In case you haven’t heard, the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for fellow all-star defenseman Shea Weber. As a playoff bandwagon jumper/regular season casual observer, I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough in hockey to properly analyse what this means for the team on the ice next season except to say that, on paper, defense star for defense star seems like a fair trade.

Where the logic falls apart, though, is when you look beyond the rink. P.K. Subban has fully entrenched himself in Montreal and has become a local celebrity.

A Total Showman

Subban is quite the performer. From the stylish outfits he wears to games and promotes on his website pksubban.com, he has a signature style off the ice that is hard to mimic. It’s also a style that goes over quite well in Montreal and is well-received coming from him because we are a hockey town.

While most NHL players take the summer off, P. K. was preparing to host a show at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival. He may not be a comedian by trade, but he sure knows how to entertain. Just for Laughs has confirmed that the show is going ahead as planned, so at least there will be one more time people can catch P.K. play Montreal before, you know, he his playing us in a Nashville Predators uniform.

A Charitable Man

While P.K did sign quite the expensive contract, $72 million, he decided to give back to the community. He pledged that his foundation would raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital over the next seven years (his JFL show is part of that). In this video, his response to the trade news, he indicates that he will live up to that promise:

The Children’s Hospital, which he also made a surprise visit to during the holidays last year, released a statement through its foundation today saying they were “saddened to learn yesterday that our favourite hockey player had been traded to Nashville. However, we are grateful that P.K. will continue to honour his commitment to our patients and their families.”

One thing is clear. This is a man who set down roots in Montreal, not someone who was planning on leaving anytime soon.

Social Media Revolt

And the Montreal community really doesn’t want him to go, either. While the hockey press lamented this as the worst trade the Habs have made since Patrick Roy and even the worst in Habs history, the reaction on Twitter pretty much says it all. There’s this tweet:

and this one:

and then #fuckingHabs started trending:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With most of the commentary against the trade, a few Montrealers are now saying that they’re “done with the Habs” at least until the team gets rid of coach Michel Therrien (a dispute between him and Subban is a rumoured reason for the trade) and GM Marc Bergevin.

While tempers may cool as the weather gets colder and the Habs start playing again, it’s clear that damage has been done. Maybe not damage to the team, but most definitely to the team’s image in the eyes of many.

P.K. Subban has already left his mark culturally on Montreal and that won’t soon be forgotten.

I don’t know much about hockey. A Montrealer to the core, I love the Canadiens whether they win or lose so long as they don’t lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

I know that the object of the game is to get the puck into the net, that hitting and tripping another player with your stick is illegal, and that the refs will usually wait until the crowd has enjoyed a fight a bit before stopping it.

Having said all that, even a noob like myself can tell the difference between good hockey playing and bad hockey playing.

I saw both at last night’s game.

From first period to the third, the Habs stank of desperation. They clustered around the ice, trying constantly to crowd the net in the hope of getting the puck past a goalie who was definitely earning his ridiculous paycheque.

Every time the Canadiens had the puck, Nashville was there to take it away. Like a well-oiled machine, Nashville’s defense never faltered. They were coordinated and their moves spoke of a team that was well coached and went into the game with a strategy.

The Canadiens on the other hand played with the sloppiness of a team ready to give up. When the Habs had to pass the puck because of an onslaught of Nashville players, they passed it into empty ice because there was no teammate to take it.

From start to finish, the Habs proved they’d forgotten that they were just as responsible for a victory as their goalie. The game only went on as long as it did with a low score because Mike Condon proved his mettle by successfully blocking nearly every puck that came his way.

Though star goalie Carey Price is out for the season, his teammates aren’t picking up the slack. Instead of coordinating themselves to get as many goals as possible and block their opponents, they seem to ignore their net and hope that their goalie can do all the work.

The Canadiens’ only goal was scored by Brendan Gallagher in the first period. With a minute and fifteen seconds to the end of the period, he and Markov successfully got the puck past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, a man who spent the game plucking the puck out of the air like the Habs were aiming for his glove.

