through the madness that is before explaining (and jumping into) the madness that is yet to come.
In a rather boring Saturday matinée, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Crosby and Malkin-less Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 at the Consol Energy Center.
Carey Price stopped all 26 Pittsburgh Penguins shots to earn his eighth shutout of the season, good enough for second in the league behind New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist (9 SO).
The Habs received goals from: Tomas Plekanec (21st, assisted by M. Cammalleri), who scored on a backhand after a miffed Marc Andre Fleury poke check, Travis Moen (4th, assisted by Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez) and Mike Cammalleri (16th, assisted by Jeff Halpern) providing Habs fans with a much needed…
Upon returning home to Montreal Saturday afternoon, the Canadiens received some much needed R&R. The Habs had Sunday off and returned to work on Monday for practice. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for the Habs in the last six days as they witnessed “the incident’, locked horns with former friends-turned-foes in Jaro Halak and Matt D’Agostini; finally avenging the loss of their comrade and Thursday’s game with an impressive afternoon road victory.
Let’s be frank, last week’s events left the hockey world shaken, no question about that. What separated this incident from any other that preceded it, is that in this instance, the incident simply will not be forgotten. Maybe it takes a near death experience in one the sport’s ‘hotbeds’ to spark some change in a game where vigilantism seems to have superseded respect for thy fellow competitor and the scores of preventable concussions, head and neck related injuries becoming an epidemic. But the events and discussions, which have followed, have hindered any sort of advancement on the issue and it seems, once again, the league is treading tires.
If the League Won’t do Anything…
Many Montreal Canadiens fans and others have taken to Twitter and other forms of social media to gripe alongside those who share their core values on the subject and challenge anyone who is simply brushing off the incident as ‘part of the game’, or ‘a hockey play gone awry’.
To clearly define what’s transpired since last Tuesday’s events, the event can be characterized as such: 1) A Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty rivalry within a Montreal/Boston rivalry perpetuated by the latter during an overtime celebration gone over-the-top back in January.
2) The incident itself, which came under heavy fire as it took place in one of the biggest hockey markets in the world. With the lack of a suspension provided, the event turned into a ‘Montreal vs. The Hockey World’ issue. Investigations were opened, sponsors threatened pull outs and the NHL chose to stand by their decision when it seemed like the Roman Empire was on fire.
3) The continued barrage of excuses from certain broadcasters at the (alleged) behest of some of the high ranking NHL board members who feed them their ‘scoops’ from some of the more ‘reputable’ sports TV and Radio organizations across North America, taking time at their busy schedules to tell the Montreal hockey world, ‘The Stanchion did it’, or ‘The Architect that built the Bell Centre did it.” No NHL, YOU did it. You did it when you chose to do nothing when it came to Mike Richards on David Booth:
YOU did it when it came to Matt Cooke’s blatant disregard of Marc Savard’s health and career:
And YOU did it again when Chara broke Pacioretty’s neck last week:
So the professional hockey world mouthpieces, in a spin doctor-ish kind of way, took the incident, flipped-it and made Pacioretty, the Habs and their fans look like guilty culprits. Pacioretty, for (allegedly) leaving his feet at the time of the hit followed with the age old, draconian, “he should have known where he was” excuse. The Habs and their fans for obviously caring toooooooooo much about their team and the all-around safety of the NHL players after witnessing a near fatality at centre ice. The fact that any and all attempts to start a proper dialogue about player safety (this is still the issue, right?) is quickly brushed aside with ‘oh, it’s Montreal and they care about their hockey a little toooooooooo much’ and ‘ aren’t they the same fans who torched the city numerous times following 1st round victories in the playoffs?”
First of all, if hockey fans in Montreal didn’t care about the game of hockey a little toooooooooo much, there wouldn’t even be an NHL to piss on. Yes, the Pacioretty incident magnified the situation, especially when others outside of Montreal cried fowl over the Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard both sustaining concussions because it was ‘part of the game’. The hockey fans in Montreal who happened to catch those games live were just as incensed as the Penguins or Bruins fan who witnessed one of their own go down after a vicious ‘part of the game’ hit. The reason the Chara/Pacioretty incident is getting so much press is because MORE PEOPLE WERE WATCHING…HELLO?!?!?
If the NHL didn’t piggy-back on the history and the glory of the Montreal Canadiens, the league would be scrambling for TV time against the United Football League and Curling. That being said, it’s not that Montreal deserves any type of special treatment at the NHL level, but after being historically viewed as the bastard cousin of Canada for the last 300-or-so years and recently witnessing a grave injustice without anyone being held accountable whilst being cleaned-up like a mob hit on the ‘The Sopranos’ you can understand where the frustration is stemming from, right?
Second, really, that’s your big comeback? Bringing up a stupid event ad nauseum to back-up your argument whenever it seems fit. This is grossly unfair that an entire city must bear the brunt of the whip for a select few bad apples that obviously used the Canadiens successes to further their own personal gain.
As I had mentioned many times on Twitter, ‘If everyone’s so righteous, why don’t we do something about it?” and it seems many are doing the same. Fans have suggested the boycotting of games, refusal to buy NHL merchandise and so forth. The suggestion that has picked up the most steam is a peaceful protest in front of the Bell Centre before Tuesday’s Montreal/Washington game. The protest is aimed at bringing attention to severely violent hits to the head resulting in concussions and other injuries.
Granted, not everyone’s there to have a bonfire, puff on the peace pipe and sing ‘Kumbaya’. Just like in the NHL, there are stupid people roaming the streets of Montreal looking to cause mischief. If you are reading this post and you are heading down to Tuesday’s game and you happen to witness something mischievous happening or about to happen, please notify the authorities. The last thing the city of Montreal needs is to draw attention for all the wrong reasons.
All 30 NHL General Managers are in Boca Raton, Florida to discuss a myriad of issues in regards to the NHL and how they can
make more money it better. According to the very same esteemed broadcasters, the issue of concussions and vicious shots to the head is the first item up for discussion. So after a dozen-or-so rounds of golf, comp’d meals, drinks and orgies involving Cuban pros doing ‘snow angels’ off of each other’s ‘mountainous peaks and valleys’ (allegedly), they will finally have an opportunity to skim over the documents.
Do you want me to tell you what they’re going to say? I’m pretty sure you know the answer as well…
So after the 30 NHL GM’s work on their tan for the next few days, the people who pay for the GM’s sun tan lotion, the one’s who truly care about the sport and safety of its players will rally at the Bell Centre; taking an old-school approach to a very fresh issue.
Hope to see you all on Tuesday. Please follow me on twitter @JohnnyBertolo and Go Hockey Go
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…