Posts tagged “Toronto Maple Leafs

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


Time to Grease the Lightning: Habs/Bolts Preview

The Montreal Canadiens are looking to wrap up the greatest Spring Break ever with a bonfire win over the Southeast-division leading TB Lightning ce soir.  As per usual, Saturday night’s start time is at 7:00 PM EST (8:30 PM CT).  Fresh off his seventh shutout of the season, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start in goal for le bleu, blanc et rouge.

Spring Break Memories for the family…

Hey Ma,

It’s Carey writing to you from sunny Florida.  I’m having fun; today I’m going to play the Lightning.  I don’t like them very much; the last time I played TB was back on December 30th, 2010.  We not only lost the game 4-1, but it was made official that we lost one of my BFF’s, Josh Gorges, for the remainder of the season with a  messed up MCL in his knee.

Oh well, I think I’m having more fun on this trip than my Christmas trip.  Mommy look, in my last two games, I’ve only allowed one goal, on 71 shots with a .988 SV% against Atlanta and Florida.  You can see my stats on my FB wall!

Got to run, PK’s trying to ‘antique’ me.

Love you!

Carey

Well wasn’t that sweet?  Back to the stats, Carey Price is winless versus the Lightning this year and in all truthfulness, hasn’t faired entirely well against Vinny and Co throughout his short career.  Price has a less-than-stellar 3-4-2 record against the Bolts lifetime.  Alas, there is a silver lining, Price has been off-the-charts amazing this year on Saturday’s, boasting a 11-2-1 record with a 1.56 GAA and 4 shutouts this season.  Yup, the kid was born to play for Montreal.  Saturday night’s all right indeed…

Brother Andrei and Helter Sk-Eller will look to be the X-Factors on offence once again.  AK is looking to make it six straight games that he registers at least one point and Lars Eller will be looking for him.  These two wild and crazy guys are starting to carve their own niche on this team.  A few weeks prior to this road trip it looked as if ‘George’ and ‘Yortuk’ would be bussed out-of town; one going to Hamilton, the other going to Parts Unknown.  Now that these guys are working like a tandem, there is nothing they can’t achieve together…

Jacques Martin, the bane of my existence, was quoted yesterday saying his team must approach this game as a playoff game.  Dummy, I wrote that yesterday.  If the playoffs would start today, the Habs would be playing… wait for it…wait for it, The Tamp Bay freaking Lightning!  Hello?!?!?!  Of course the Habs need to approach this game like a playoff game, THE PLAYOFFS ARE ONE MONTH AWAY!  And the last time I checked, the bottom-feeders (Buffalo, Toronto, Atlanta and even freaking New Jersey) can still make it.

Details, details…

Tampa Bay needs this win, bad.  The Bolts have dropped their last two games and are currently 3rd place in the Eastern standings after surrendering 2nd place to the Boston Bruins two days earlier.  A convincing win at home over a hot team like Montreal will definitely send a message throughout the ranks.  The NHL’s leading scorer (41 goals) and 2nd in total points (78 pts), Steven Stamkos will be looking to surpass Vancouver Canuck’s forward, Daniel Sedin, in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.

Tampa Bay will go with ‘Rollie the Goalie’, Dwayne Roloson, as its starting netminder tonight.  In 20 games with the Lightning this year, Roloson has a 12-7-2 record with 4 shutouts and a 2.63 GAA.  In 11 career games against the Canadiens, Rollie is 4-4-2 with 1 tie.

Spring Break concludes this evening for the Habs.  Montreal will return home and prepare for Tuesday’s tilt against…the Boston Bruins.

17 games remaining, check me…


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…


A Whale of a Game: Habs vs ‘Canes Preview

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?

Details, deatails…

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…




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:

——-

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.

——

Puck drops at 7:30 PM

4 days until trade deadline, check me…


By the Hair of their Chinny Chin Chins

“Show class, have pride, and display character.  If you do, winning takes care of itself”“ -Paul Bryant

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?

and finally…

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?

WHO’S NEXT…

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…


One More for the Road: Habs visit Canucks

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…


Guess Who’s Back? Back Again…(Habs re-acquire Mara, Oilers Preview)

From thehockeynews.com

“The Philadelphia Flyers announce the acquisition of Forward Kris Versteeg from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 1st and a 3rd round draft picks…”

“The Boston Bruins announce the acquisition of Centre Chris Kelly from the Ottawa Senators for a 2nd round drat pick…”

“The Canadiens re-acquire Paul Mara from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2012 5th round draft pick…”

Notice a pattern here?