The second period was not as painful to watch. For the first five minutes it looked like the Habs had upped their game and adopted defensive strategies not unlike their opponents. For the first five minutes, thousands of watching fans had a hope that we’d win. And then those five minutes ended and the Canadiens were back to that same scramble of desperation. Even the Canadiens’ fan who attended the game with a paper bag of shame hid under it, watching the Canadiens lose through eye slits cut in the brown paper.

canadiens nashville predators

The third period came and the sound system played How Deep is Your Love by Calvin Harris & Disciples. Whoever chose the playlist knew that the Habs were truly testing their fans’ love by playing so badly.

In the mess that was the third period, a failed attempt at a goal against Nashville sent defenseman Nathan Beaulieu knee-first into a goal post thanks to Predators’ defenseman Colin Wilson. As Beaulieu writhed in pain on the ice, Alex Galchenyuk valiantly put up his fists to punish Nashville for his fallen comrade. Though the fans were out of their seats and screaming, the ensuing chaos kept the Habs from helping their teammate, who had to be pulled out of the ruckus by the refs so he could get the care he needed.

Beaulieu won’t be playing tomorrow against Washington as a result of his injuries.

Despite a major save by Condon in the final minutes of the third period, the fans were giving up hope. As the camera scrolled through the faces of spectators, it focused on one woman asleep in the stands, clearly tired of seeing her team screw up yet again.

The refs who saved Beaulieu spent the remaining game asleep at the wheel, failing to notice when a Nashville player tripped a Canadien in plain sight.

The last two minutes and thirty-three seconds were the Canadiens’ last real hope. The Habs shot on goal and the siren went off, driving the crowd wild, only to sink back into their seats when the replay revealed that Nashville’s goalie had stopped the puck before it crossed the line and defenseman Roman Josi scooped it clear of the net.

The game was tied 1-1 and went into overtime.

Despite the bravado of P.K. Subban and an epic save by Mike Condon, Nashville’s defense held firm against players who were clearly exhausted and sluggish. Nashville shot at the net and everyone was sure the game would end then and there…

But something miraculous happened…

The puck bounced off both goal posts and never crossed the line. It was as though Lady Luck herself knew how badly the fans needed a win and was willing to give the Habs one last chance to redeem themselves.

It was a chance the Habs never took, for despite the best efforts of Sven Andrighetto, Alex Galchenyuk, and Max Pacioretti, the Canadiens lost to Nashville in the shootout.

The crowd left the game with the slow somber gait of a funeral procession, off to bars to drown out their sorrows or home to scrub their minds clean of defeat with sex, sleep, and TV.

The Canadiens play the Washington Capitals tomorrow. Let’s see if they learn from yesterday’s defeat and up their game.

Mayor Coderre,

First off, I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t vote for you. In fact, I openly supported your opponents.

I am, however, a lifelong Montrealer and you are now my mayor. And if you are the mayor of all Montrealers, then I ask you to listen to what I have to say.

Recently, you’ve surprised me – in a good way. A special status for the city is long overdue, and even though your pilot project to let bars stay open later seems to be aimed mainly at tourists, it’s a good start, and you’re the one who took the first steps. So kudos for that.

You get this city. You know that we have a long love affair with the Habs and I’m sure you’re also aware that we have a long history of activism for social justice.

While you let playoff victory celebrations continue uninterrupted, as you should have , last Thursday your police force, our police force, pre-emptively kettled three May Day demonstrations simultaneously. Why the double-standard?

You understand that people expressing their support for the Habs should be allowed to continue unless they turn violent and you’re right. Why not apply the same approach to people expressing their political opinions?

Let’s be honest, more destruction happened in the last hockey riot than in a year of student protest. But I’m not asking for an unbalanced approach, just a fair one: if there’s no violence, let it continue, if there is violence, arrest those committing the violent acts…period.

While you may love hockey and not understand why people are protesting other things, it doesn’t matter. It’s not your call, Mr. Mayor.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of expression and assembly. It doesn’t say anything about providing a route.

