Well, you know what day it is:
(Warning: Strong Language and Drug Use)
Just when you thought the Habs were done like the proverbial Sunday dinner, they escaped last night’s game at the Bell Centre with the deuce in the bank account. The Tampa Bay Lightning, still in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, salvaged the lone point following the Shootout loss. Both teams have suffered injuries to some key players over the last while. The Lightning, without Ryan Malone and Steve Downie, two key contributors the Lightning’s successes in the first frame of the 2010-11 are still on the mend
The Habs, obviously without Pacioretty, Plekanec and Halpern up front and sans Gill and Sopel who joined Markov, Gorges and Spacek in a bid to resurrect Motown Records and form the second coming of The Temptations 2.0. They will tour various arenas across North America soon!
Jokes aside, the rashes of injuries sustained by both teams are clearly having an impact on both teams ascension in the standings. The Captials seem to be doing just fine without Backstrom and Arnott up-front. But the acquisition of both Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm have shored up the woes on the back-end, thus providing some balance for the team.
Kudos to teams like the Capitals and the Bruins for acquiring depth pieces for the long haul. As the season winds down to a close, you can clearly see who’s healthy and who’s limping like a dog in Michael Vick’s backyard. The Habs are clearly that mutt, but they’re still kicking, ready to fight for another day.
Last night was no different, as it was expected that the old dogs (Gomez, Gionta, Moen and Mr. 1300, Roman Hamrlik) would pick up the slack for their fallen teammates. Aside from the captain and Mr. 1300, it was the young pups, Lars Eller and David Desharnais, who played up to their coach’s standards.
Lars Eller was a stud all over the ice, the numbers might not show it, but as many Habs scribes have pointed out, Lars played just under 19 minutes to set a career high and went 5-for-10 in the face-off circle.
The DD assisted on Andrei Kostitsyn’s second period goal, extending AK 46’s home point streak to five games (three goals, three assists in that span). Desharnais finished the game plus-1 and played just over 18 minutes last night.
Following every game, after every save, Carey Price’s argument for the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player gets stronger and stronger. Price, once again, had another stellar outing, stopping 35-of-37 shots and 3-out-of-4 shootout attempts to preserve the victory. The cool, calm and collected Price improved his GAA (2.31) and SV% (.924) and ranks 1st in wins for a goaltender this year (34).
Price has been the shining light for the Canadiens all season long. With lingering injuries and some inconsistent play by certain top-tier * cough * * cough * players (well, I shouldn’t say ‘inconsistent’ if you don’t score in 27, 28, 29 whatever games, well, you’re pretty consistent at being bad in my book) and stupid, selfish, irresponsible penalties by a former 4th overall selection, it’s no wonder Price is being heralded as the neighbourhood hero after saving the bacon.
The Habs travel to the Big Apple ce soir to take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are holding on to the 7th spot in the East with 78 points. With a win over the Habs tonight, the Rangers will be five points away from 6th.
The Habs, 3-0-0 this season against the Rangers will meet their original 6 rival for the last time this regular season. The Rangers, coming off a 6-2 win over cross-town rival, New York Islanders on Tuesday are looking for their 3rd straight win. Henrik Lundqvist looks like the clear-cut starter tonight. It’s unknown whether Carey Price will get the nod; Price has started in the last eight consecutive games for the bleu, blanc et rouge.
Happy Weekend folks! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @JohnnyBertolo
Happy Greatest-Day-in-the-World-Ever, or as the Irish would call it, St. Patrick’s Day! An annual tradition across the globe, the great city of Montreal, more times than not, will indubitably pull out all the stops this weekend. Irishmen (and women), Montreal citizens and local drunks will freely stumble through downtown Montreal this weekend chanting, dancing and a few other –ing’s not suitable for this post. It has been announced that the population will double in drunks-per-capita every hour until Sunday Night, so you may want to leave your car at home.
In keeping up with St. Patty’s Day tradition in Montreal; there is no better way to kick-off the festivities than with a hockey game tonight at the Bell Centre. Hopefully the Montreal faithful will not be coerced into the re-enactment of the ‘Richard Riot’, it’s been 56 years since then NHL President, Clarence Campbell (no relation to the current NHL VP of Operations, Colin Campbell) arrogantly attended the Montreal/Detroit game at the Forum following the Maurice Richard season and playoff ending suspension. Campbell’s presence sparked anger and outrage at the Forum. A riot ensued an the rest was as they say, ‘history’.