While the rest of the Eastern Conference juggernauts are purchasing some serious performance enhancers for the playoff long haul, the Habs are buying tampons simply to curb the bleeding.

There’s not enough cotton in the world to absorb the Habs’ injury woes on defence, so instead of getting pro-active, the Habs decide to travel down the same road and acquire someone simply for convenience.  The devil you know versus the devil you don’t.  It’s time for Montreal Canadiens General Manager, Pierre Gauthier to pull the string (hehe) on a serious trade that will improve the team for the latter stages of the 2011 season and beyond.  Stop with the band-aids and pick up some cement, for crying out loud!

From fusedfilm.comIn Mara (once again), the Habs have found their auxiliary option on the D-Line while Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill are on the mend, recovering from their boo-boos.  The 6 foot 4 former first round draft choice, Mara, returns to the Habs playing 33 games for the Ducks this season, collecting 2-points and a –1 rating.  And if the Mara experiment fails in Montreal (again), he still is the spitting image of Zach Galifianakis.

Business…

Yee-Haw, saddle up partners, the Habs are on the move.  It’s an old time Western showdown tonight between the team of the 80’s and the team of the 20th Century.  So tuck the youngens into bed early, kiss the dame one last time, ’cause you’re parking your Kaboose right in front of that there HD television screen and not movin’ till morn, right?  Alrighty.

Here’s my prediction for tonight’s game (the role of the ‘Montreal Canadiens’ will be played by the very esteemed Gene Hackman.)

Showdown’s at 9:00 PM/EST, the struggling Oilers are 2-6-0 in the month of February and currently hold the worst record in the NHL (17-32-8).

Forward Dustin Penner leads the Edmonton Oilers in goals (20) and points (36) this season.  The former Anaheim Duck is looking to elevate his game tonight and hopefully get his behind traded out of town.

The Kardiac Kids will hope to continue their hot streaks.  Max Pacioretty is on a 5-game point streak and is looking to make it 6.  David Desharnais has been playing like a top-2 NHL centre, so hopefully his stellar play will reward him more ice time.  PK Subban is PK Subban.  ‘Nuff said.  Finally, greatest goalie in the world ever, bringer of rain, Slayer of Theocles, the People’s Champ, Carey Price, will undoubtedly get the start.

Enjoy my all-time favourite Bugs Bunny clip…

Ciao for now.


Slippery Tuesday: Habs vs Sabres Preview and Other Stuff

The Sabres from Buffalo have roamed over to the Bell Centre, where the Montreal Canadiens will host yet another Northeast divisional rival tonight (4:30 PM/PST).

Coming off their 3-0 blanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs are looking to make it two in a row while simultaneously attempting to obliterate any playoff hopes for the Sabres.

Buffalo sits 10th place in the Conference, 4 points back from a playoff spot.  Eighth place is currently occupied by the Carolina Hurricanes.  Good news for the Habs: the Phoenix Coyotes did the Canadiens a HUGE solid by defeating Ovie #8 and the rest of his Capitals comrades, 3-2 in regulation (phew).  The Phoenix win makes NHL profit-sharing all the more palpable. The Capitals loss officially slides Montreal into 5th place in the East.  A Montreal win tonight coupled with a Boston loss in regulation to the new-look Toronto Maple Leafs (Kris Versteeg traded to Philadelphia, and the Leafs acquire Voros) will leapfrog the Canadiens into the Northeast division lead and 3rd place overall in the East.

Details, details…

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Olympic silver medallist, and greasy hair aficionado Ryan Miller has been given the night off.  We here at johnnybertolo.wordpress.com are a little perplexed (and possibly a little turned on) as to why “Miller-Time” won’t be between the pipes ce soir.  Answer:  Miller made 31 straight starts since November, and if Sunday’s 7-6 Overtime loss wasn’t an indication that Drew Miller’s older brother needs a break, I don’t know what is. (Read Mike Harrington’s piece on Miller and the Sabres on BuffaloNews.com)

22-year old Jhonas Enroth will get his first career start versus Montreal tonight.  The greasy-faced Swede has a respectable 2-2-1 record with a 2.89 GAA this season.