The changes your predecessor made to by-law P6 a couple of years ago were wrong. The ensuing mass kettlings are a blow to Montreal’s reputation as a progressive international city, whereas the Maple Spring was a sense of pride and didn’t hurt our tourism, despite dire predictions and warnings.

may day arrests 2014 chart
Image by G.A.P.P.A.

Before, people protested things the federal and provincial government did. Now, activists are fighting for the very right to protest, and they’re fighting you, Mr. Mayor.

I call on you to take yourself and the City of Montreal out of the equation. I call on you to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I call on you to repeal the changes made to P6 under the Tremblay administration.

You didn’t pass this legislation but your administration is now enforcing it. Your administration can change this situation and I’m sure most of the opposition will support you on this.

Ideally, I’d ask you to also apologize to all those detained and fined and reprimand or fire the top SPVM brass behind P6 enforcement, but you seem to want to take things slow. Fine, start your drinking-time extensions on just a few touristy streets and start your reform of police tactics by upholding our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Montreal loves the Habs, we love our  late night revelry, and we love our fundamental freedoms and history of activism. You get the first two, now is the time to embrace our progressive political movements and truly be the mayor of all Montrealers.

This Thursday, the Habs kick off their 34th playoff rendez-vous with the Bruins. At least one pundit is calling for a 7 game tussle. Do you know what equates to? Twenty-one hours of screen time, multiple weeknight drinking sessions, and, if you’re lucky, a sprinkling of good food.

Back at series outset, BlogMTL highlighted some viewing hotspots and Eater helpfully listified some foodie-oriented playoff viewing joints.

But we’re on to round 2 and we feel it’s time for a fresh, eccentric and fiercely budget-friendly compilation of playoff bars in Montreal:

1) Fiddler’s Green

via Facebook

This small pub is ridiculously underrated. A semi sous-sol steps south of its more cavernous Irish cousin, the Embassy. This is where to come for a true change of pace. You’ll be enamoured with the die-hard fans that make this their pub of choice (and will probably hate me for blowing their cover). Prices are better, vibes cosier, and atmosphere more homey than their pubby cousins up the street.

WARNING: the back section is for very serious fans only–don’t even consider sitting there if you want to sneak in conversation during the game!

1224 Bishop / Facebook page

2) Pub Sir Joseph

via Facebook
via Facebook

The St-Laurent gastropub has truly come into its own with its carefully considered menu, tasteful décor and a heady range of booze. It’s usually quite full, so get there before first face-off.

4902 St-Laurent / Facebook page / website

3) Café Ciné-Express

Those who haven’t stepped inside will probably sneer at the suggestion. But those who’ve been for a game know what’s up. Ciné-Express not only offers a glut of huge screens, cheap pitchers, and affordable nibbles, but they’re host to private nooks. Each can accomodate a group of 4-8 or so and contains a private couch and TV. No extra cost.

1926 Ste-Catherine O.

4) Inspecteur Épingle

via Facebook

Tall boys of Labatt 50 and a huge HD screen? A quirky clientele that effortlessly mixes young and old? What more could you ask for? Well, food. So make sure to stop somewhere first on Duluth.

4051 St-Hubert / Facebook page

5) Taverne Régale

See #4. But add more screens, more CH flags and more old men. (Bonus: it’s directly across the street from the Charlevoix métro entrance, so you can easily stumble home).

2567 rue Centre / Facebook page

6) Chez Baptiste sur Masson

via Facebook

Chez Baptiste is a perennial favourite, but its Masson outpost is more fun. As their website insists, you risk “2000 square feet of pure pleasure.” Interesting drink specials every night of the week, and the opportunity to crawl over to some other spots on thriving rue Masson.

3014 Masson / Facebook page 

7) Taverne Normand

via Facebook

The Taverne takes hockey very seriously, so much so that you might like to reserve your spot in advance. But screens are abundant and the atmosphere is almost like being at the game. What’s more, they have $5 pints.

1550 Mont-Royal est / Facebook page

8) Chez Claudette

via @PhilipAuthier/Twitter

You will not find a casse croûte that more seamlessly merges lack of pretension, budget-friendliness, and utter passion for Habs history/lore. Screens are more limited, but the whiff of excellent poutine and a repeat of ’93 is in the air at Claudette 24 hours a day!

