Your Montreal Canadiens have had some measuring-stick games lately.
These are occasions that offer fans a chance to assess the team’s performance against the NHL’s best, as opposed to their supposed peers in the NHL’s Parity Division.
At Vancouver: Carey Price makes 37 saves, David Desharnais and Andrei Kostitsyn score goals in a 3-2 win that completed a season’s sweep of the Western Conference leaders. The game began a streak in which the Canadiens win five of six
At Tampa Bay: Vezina candidate Price made 43 saves last night and the Canadiens got goals from Hal Gil (!), DD and two from Max Pacioretty to beat the Lightning. Among the heroes was Scott Gomez, and Arpon Basu has some thoughts on the late season rise of everyone’s whipping boy.
And now …
The Game of the Season is at the Bell Centre on Tuesday evening.
The Bruins lead the Northeast Division and they’re second in the Eastern Conference. But this game is about much more than measuring up to a quality opponent.
This is a chance at revenge.
We all remember the Feb. 9 game at TD Garden. Boston won 8-6. Milan Lucic and friends spent the night parked in Price’s kitchen. And with the game in the bag, Claude Julien had his thugs on the ice, whaling the tar out of pacifists Jaro Spacek and Tom Pyatt while trying to goad Max Pacioretty into a fight.
It wasn’t pretty.
And some think the Beantown Beatdown got ino the Canadiens’ heads.
Coming on the heels of a loss to New Jersey, the game in Boston was part of a stretch in which the Canadiens went 1-4-2 heading into Vancouver.
It was a statement game, and what the Bruins were saying – after five losses in a row, going back to last season – was:
“Your dominance is over, bitches.”
It sure looked that way. The Canadiens were beaten on the ice and in the alley by a team that was bigger, tougher and possibly more talented.
And Boston has improved since then. General manager Peter Chiarelli has bolstered what he thinks is a Stanley Cup contender, acquiring the much sought-after Tomas Kaberle, plus Chris Kelly and Habs-killer Rich Peverley.
The Bruins lost three in a row after beating the Canadiens. Since then, they’ve gone 7-0-1, including a sweep of western Canada.
We’ve got three days to talk about whether the Canadiens are ready for their bitter rivals, so let’s get this party started.
I think they are.
Carey Price is at the top of his game, and he’ll be stoked for another go at his sparring partner, Tim Thomas.
AK46 has come back to life on a line with Lars Eller and Travis Moen. Tomas Plekanec had two assists last night; he and Michael Cammalleri play better at the Bell Centre. Gomez was brilliant in Tampa, and Pacioretty has been excellent since his call-up.
My worry, as always, is the D.
Hal Gill had his best game of the season last night: a goal, three blocked shots, a lmost six heroic minutes on the penalty-kill. Jacques Martin, with last change, will try to have Gill and P.K. Subban on against the David Krejci-Milan Lucic-Nathan Horton line.
Roman Hamrlik, who played too many minutes last night, and James Wisniewski do not inspire the same confidence as the top pairing.
And the Bruins can score three lines deep, even if injured Patrice Bergeron can’t go on Tuesday.
Brent Sopel has bolstered the PK, which is 17-for-18 – including that crucial 5-on-3 kill last night – since he joined the team. But Yannick Weber was bounced around by the Lightning, and Jacques Martin may want to go with Paul Mara’s size and sand against Boston.
On L’Antichambre last night, CKAC morning show host Michel Langevin, who usually makes sense, suggested calling up heavyweights Jimmy Bonneau and/or Alex Henry for the Boston game.
Right. Goonify a lineup that’s won four in a row.
Brilliant. I guess since L’Antichambre couldn’t knock Gomez or praise Marc-André Bergeron, there was nothing to do but go bats— crazy.
The Canadiens won’t outsmuscle the Bruins. But if they play their game – which means forwards supporting their undermanned D – and if Carey Price is Carey Price, it could be a classic.
Two more sleeps.
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Guest Comment from PeterD:
I really like how Eller stuck with and shadowed Stamkos for much of the night. Eller is such a fun player to watch, he plays the game a full speed all the time and in some pretty tight quarters.
Gomez, well what ever type of therapy he is getting instead of practices seems to be working. My guess he is dealing with some confidence issues which are between his ears. My hope is that he becomes clear that he is successful when he is moving at top speed and making things happen. Which he has been doing since the trade deadline.
I loved watching MAB at our blueline when Tampa was on the PP…and especially when Gomez forced him to make mistakes. If not for some stellar goaltending we would have had at least two short handed goals thanks to the play of MAB. Thank God Pierre didn’t re-sign the guy.
Carey – Carey…man he is cool. I see a goalie that has matured and has taken this team under his wing all season. I laugh everytime I think of his comment to the fans after that pre-season game when he told everyone to “just chill”…man if he can hold it together for us and get some solid defensive team support we could make a run this Spring. Did I just hear someone say, “Jaro who?”…enough said, that controversy is or should be officially dead and behind us.
My one concern coming into this years playoffs is that we don’t have Gorges and Markov for the run. The mind boggles (not bobbles) at the thought of how good this team could be with those two solidifying our back end.
And finally, I have to give some props to Cunneyworth and his team in Hamilton…it is because of him that Patches and DD are contributing the way they are this year. Very well done guys and keep it up with the rest of the supporting cast down there on the farm…we could use another breakout player or two for next season.
Oh, did anyone see the Mike Milbury bit tonight on HNIC where he was calling for the end of fighting??? Is this bizarro world or what?