Posts tagged “St. Louis Blues

All Eyes on Montreal: Habs/Caps/Rally Preview

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).

Digits:

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.

Etcetera

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.

PostScript

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

 

 

 

 

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Old School Approach to a Fresh Issue; Hockey Fans Unite: Habs & Other News

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.

The Game:

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.

The Incident

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.

Silver Lining…

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.

Etcetera

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


Melancholy Montreal Lose to the Blues: 4-1 Final

Following 48-hours of anger, despair and worry for their fallen comrade, it was back to business for the Montreal Canadiens as they returned to action Thursday to face the St. Louis Blues and one –time Montreal mega-hero Jaroslav Halak.

Thursday’s meeting was the first time Halak locked horns with his former club, along with another former Montreal Canadien, Matt D’Agostini.  The former Habs both enjoyed a splendid evening with their current club, exacting some revenge on the team who had cast them off a year ago.

St. Louis’ 4-1 victory over the emotionally depleted Montreal Canadiens extended the Blues winning streak to 3-games.  The team is still leaps and bounds behind in the Western Conference playoff race, sitting 13th place in the standings, nine-points behind 8th place Los Angeles.

The Canadiens opened the scoring on the power play at the 12:30 mark when Jeff Halpern redirected an Alexandre Picard pass from the point past Jaroslav Halak.  Halpern’s goal would prove to be the only one to get by Halak, as the Blues netminder shut the door the rest of the way; stopping 27-of-28 shots to preserve the victory.

A late first period goal by David Backes tied the game shortly thereafter.  Scott Gomez was removed from the face-off circle; Benoit Pouliot lost the draw to Andy McDonald cleanly.  Backes was in a perfect position and rifled a hard shot that stunned Carey Price. It was evident that the late goal suffocated Montreal’s momentum going into intermission.

The Canadiens looked lethargic the rest of the way.  Carey Price attempted to thwart every St. Louis attempt, but to no avail.  Goals by Andy McDonald (17th of the season), former Montreal Canadien, Matt D’Agostini (14th of the season) and TJ Oshie’s (8th goal) empty netter were too much for the Habs as they lost their first since February 24th versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Digits

Benoit Pouliot’s grand return to the top six was anything but as the former 2005 1st round draft selection finished the game –2 and found himself relegated to the fourth line for most of the third period.

Habs goaltender Carey Price finished the game with a .885 SV% stopping 23-of-26 shots.

The tandem of Eller and Kostitsyn could not continue their respective point streaks in consecutive games, finishing-up  –1 and –2 respectively.

Davis Desharnais’ 4-game point streak came to a close last night.  The native of Laurier-Station, Quebec played just under 10-minutes, registering one shot.

Next…

The Canadiens travel to Pittsburgh to face Alex Kovalev, James Neal and the rest of the Penguins for a Saturday matinee at the Consol Energy Center.  Start time is 2PM.  Full Montreal/Pittsburgh preview tomorrow.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo


Once Again, Stupidity Prevails: Habs / Bruins Breakdown

STATUS UPDATE (3:42 pm): According to the NHL and the VP  of Hockey Operations, Mike Murphy, the reasoning behind the ruling,

“After a thorough review of the video I can find no basis to impose supplemental discipline.  This hit resulted from a play that evolved and then happened very quickly — with both players skating in the same direction and with Chara attempting to angle his opponent into the boards,” continued Murphy. “I could not find any evidence to suggest that, beyond this being a correct call for interference, that Chara targeted the head of his opponent, left his feet or delivered the check in any other manner that could be deemed to be dangerous.”

Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

 

Status Update (3:30pm) According to the Boston Bruins via Twitter: “@NHLBruins: The NHL has informed the Bruins that there will be no fine and no suspension for Chara.  The Montreal Canadiens at their fans will not pleased when they get word of this.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

STATUS UPDATE (2:30pm): According to Renaud Lavoie of RDS, “@renhockey Pacioretty: neck fracture-out 2 to 4 weeks only for that injury. He’s got a plastic cast around.”

According to Pacioretty’s agent, Alec Shall, via twitter, “@aschall21 Max sounds like himself. It is going to be a lot of work to heal and rehab, but his will power is one of his strengths.”

Remember, Pacioretty did suffer a concussion on the play.  He must be evaluated numerous times before he’s given the green light to return.  Stay updated Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo

STATUS UPDATE (12:38pm): Max Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced fracture of his 4th cervical vertebrae.  The Montreal Canadiens will continue updating his condition.  Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo for further details.

———-

In the legendary words of one Jeremy Roenick, “NHL, wake the f$%k up”.

Last night’s Montreal/Boston tilt was supposed to be a celebration of the game.   Finally, skill and speed had once again trumped over thuggish goonery and intimidation.

The Montreal Canadiens had returned to respectable form following last month’s abortion of a game in Baaaston.  In the eyes of its fans, the Habs completely outworked, yes you heard me, OUTWORKED, their slower, braindead opponents to perfection and the B’s simply couldn’t handle it.

The Modern day Canandiens showed flashes of the 1970’s Habs against their longtime, bitter rival.  As much as the Bruins slashed, hooked, punched and cheated their way to an advantage, the Habs were equally up to the task, just simply executing better.

The Habs were not going to allow a sequel to the “Bedlam in Beantown” unravel on Bell Centre ice.  Even when jackass Johnny Boychuk was headhunting early on in the 1st period, it was Ryan White who stepped in and made Johnny Boy’s face look like Tom Pyatt’s following last month’s fight with Gregory Campbell (without the help of an elbow pad I might add).