351 Laurier est 
Cover photo via Reg Natarajan/Flickr.

It’s not the kind of Olympic-related publicity the Montreal Canadiens were looking for, but it’s what they got.

An as-of-yet unnamed Ukranian man tried to divert an Istambul-bound flight to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, claiming he had explosives. Fortunately he was subdued and none of the 110 passengers were injured, so focus can now shift to the strange part of this story: he was wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey.

Make that a knockoff Montreal Canadiens jersey. Later analysis of twitter images revealed that the #11 on his shirt is red. Numbers on official Habs jerseys have never been red, so it’s a fake!

habs jersey terrorist 2

So, not only is the man in question giving a bad name to Habs fans, he didn’t even buy the official merchandise to do it.

The man was apparently intoxicated, which makes sense considering he chose to pay for a flight to Istanbul then tried to divert it to Sochi through terrorism instead of just paying for a flight to Sochi in the first place. If intoxication is not an excuse when Habs fans behave badly at home, it shouldn’t be an excuse for this guy either.

 

 

A week after the game 7 elimination by Boston and Montreal still talks hockey. There have been many assessments and evaluations on how the team fared this year and what to look forward to next year. It’s still a little weird that the season ended last week. It was so heartbreaking that the Forget the Box site shut down when we posted the game 7 blog.

Ok, I wish that happened. It may forever be lost in cyberspace but here’s a quick summary of game 7: Boston was going to win, then PK Subban scored a goal, another game of “guess the overtime winner/win a beer” then Nathan Horton scored a goal, end of season. Sucks for the guy who was watching the game at four in the morning on a ipod somewhere abroad but that’s what we call a hardcore fan.

Looking back, this was the first time I actually liked the Montreal Canadiens as a whole. There will always be strengths and weaknesses for teams but for the first time there’s an actual future with these guys. I looked back on the Preseason Dilemmas entry and thought of players that made an impact.

Brian Gionta was a great choice as captain and   Mike Cammalleri found his touch after being injured for 20-plus games. Andrei Kostitsyn played solid and Lars Eller had an excellent playoffs and could shape up into becoming our first giant centre in a decade. He finally found use for his size. Ryan White will be the guy who will score a goal and take a punch for the team. Let’s hope he makes the team next year. David Desharnais may be small…so what, so’s Gionta.

Defense was in near panic when Markov and Gorges got hurt, but seeing PK take the reigns and Hal Gill guiding him helped our ever-happy defenseman ease into his rookie year. And of course getting Wisniewski and Sopel for next to nothing did help. Hope these guys will be back (so I can finally learn how to pronounce Wisniewski).

Max Pacioretty was on the verge of a breakthrough season until Zdeno Chara hit him, concussed him and broke his neck. He’s becoming a fan favorite with his twitter account and appearences around the city proving that not even a broken neck will break his spirit. He’s made himself a bonafide superstar and will be back next year.

Which brings me to Carey Price. All season he’s proven himself as a solid goaltender. Getting out of the shadows of Jaroslav Halak and doing something better, playing some kick ass cowboy-style goaltending. If there are still any nay sayers about Price and what he’s done this season, I’ll say this: “Really? He’s kept the team in play all season, f**k off you losers.” Seriously, no one f**ks with a cowboy.

So if it weren’t for the injuries, this would have been a different season. However, if it weren’t for the injuries we wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see the kiddies prove themselves to make the team. I think it’s shaping to be a good future in Montreal.

So I’m done for the season. I still watch the occasional game (was right about Washington choking). My darkhorse for the final has to be Tampa Bay and I give a maybe for Vancouver (they did finally beat Chicago).

It was an adventure on its own finding bars where I could watch and scream at TVs. Montreal’s hockey culture is strong and whatever the bar is, be it chic or sketchy, there will be a game on. Hopefully next year I will find even more obscure places or finally have someone tag-team with me on games. Will find out in the off season if I can do another season like this. In the meantime, I will go back to regular life and letting my liver heal.