So get your green brew ready, put away that shillelagh for now and let’s get busy.
Habs vs. Lightning
Not your typical St. Patrick’s Day hockey match-up, but alas, a hockey match-up nonetheless. The Lightning, 5th place in the Eastern Conference with 87 points are looking to avenge their 4-2 loss to the Canadiens two weeks ago. The Habs, holding onto 6th place in the Conference with 83 points are looking to close the gap with the Lightning with a win tonight.
The Habs, coming off a disastrous 4-2 loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals Tuesday are looking to get back into the win column. Montreal certainly gave goaltender Carey Price a workout, facing 41 shots against the Caps while surrendering four goals. Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern were lost due to lower-body injuries. Both are listed as day-to-day. With the rash of injuries plaguing the Habs, the team has summoned both Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj from the Hamilton Bulldogs, both are currently practicing with the Habs.
Joining Plekanec and Halpern with boo-boo’s and illnesses include: Hal Gill (sick/flu like symptoms) Max Pacioretty (fractured vertebrae/concussion), Brent Sopel (broken hand/arm), Mathieu Darche (groin) Markov, Gorges, Spacek (lower-body) and the list goes on.
Tonight will mark the 1300th career NHL game for Montreal Canadiens defenceman, Roman Hamrlik. Hamr’ is second behind fellow Czech countryman, Bobby Holik (1314 NHL games), for most NHL games played by a Czech-Republican and joins 48 other esteemed players in that category. To make the evening apropos, Hamr’s will face the team that selected him 1st overall in the 1992 NHL entry draft
The Habs PP could seriously use a shot of green beer; in the last three games the Habs have gone 0-for-8 on the man advantage but managed two power play goals against the Lightning in their last meeting.
For the Lightning, fellow Quebecois and Tampa captain, Vincent Lecavalier, is looking to score in his third straight game. The Ile-Bizard native has enjoyed playing against his former childhood team. In 46 career regular season games, Lecavalier has scored 15 goals and added 22 assists.
This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this season with the Lightning holding the edge with two wins and only one loss. Carey Price and Dwayne Roloson will likely start for their respective teams. Start time is 7:30 PM
Follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBertolo and once again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Be safe folks.
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
The Montreal Canandiens returned to the win column for the first time in 2 weeks, shoring up the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 at Rogers Place Tuesday. The toast of the town and B.C. native, Carey Price, finally exacted some revenge on his childhood team, defeating the Canucks on home ice following last years disastrous 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Luongo and Co.
The Price man was definitely the busiest of all buzzing bees during the contest, making 37 saves and securing a much needed Montreal Canadiens victory, their first since February 12th vs Toronto. The Habs return home to Montreal following a 3-game ‘Rocky’ western road trip which finally saw the Canadiens escape with one victory and just 2-points to declare.
Last night’s game surely had its share of storylines. For instance:
1) Jacques Martin finally decided to show-off his card-dealing skills and shuffled the lines for last night’s match (in a bid to insulate the Sedins, but we won’t give him tooooo much credit, right?).
Martin combined Plekanec, Cammalleri and Halpern together and reunited the Gomez, Gionta, Pacioretty line. The moved proved effective, for the first 10-minutes when the Habs capitalized on a stunned Canucks squad and popped in 2 goals in 69-seconds (Desharnais (6) breakaway, Gionta’s (22) rebound).
2) Relegating Kostitsyn to the 4th line; uniting his him with Lars Eller proved beneficial for the Canadiens as AK FINALLY got his name on the stat sheet after a million games. AK showed some hustle versus the ‘Nucks. He skated well, he played the body and hey, he even got a goal, his 14th of the season and game-winner. If the old saying is true and you’re only as good as your last game, well then, the Habs should rethink their trade deadline strategy and possible find a new home for the Belarusian.
