…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…
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…
So, the old battle axes still got it, eh? Keane, Muller, Skrudland and Courtnall. Haller, Momesso, Green and Brunet too. Gilchrist, Ludwig, and Eric Fichaud? Martin Gelinas? Whatever, makes sense to me. When my future kid asks me why Martin Gelinas was playing for the Habs Alums during the 2011 Heritage Classic, I’ll lie, I’ll say he was the Canadiens’ waterboy during the ’86 cup run, k?
The most important thing is, the Habs got the win; they picked up the much needed 2-points and played Jacques Martin’s system to perf…
Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s the weekend and I’ve had one too many, shall we say, “Spirited Beverages”, I almost let myself walk right into that one.
Your Montreal Canadiens from yester year put on quite a show for Flames and Habs fans over at McMahon Stadium, effectively kicking off the Heritage Classic weekend in style; winning the contest 5-3. It was a melting pot of memories, collective recollections of the ’86 and‘89 finals on full display for all to see. And for the CBC to capitalize financially.
Skrudland’s tenacity, McDonald’s moustache, Muller’s leadership and Nieuwendyk’s ridiculously long and notoriously difficult name to spell, it was all there. With one noticeable exception…the absence of #33, Patrick Roy. With St. Patrick tending to his coaching responsibilities with the QMJHL Quebec Remparts, and no other viable option, it left the Canadiens Alums with a huge void at the goaltending position. Only Eric Fichaud (0-2 lifetime as a Hab) answered the call. Wow, for real? The Habs couldn’t get Hackett? What about ‘Tugger’ Ron Tugnutt? Thibault FFS? ANYONE?!?!?
I, along with the rest of the JohnnyBertolo.wordpress.com Mannequins (that’s you), were truly hoping to see Patrick Roy don the jersey of the bleu, blanc et rouge, talk to his goal posts and play one last game as a member of Le Club de Hockey Canadien. As a diehard Patrick Roy loyalist, it would’ve been a treat for the eyes to see St. Patrick skate over to the Calgary Flames net and pop Mike Vernon straight in the mouth, just for old times sake.
Both the Habs and Flames Alumnus braved the –20-degree temperatures and provided the fans with a somewhat decent game with memories to last a lifetime. For what it’s worth, former NHL referee, Mick McGeough briefly took over the game, calling back-to-back penalty shots on both teams. Heck the Alumni’s even cleaned the ice surface during intermissions, which makes me believe that the NHL’s retirement fund has dried up, possibly due to some sort of Ponzi Scheme initiated by current NHLPA President Donald Fehr (allegedly).
Now, let’s get real:
Enough with this Celebrating the Game crappola, the Habs need these 2-points like the Tea Part Loyalists down south need a brain, it’s getting terminal folks. After posting three straight victories to start the month of February, the Habs have dropped 5 of their last 6 games since then. It looks as if James Wisniewski is gonna go for Montreal after his face exploded all over the Rexall place ice surface on Thursday, what a beauty.
Some more good news, Mike Cammalleri practiced with the team Saturday and looks poised to make his return to the Montreal lineup for the first time since January 18th. Cammy was slotted alongside Benoit Pouliot and David Desharnais during Saturday’s practice. This new line has the potential to do some damage, most are intrigued to see how Desharnais and Cammy will jive alongside each other. Pouliot needs to be a serious physical presence for this line to work.
What a thrill, it’s Hal Gill, excellent news! Gill returned to practice, not a moment too soon as the Habs D-core has been drowning without him. Big Poppa Gill will provide some much needed support for rookie PK Subban, maybe even a break for the most publicized NHL player in the league. Subban has logged just shy of 30 minutes in each of his last 2 games. With the return of Gill and former Canadiens General Manager, Bob Gainey getting Subban’s back on Saturday, telling PK’s naysayers, during a media scrum to, “…[j]ust shut up and play.” Subban has received the much needed ‘pat on the back’ he so rightfully deserves, at the absolute precise moment when he needed it.