Last of the shoutouts: Shout out to all bar staff who worked during the games, to the kitchen staff for the snacks (a diet of nachos and burgers has its limits). Shout out to the little ones who do the preskate at the Bell Centre to get the fans and players charged. Finally, shout out to the other hockey fans I got a chance to watch games with and get into debates and bet in the overtime beer game with. Thanks again to Forget the Box for the season.

There was a feeling in the overcast air at the Bell Centre last night. It was elimination time for the Montreal Canadiens, and if they lose then the season is done. A win, meanwhile, would mean the final showdown the next day (today). This series has seen stats being thrown at these teams, and then thrown away when the opposite happens. The odds were against Montreal. Could they beat them one more time?

Though this doubt was looming, it didn’t stop the fans from having a good time. I trekked to the Bell Centre to check out the Fan Zone. There was a smell of confidence over at Centennial Plaza, along with the scent of french fries. Everyone in their red shirts with beers in hand, having a good time meeting fellow fans. Kids taking a shot at the Bruins dunk tank, trying to get the Boston fan all soaking wet.

The best I saw were a group of girls with water guns, toting a stuffed bear with a sign that read “hunting season,” and carrying an inflatable Stanley Cup. It was bear season over at the Bell Centre. We hoped Montreal could bag us a bear (and a win).

I ventured over to Brutopia for game 6, since the rest of the bars were already packed. The basement floor alone had room, while the other two were full. A guy got off work early and dropped a $20 tip for the waitress: a preview of many beer purchases to come.

The key to this game was to shut down the top line of Ryder-Peverley-Kelly and catch Boston on the power play. Boston had been notorious for bad penalties, and last night, it happened again. Mike Cammalleri tic tac scored on the five on three and the Bell Centre instantly came to life.

Boston tied it, however, and it was Brian Gionta to light one up. Man, I love it when he scores. His smile right after can light up any room.

Meanwhile, Boston’s Milan Lucic nearly knocked the lights out on Spacek. Not to worry though, he’s alright. The refs got it right at least, and gave Lucic a game misconduct.

Carey Price was in another goalie duel with Tim Thomas, but it was another busy night for his “triple low five” partner PK Subban with 27 minutes of being all over Chara and company. There was a last minute scramble, where at least five guys were vying to stop the puck. Nevertheless, it was going Montreal’s way tonight. There was a light coming out of the overcast sky. Things were looking up for Montreal.

The guys did have someone looking over them tonight, and it surely wasn’t any hockey ghosts in the rafters. This would be the first time we got to see Max Pacioretty, playoff beard and all. We hope he can play again soon. I figure he got a kick out of the win.

So here we are, game 7. We’re ready to take this the next level. Montreal will have the riot cops on the streets again tonight, just in case. We’ll always riot for something.

The key to game 7 is to take advantage of Boston penalties. Their penalty killing has been a disaster, as well as their power play. Special teams are key.   We need to shut the top line and try to get the first goal. Everything else will build up. In the meantime, we all have a short time before the inevitable build up to one hell of a game 7.

Shout out of game 6: the girls who went hunting for Bruins at the Bell Centre.

We return to Saturday hockey, however things have changed in the last 7 days. The Montreal Canadiens are looking from the outside in as Boston decided to show up and turn the 2-0 lead into a series. It was going to be a battle that night, the stat about who would score first or if the road team win, let’s throw that out the window.

It was all about the goalies. Tim Thomas, now a nominee for best goalie versus Carey Price who got snubbed but has worked his ass off all season. Montreal’s cowboy was in the ultimate goalie showdown, something out of a Western movie.

It was going to be good, it would be bad for one team to lose and man, it could get ugly with a win up for grabs. I decided to go to Brasserie Bar Laurier for game 5 as the fans bleed for the Habs and beer was cheap (7 dollar pitchers during playoffs). Fans were running in and out of the bar for cigarette breaks and food runs so they wouldn’t miss whoever would break the scoring tension. Still no score after two periods.