Because Miller won’t get the call, johnnybertolo.wordpress.com has provided you with a highlight reel of the Sabres “other” MVP.  Here are the Top-10 Rick Jeanneret play-by-play calls:

The heir apparent to the Quebecois-Montreal Candiens-Francophone crown, David Desharnais, AKA Thomas, The Little Engine that Could from ‘Shining Time Station’, is indeed the spark the Habs have been looking for.  In his last three, the native of Laurier-Station, Quebec has 2 goals and 3 tallies.  With the way he’s playing, the Habs will have no choice but to involve Scott Gomez in some kind of underage “Bunga!  Bunga!” sex scandal party à la Silvio Berlusconi, or tag his name to a Construction price-fixing kerfuffle, whichever is cheaper. (WELL, YOU CAN’T TRADE THE GUY!!!)

Big, Bald, Alex Auld is a lock to back up Carey Price tonight.

Enjoy the game, folks.

Update: The Canadiens have called up D-Man Brendon Nash from the Hamilton Bulldogs.  The soon-to-be 24 year-old product out of Cornell University has 3 Goals and 23-points with a +12.  Not too shabby.  The Kamloops, BC native stands 6’3 inches tall and reminds me of another professional athlete with the last name Nash (and I’m not talking about Steve, or Rick).


Put Your Hands Up for Detroit: I Love this City

I guess everyone’s back on the proverbial bandwagon.  The Habs, winners on Saturday versus the lowly Maple Leafs, ending their 3-game losing skid by blanking Toronto 3-0.  The Bruins, losers in back-to-back games (6-1, 4-2) against their Original 6 rival Detroit Red Wings made everyone in Montreal laugh like Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop.

(WARNING:  Strong Language)

Thankfully, the Montreal Canadiens wagon has reinforced shocks.  Following Wednesday night’s blood bath against the Bruins and Thursday night’s snooze fest versus the Islanders, the Habs needed a strong showing Saturday night against The Maple Leafs in front of the hometown faithful, or plunge into the St. Lawrence River, cradle and all.

Just like that, the Montreal Canadiens whipped the Maple Leafs like a giggling Homer J. Simpson chasing down a half-naked Uter in the locker-room during that ‘Simpsons’ Hockey episode.

The Canadiens and their fans are breathing a sigh of relief Monday morning.  Worried solely about digging their cars from an icy, snow covered tomb (Current ‘Hot Topic’ on Twitter:  #blamesubban).  Alas, still keeping warm upon viewing the current Eastern Conference standings.  As of today, Valentine’s Day (the holiest of all days) 2011, the Canadiens sit tied in 5th place with the Washington Capitals (Caps have 1-game in hand) and 1-point back of the Northeast division-leading Bruins.

After defeating the Habs back on December 10th, 2010, you couldn’t help but feel like the Red Wings owed the Canadiens, right?  I mean, the Habs DID give Detroit a run for their money 2 months ago.  The Red Wings HAVE been the most successful franchise over the last twenty years.  Furthermore, the Red Wings WERE responsible for chasing Patrick Roy out of Montreal…even though that was over a decade and a half ago.

The point is, with so much bad luck befalling the Habs this year (injuries, horror stories involving team cohesion, PK Subban being to ‘cocky’ according to outside media officials, we call him ‘talented’ here), they needed a break from having their head in the noose.  And, with the Red Wings playing the part of the Lone Ranger over the weekend, the Habs may have assured themselves some extra playing time come mid-April.

Meat and Potatoes (Mmmmmm):

It’s back to business for Le bleu, blanc et rouge.  Valentine’s Day, pffffffffff, who cares when you’re hosting another divisional rival at the Centre Bell the following day, right?  The Buffalo Sabres, coming off a Green Bay Packers/ Chicago Bears-like loss (7-6 F/OT) against the suddenly scorching New York Islanders team, will be looking to get back into the win column Tuesday.

The Sabres sit 10th place in the Conference, 4-points back of 8th place Carolina.  This game will mark the 5th time these two teams lock horns this season with the Habs holding a 3-1 series lead.  Buffalo won the last meeting, 2-1 F/OT in January.

Hopefully the Habs will give an update on the status of Max Pacioretty.  The New Haven, Connecticut native was drilled hard into the boards by Maple Leafs defenceman, Luke Schenn during Saturday’s game.  The injury has not been confirmed, but it looks like a left arm/hand injury, more details to follow.