From that point on, you knew the Habs weren’t f$%king around. After the Habs notched goal, after goal, after goal, after goal, the Canadiens and their fans were preparing themselves for a good old-fashioned Tuesday party in downtown Montreal.  The champagne was chilled; people couldn’t wait to talk about Lars Eller and his first two-goal night in the NHL, or Andrei Kostitsyn extending his point streak to seven games, or Gionta’s 24th, or Wiz’s Wizzer from the point.

Enter Lurch…

This 7-foot former butler from The Addams Family somehow lucked his big carcass into a contract with the Bruins after he was left for dead in Ottawa.  Under the guise of Claude Julien (who bears a striking resemblance to Hank’s neighbour, Bill Dauterive, from King of the Hill, thank you Habs blogger Kyle Roussel for the laugh), Chara has been transformed into one of the most dominant defenders in the game and simultaneously one of the worst dressers (even by Slovakian standards) on the planet.

Exhibit A

Ever since Max Pacioretty scored the overtime winner against Boston and shoved Chara following the goal to celebrate with his mates on January 8th, 2011 a huge target was automatically painted on the back of the PacMan.  The Bruins had focused their collective hatred for the Habs on #67 and viewed him as the next big threat in the MTL/BOS rivalry.

Exhibit B

During the clown show in Boston last February the 8th, Chara showed his pettiness by slashing Pacioretty on his calf and watched has he slowly skated back to the Montreal bench.  If this were Babylon in 1011 BC the 2nd Sealed Dynasty would throw the case out citing the classic argument, “An eye for an eye” or in this case, “A love-tap for a love-tap”.  Finito, finished, done, move on.

Exhibit C

If that’s not intent to injure, then the Quebec government is run by some of the smartest, most talented people roaming the Earth. Following the game, after Chara cowered to the back of the Bruins bus to escape the ever-glaring Montreal media eye, Lurch emerged and spewed forth his reasoning behind the hit “…very unfortunate when I pushed him that he leaned & jumped a little bit & just hit the glass extension”

Yeah and I’m pretty sure JFK assassinated himself using the magic bullet and an invisible gun.  What a crock of sh%t, he knew where Pacioretty was, he knew he was off-balance and vulnerable and the f$%ker shoved him anyway. The act was so premeditated, the NHL has three games worth of footage to cycle through before making an educated decision regarding Chara’s fate.

So now the Bruins and Chara play the waiting game as Lurch will sit down with another NHL VP clone, Mike Murphy, who will surely evaluate the hit on the after effects of Pacioretty rather than the intent to maliciously end the guy’s career.

Bravo NHL, Bra-F$%king-Vo! —

Digits…

Carey Price was brilliant, again, stopping 30-of-31 shots to preserve the win for le bleu, blanc et rouge.  Price improves his career record against the B’s to 13-3-2.

Lars Eller certainly had a better outing this time against the Bruins, scoring two goals and finishing the game plus-1.  Last time Eller played the B’s he was lined up with Gomez and finished the game -4.

Andrei Kostitsyn extended his point streak to seven games and has assisted in six straight.

James Wisniewski scored his 8th goal of the season with a blast from the point.

Captain Brian Gionta scored a rather easy goal on Tukka Rask following much confusion in the Boston crease.

—–

Tuukka Rask certainly had a night to forget.  Filling in for the injured Tim Thomas (Hand), Rask allowed four goals on 26 shots and finished the game with a .846 SV%.  Lifetime against the Habs, Rask is an unflattering 1-5-1.

Hab Killer Milan Lucic got the lone goal for the B’s late in the 3rd period.  In his last 9 games, Lucic has six goals and six assists and leads the B’s in the scoring category with 29 and tied for second on the team in points with 50.

Etcetera

Habs are back on the road, travelling to St. Louis to play last year’s Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak, on Thursday. We will have a full evaluation on Max Pacioretty’s condition and a MTL/STL preview tomorrow on JB.com Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo Please leave Comments. Laters!


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: NHL Trade Deadline

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…


Habs look to ‘KO’ the Leafs: Meeting #707

…and here we are again, barely two weeks have gone by since their  last meeting and both teams are set (once again) to renew close to a century of hostilities.  The Toronto Maple Leafs (26-27-7) and Montreal Canadiens (33-22-7) will play game numer 707 before the Bell Centre faithful tonight.

The Habs, coming off a much needed victory over the Vancouver Canucks  in their last of a 3-game western road trip, return home to host Toronto for the last time this season.  Montreal sits comfortably in the 6th place in the Eastern Conference with 71-points while Toronto is on the outside looking in, 11th place in the conferance, 6-points out of a playoff spot.

Instead of boring you with the mundane details watch this video which perfectly describes the mutual hatred that Canadiens fans and Maple leafs fans share (when the rivalry mattered).

Without further adieu, here is “The Hockey Sweater”, known in French as “Le Chandail Hockey”, 1979:

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Not done reading?  Here’s an excerpt from my previous Montreal/Toronto  preview piece.  I argue that the MON/TOR rivalry has lacked over the last 30-or-so years and I have the numbers to prove it!  Take a look:

Posted February 12th, 2010:

Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs. Leafs (again.)

…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.

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.

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Puck drops at 7:30 PM

4 days until trade deadline, check me…


Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs. Leafs (again.)

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.

BREAKDOWN:

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.