It was a goalie duel along with great defensive play. Boston was still weak during the power play while Montreal had many, many chances at scoring and killing penalties. Fans watched carefully as the Boston line of Ryder-Peverley-Kelly had been the top scorers.

Even Max Pacioretty played a little defense from afar with a tweet he regretted as he compared the length of the scoreless drought to Boston’s Brad Marchand’s nose. Marchand got his revenge as he broke the scoring tension and Montreal’s hopes in the third. The tweet got removed, we wish we can do that with the goal.

Bar Laurier got drunker in hopes of the Habs coming back, they started booing whenever they showed children in Bruins gear. Price had to stay cool, the defense had to stay solid. PK Subban and Hal Gill locked up the most minutes for the defense with guys like Gionta and Plekanec taking the most shots but Thomas wouldn’t let up. Even Michael Ryder played a little bit in nets (he is sometimes a goalie in the summer).

Then there was Chara, playing dirty and getting away with it. Didn’t that hit on Ryan White looked a little familiar? The hero of the period became Jeff Halpern as he scored late in the 3rd and took the Habs into overtime.

Never before had I felt the heavy hearts of a city in one game. Boston was all over the cowboy goalie and Montreal vice versa. Both were walls, this could have gone all night. A word to Carey Price: you really should work on the stickwork in the offseason, scary save.

It was another round of “guess the overtime winner, win a beer.” Once again, PK was the favorite, then Gionta. Lars Eller was actually making a claim for it.

No one should text during overtime, WHO THE F**K IS TEXTING ME IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOST INTENSE GAME OF THIS SERIES, REALLY!!! Like I said, never text during overtime.

Hamrlik was one second too late in double overtime and Nathan Horton scored. I felt the hearts of hundreds in the bar sink to the ground and a collective groan all over the city. At least there are 7 dollar pitchers.

So there is a game 6. Montreal is on the verge of finishing their season. There still is a lot of game in them, but will it be enough to beat Tim Thomas? David Desharnais may be doubtful for the game, Chara hurt him (not surprised). It’s all about beating Thomas, it’s all about not being a second too late for defense. To shut down the Ryder line, to avoid any mistakes. The usuals better step in up, in fact, everyone has to step it up.

Forget about who’s hurt, dehydrated or gives the finger. It’s all about staying alive. I predicted a game 7, I usually keep my word. Plus, it would suck to lose in front of the home crowd as the hearts of Montrealers couldn’t handle another hearbreak.

Shout out of game 6: Shout out to the fans at Bar Laurier, best I’ve seen this series.

The Montreal Canadiens had a extra couple of days to regroup and return to the form they played in the first two games. Even Carey Price called out his peers for playing loose and unprepared. The Habs did look good for game four, it must have been the Fruit Loops they ate for breakfast (thank you Hal Gill). There was no room for more mistakes, just ask Benoit Pouliot in the press box, replaced by Jeff Halpern.

I returned to the beating pulse of the action downtown. I went to McLean’s pub, a packed house of fans pre-drinking and rocking out to Radio Radio before heading to the Bell Centre.   Meanwhile the rest of the fans were pumped to soak in as much chicken wings and beer as possible. I never had to play defence before in order to reserve a table for six people. Take a page out of my playbook, Jaroslav Spacek!

Fans were hoping the theory of the first goal would take effect and Montreal would feel comfortable with a 3-1 series lead. New Hab Brent Sopel scored his first of the series and fans felt at ease that game 4 was going to go Montreal’s way.

Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn   with goals a minute apart got the bar going crazy. Fans dancing, waving their hands in the air and believing that the Habs were back in the series. “Break out the 3-litre pitcher, we’re going to win tonight!” Or so we thought.

Knowing that Hab fans are hardcore for their team, Andrew Ference flipped the finger to the crowd after Boston got back in the game. Sometimes I want to do that to the bandwagon “fans” but not cool. It was an expensive goal, $2500 in league fines.

