Posts tagged “The Matrix

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!

 


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.

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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!