Carey Price’s new mask featuring Jacques Plante’s eyes, mouth and overall visage completely stretched over his helmet scares the ever-loving sh%t out of me! I know that every Montreal Canadien and members of Canadiens management read my blog like everyday, but even they must have taken my suggestion to swap Andrei Kostitsyn’s and James Wisniewski’s faces following Wiz’s accident a little too seriously/one step further than I had expected. Any who, the kid needs a win. Bad. In his last 5 games, Price has a 3.20 GAA with .893 SV/%, far removed from his Vezina trophy calibre numbers not too long ago. Maybe conjuring up the spirit of the late great Jacques Plante is exactly what the VooDoo Doctor ordered.
The Flames are coming into Sunday’s Heritage Classic winners of their last two, 4-2 over Dallas and a 9-1 thrashing over Colorado. Both Olli Jokinen (2 goals, 3 assists, plus-3) and Rene Bourque (4 assists, plus-2) have found the stat sheet a lot in the last two games. Flames Captain and Scotia Bank spokesperson, Jarome Iginla leads the pack in goals (25), assists (31) and of course, points (56) this season.
Mikka Kiprusoff comes into the Heritage Classic with 26-19-4 record with a 2.68 GAA and 3 shutouts.
Should be a great game, hopefully the Habs travel to British Colombia with 2 extra points in hand. Full breakdown of the Heritage Classic with photos and video (hopefully) from my cousin Ryan, all on Monday!
One would expect to celebrate a Habs victory going up 2 goals after playing 1 and 4/5th periods against a rookie goaltender in the biggest hockey market in the world, right? Wrong. Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth, filling in for Ryan Miller after starting 31 straight games, helped bail out his team last night at the Phone Booth. Enroth made 32 saves out of 34 shots while stopping 8-out-of-10 in the shootout and Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht scored the winner to secure a 3-2 F/SO victory for the Sabres.
Whether it was Enroth’s heroics, or the Habs and Jacques Martin’s inability to execute an ‘American History X’ curb- stomp to the face of their opponents, the Canadiens are once again scrounging for leftovers.
After surrendering 18 shots and only one goal in the 1st period, Lindy Ruff’s Sabres came back to life in the latter stages of the 2nd. Goals by the ‘Human Torch’, Drew Stafford (24th of the season) and Jason Pominville helped rally Buffalo from behind. After stifling Montreal’s futile power play in overtime, the Sabres forced 10 rounds in the shootout after going down 2 goals and made off with 2 points from the cookie jar.
Good news, the Habs came away with one point (I know, you feel like punching your computer screen right now, I feel like punching myself for attempting to look at the positives), the Kardiac Kids: Max Pacioretty (1 goal) PK Subban (+1, 29:22 ice time) and David Desharnais (1 assist, +1) are taking starring roles on the bleu, blanc, et rouge and, most importantly, guys like Cammalleri, Gill and Spacek will be back soon from their respective bumps and bruises.
Here comes the Bad News: So the Habs had a shot to leapfrog over the Bruins and claim top-spot in the Northeast. So they had the lead. So the Canadiens squandered it. Same TV show folks, I’ve seen this episode before.
Everyone’s favourite de facto 2nd line centre, Scott Gomez, is making a strong case for THE worst $8-million-dollar-plus-salaried professional athlete in the history of the Universe. Gomez finished last night’s game –1 with 3 shots on goal and 50% in the face-off circle. Need I say more? His partner in crime, Robin, er, I mean, Andrei Kostitsyn finished the game –1 with one shot. Please get Immigration Canada on the phone! #deportgomez #deportkostitsyn
Habs are tied with Boston with 69-points, the Bruins have the edge since they have 1-game in hand over the Habs. The Sabres are breathing down the neck of the Hurricanes. Last night’s win puts them 2-points behind Carolina for the last playoff spot.
Get your Cowboy Hats ready; the Habs are heading west! First stop, Rexall place to face the NHL’s team of the 80’s, the Edmonton Oilers (17-32-8). Yes, the Oilers are statistically the worst team in the league, but that hasn’t stopped the Habs from giving up leads to weaker opponents. Just saying.
Then it’s off to Calgary for the Heritage Classic, followed by a stop in Vancouver next Tuesday.
Enjoy the week folks!