It was a game of cat and mouse where Boston kept taking Montreal’s lead, Carey Price was busy that night.   PK Subban brought the city and bar back to life. This was going Montreal’s…wait, Boston just scored. A collective AUGH hits the bar. Welcome to overtime.

Time to text and twitter my favorite playoff game: “Guess the Overtime winner, win a beer.” Simple game: pick who you want to score and I will buy the winner a beer. It was a tie between Subban and Kostitsyn when ex Hab Michael Ryder decided to play spoiler giving his version of the finger by notching his second goal of the night. Now, why couldn’t he play like that when he was playing in Montreal?

So now, the lead is gone, series is tied. No team has had any luck on home ice. You’ll be thinking that game 5 looks like a sure win. Remember that one goal theory: think again.

What the Habs have to do in game 5: Carey Price has to refocus and forget he let in five goals. Tim Thomas is now in the zone, it’s been a different scorer each time, however the good news is that the Habs have been scoring. The advantage for Montreal is the penalty kill, Bruins   have had no luck on their power play. It’s going to be barn burner hockey, winner take all for the next couple of games. This is going to be fun.

Shout out of game 4: Shout out to the staff at McLeans and all the bars downtown. It’s a busy time and it’s great that everyone wants to watch games downtown, however understand that there’s a lot of people so be patient and always tip your waitress or bartender and don’t forget “please” & “thank you.” Game time should always be a good time.

Welcome to Montreal, where the city bleeds Bleu Blanc et Rouge. I took a pre-game stroll in the heart of downtown where the pulse of hockey beats loud. Fire trucks hanging hockey flags on the back, people walking around in red jerseys and kids playing around Centennial Plaza excited about the idea of a “25th Cup this year.” It’s a great feeling, even “Joey” the scalper’s best ticket deal was $300 for a pair of upper seats. All is great, for now.

Yes, the Habs were up 2-0 however there is one stat no one ever brings up. In the 2006 playoffs, they were up 2-0 against Carolina when Captain Saku Koivu took a stick in the eye and thus began the beginning of the collapse. Carolina would win the series, then the Stanley Cup. Yes, it ‘s not a lovely stat but to be realistic, I’m surprised that we even won the first two games.

Before the game I thought to myself that Boston looks hungry and Zdeno Chara is probably hydrated by now. As the city embraced the hometown vibe, my game 3 viewing would be at my closest neighborhood bar: Next Door in NDG.

The bartender assumed it was going to be quiet being a Monday night, but in an instant the bar was packed. We feasted on nachos and perogies, a great playoff snack, as we watched the pre-game ceremony. One thing I give credit to Montreal for: they know how to make a classic entrance with legendary Canadien Jean Beliveau and a little kid in full Canadiens gear, mixing history and the future all in one moment.

Boston knew that the first goal was important and David Krejci took the opportunity when the Habs defense wasn’t looking. Jaroslav Spacek was one second too late to help Carey Price. The Habs were not playing the same as in the first two games. They were playing weak hockey in front of their biggest critics ever, a sold-out crowd of 21 273.

It’s sometimes tough being a Habs fan. There will be highs and lows. Then there’s dealing with “fans” at the bar who give Carey Price sh*t for clearing the puck which ended up becoming Rich Peverley’s first goal. One mistake and there was sheer Price hate. The rest of the period he held it together however “fans” were begging him to stay in the net.

Back at the bar, there was plenty of yelling and frustration (and that was just me). Thinking at first putting Kostitsyn in instead of Weber was a mistake but he redeemed himself with his first goal. Good news, Tomas Plekanec, after several attempts, notched a goal. The real Canadiens came back in the third however it was too late.

Not to worry fans and “fans”, it’s only one game. There was word that the team was a little too relaxed before the game, Carey Price called them out as being too “chill”.   Coach Martin said they win as a team and lose at a team (so no looking for anyone to blame).

For game 4, it’s keeping in mind that Boston can come back if they play too loose. It’s learning from mistakes and hoping Weber will play (Poulliot will be benched for playing invisible). It’s all about playing smart with the defense taking some work off Price and it’s about getting the first goal (the key so far in this series).