Mathieu Darche is currently skating on the ice in Brossard.  Taking some shots on Habs backup, Alex Auld.  It has been confirmed that Darche, along with Mike Cammalleri, and MaxPac will participate in Monday’s practice.  Hal Gill is skating alone which signifies he may miss some extended time.

Etcetera:

So it’s Valentine’s Day, if you’re sans partner, I can’t help you.  I’m pretty sure there’s a watering hole right around the corner where some person will give you all the attention you desire, at a nominal fee.

Guys, don’t get suckered in to all the hoopla, just show your woman you give a damn, cook her dinner, light some stupid candles, embrace her and make her feel special.

Girls, don’t put too much stock into this day, it’s Monday, it’s sh%#&y outside, the Habs aren’t playing and chances are, your man had to take public transportation to get to work today.  Give him a break, know that he cares and just curl up together and tag-team that bottle of vino!

Enjoy!


Let’s make it 3: Habs lose Third Straight to Lowly Isles

3 straight losses, that’s the reality folks.  The latest, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, the New York Islanders.  The Canadiens have reached THAT part of the season where all reasoning goes out-the-window and the L’s, OTL’s and SOL’s* out-number the W’s.  The Habs’ overachieving from the first part of the season is halted and the real nitty-gritty physical/mental games are just getting underway.

Last night’s game bored the crap out of me.  So much so, I headed down to the old Mu Omicron Zeta Fraternity house on Ste. Catherine St., took part in some festive rituals (in other words, I drank a lot), pushed the snooze button on the 2nd period and returned to watch the 3rd period with one eye open.

After verbally berating my fraternity brother Chris “Boxer” Gravel’s television on the 2nd floor of the MOZ house following the shootout loss, I, along with many Montreal Canadiens fans realized that in order to survive the last stanza of the 2010-2011 season, changes must be made.

To quote Jack Nicholson in Batman… you know what, just watch the clip below; you’ll understand what I’m trying to say:

Lars Eller needs to be sent down to Hamilton, nothing personal on the guy, but when you’re playing with Gomez and Kostitsyn and you’re only handed a little over 11 minutes of ice time and no PP time, well, I don’t need to tell you, the writing’s on the wall.  Even Ryan White had more ice time than his Danish counterpart!

Gomez and Kostitsyn, ughhhhhhhh, what more can I say?  Along with Eller they were a combined –3 with only 3 shots on goal.  Out of 37 shots total.  Oh yeah, by the way, they started the damn game after that abortion of a performance against the Bruins Wednesday night!

We all understand that the Habs are trying to showcase AK’s talents (or whatever) for the 29 other General Managers in the league.  Believe me, they’ll find a taker.  As I stare into my crystal ball I can’t help but visualize Sergei’s older brother turning into a mega-superstar in a new area code.

There has to be a bag of pucks out there with the Habs’ name on it in exchange for Scott Gomez’s hefty contract.  There just has to!

James Wisniewski has not fully recovered from the flu.  I credit his offensive prowess since his return (other than his open net gaffe in the 2nd period), but he has become a detriment in his own zone.  He finished last night’s game with a –1, with some ugly giveaways.  With Gill out of the lineup and Picard logging some 15 minutes, an upgrade at defense is likely via trade.

Jacques Martin looked as squeamish and uncomfortable behind the Canadiens bench last night as a certain Egyptian  dictator giving a speech to an angry, hostile crowd.   His continued trust in this defacto 2nd line is making many fans s*%t pancakes!  If a change is needed for the troops then a tactical change is needed from the coaching staff.  Martin needs to be more flexible with his “System”.  The league figured out the Habs’ game plan, just as they did with the Capitals following the first round of last year’s playoffs, when the #1 seeded team in the East was vanquished by the eighth-place Habs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* (Losses, Overtime-Losses, Shootout-Losses)

****

The Canadiens host Hogtown Saturday night at the Phone Booth (Bell Centre for those of you who didn’t get the joke).  The greatest goalie in the world, ever, Carey Price is pretty much a 99.999% shot at starting on Saturday.  The Price man is one game above .500 in his career record against the Maple Leafs, 6-5 with 1 shutout and a .919 save%.

Leave it to Toronto to crap on Joffrey Lupul’s Maple Leafs debut, they lost their last game 2-1 in Overtime, handing New Jersey Devils coach, Jacques Lemaire his 600th career win as an NHL head coach.

Puck drops at 7 PM!