3) Roman Hamrlik leading the team in power-play minutes (4:30 to be exact) while PK Subban saw limited offensive special team minutes (1:47) and an increased role on the penalty-kill (6:53, tied with Hal Gill). First thing that comes to my mind; the Habs are showcasing Roman Hamrlik, but to whom? The Canucks? Let’s be frank, Hamrlik played a ‘good’ game, he finished plus-1 and played just under 22 minutes. An offensive defenceman he is not, so it was quite perplexing to see Hamr getting 1st line PP duty alongside Wisniewski while Subban and Weber occupied the second pairing. If the Habs are showcasing Hamrlik, what can the Montreal expect in return?
4) It was nice to watch the Canadiens play a hockey game for once, albeit for only 10 minutes in the 1st period. The rest of the way was all Vancouver as the wrestled control away from the Habs and dictated the pace onward. The change in pace forced the Canadiens to revert back to JM’s system, by habit, not by choice. The bulk of the credit goes to Carey Price, once again proving to be Montreal’s MVP this year, did you expect anything less?
Their bags are packed, they’re ready to go. The Habs will say Au Revoir to western Canada and return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at the Call Centre, er, Bell Centre. Yeah, yeah, Original 6 match-up, history, blah, blah, blah. Read my last article from 2 weeks ago on the history of the Habs/ Maple Leafs match-ups and see how I feel about this overrated battle: “Rivalry Shmivalry: Habs vs Leafs (again.)”
Saturday it’s the Carolina Hurricanes sweeping their way through Montreal. Hopefully the Habs can pull off a Helen Hunt (Yummy!) and attempt to contain these ‘Canes before they start making a dent in the Conference, like in that movie. Typhoon was it? Whatever?!?!
Habs remain in 6th place
5 days until trade deadline, check me…
The further west the Habs travel, the loader the groans get in Montreal. With Sunday’s Heritage Classic abortion of a game behind them, the Habs will look to avoid a 4th straight loss as they square off against the Mt. Rushmore of opponents, the Drago of opponents, the Vancouver Canucks. The action all goes down at 10:00 PM EST, so you may want to take a nap before dinnertime, because if the Habs put on a similar show like they did on Sunday, they will be napping like Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, permanently.
Who are you? And what have you done with the real Jacques Martin?
That’s right folks, after being abducted by Colombian dope peddlers 3 weeks ago, the real Jacques Martin has been found, alive and well and will resume his coaching duties Tuesday versus the Canucks. Upon his recovery, Martin stated that he had no recollection of the abduction but stressed “many mistakes” and “mental errors” on his part.
(Warning: Graphic Imagery and Strong Language)
Ok, Marvin wasn’t so lucky, but Martin is…
Martin’s impostor, Jean Martin, his cousin on his father’s side, twice removed, sent to sabotage the Canadiens on behalf of the Colombians in a bid to further the collective interests of the Toronto Maple Leafs Evil Empire is currently detained in a maximum security prison with no chance at a trial. The real Jacques Martin has decided to *gasp* split-up the dynamic duo of Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn. Why now Jacques? Oh yeah, the abduction thing…
The new lines are as follows: Gomez anchoring Gionta and Pacioretty; David Desharnais with Benoit Pouliot and Ryan White; the 4th line spectacular: Eller, Moen and Kostitsyn; followed by an intriguing top-6 line: Plekanec, Cammalleri and Halpern. Interesting to say the least, but the same result is predicted. Remember what happened the last time the Habs travelled to Vancouver?
Habs are mired in a scoring funk and it doesn’t bode well for the bleu, blanc et rouge going into Tuesday’s contest. Pierre Gauthier has the unenviable task of balancing this current roster of castaways and misfits; attempt to acquire a couple of more band aid solutions without sacrificing too much and hope upon his return to Montreal that his car isn’t pelted with eggs and batteries.
Movers and Shakers…
James Neal’s found a new home in Pittsburgh, which made everyone in Montreal collectively say, “WTF?!?!? That guy was available?” Penguins send Goligoski to Dallas in exchange for Neal and Matt Niskanen. Really? I truly wonder if the Habs pushed for James Neal, I truly do. Does Bob Gainey still have friends in Dallas? Did he call? Or did Geoff Molson sacrifice long distance service to pay for the Gomez contract? He is exactly what the Habs need, correct? Gee, a 6’2 gritty power forward with the balls to park his a$$ in front of the net. Nah, the Habs don’t need that. Troll out Kovalev! See if Buffalo wants a 3rd for Rivet? Come on! The Funhouse is open for business!
6 days until trade deadline, check me…