Boston is currently practicing in Lake Placid facility where the US beat Russia in the 1980 Olympics (known as the “Miracle on Ice”). They hope to feed on that emotion, however Montreal is notorious for miracles of their own against Boston. In the meantime, the Habs should remain less relaxed and the fans should chill for a minute. It was one game, it’s not over yet.

Shout out of Game 3: Shout out to the Montreal Juniors for their excellent season. They were eliminated last weekend in their playoffs, however had a great season with Habs prospect Louis Leblanc. The future looks good for the Habs.

I predicted earlier that this series was going to go seven games because Boston looked like the favorite. Someone forgot to tell that to the Montreal Canadiens. Boston, down a game, was hoping to take their tough, hardhitting ways and attack the net for game 2. However, without defensemen Zdeno Chara, who was out of the lineup with dehydration, Boston looked ordinary.

Game 2 found me at Cafe Romolo in the heart of the Mile End (fewer red sweaters, but as loud as downtown) downing 2 for 1 beer and nachos in time to cheer loud about the Chara scratch. “So this is how we knock down a giant defenseman. Note to self: hide the Gatorade”.

Montreal repeated the same play from last game, only this time Mike Cammalleri scored on the second shot. Minutes later it was Mathieu Darche. Both these guys have twitter accounts and I joked that the rest of the Habs who tweet should score.

Tim Thomas looked shaky after those goals, but Boston did manage to score without Chara and top scorer Marc Savard (out with a concussion). Boston lacks creativity without these guys and seems generic.

Cafe Romolo was packed to capacity as I was knee deep in beer bottles and homemade eats. It’s a great time to go out and cheer for the team, however I have a friend who’s abroad and missing out on the experience. A quick tip for anyone who can’t make it to the bar: CBC live streams the playoff games. Have a beer in front of your laptop, whatever country you’re in.

Our defense did an amazing job helping Carey Price play a brilliant game. Brent Sopel and his defensive crew have been taking shots in aide of Price. PK Subban may not have been scoring, but was playing great defense and taking hits for the team. Boston hates Subban with a passion, but PK plays with passion.

As much as Boston outscores, outhits, wins in faceoffs, etc., Montreal keeps shutting them down. Even the fourth line with Lars Eller had scoring opportunities. Eller, along with a lot of the young guys, are tasting their first playoff run. As for first playoff beard, not so much. I’d be impress if it takes two rounds to grow something moustache-related.

I predict a heap of emotion at the Bell Centre for game 3 as this will be the first meeting in Montreal since the Pacioretty hit. My gut says that for game 3 Montreal should keep their emotions in check and keep playing the same as the previous two games. Boston will try to come back hitting and playing harder, but realize they’re vulnerable. They have never come back from 2-0 the last 26 times.

Defense will continue blocking shots, Price will remain “chill” and hopefully Plekanec will score in his backyard (he’s been close). Continue playing Yannick Weber (in place of an injured Kostitsyn) as he has scoring opportunities and takes shots.

On the way home from the victory, it became official that Montreal is in hockey hype mode. One of the downtown buildings changed their lights to bleu, blanc et rouge in celebration. Let’s see what the hometown momentum will do for the Canadiens now that they’re up 2-0.

Shout out for game 2: Send your twitter cheers to the Hab players Mike Cammalleri, Mathieu Darche, Brent Sopel and Max Pacioretty. All have twitter accounts. Follow them during the series or send them a shout out!

The wait is over, all day long there were hints of red poking out of spring jackets and the same sentence repeated: “Where are you going to watch the game tonight?” The city of Montreal was ready for game one. The question was: were the Canadiens ready as well?

Game one was the game to answer some questions. Can the Canadiens bounce back from the 7-0 blowout the last time they played the Bruins? Can their speed outdo Boston’s strength? A big question for myself was where was I going to watch the game?

It was an all star affair, Former Hab tough guy Chris Nilan was making a cameo at McLean’s Pub. NDP leader Jack Layton took time from his election campaign to grab a couple beers at La Cage aux Sports at the Bell Centre. The best advice to the leaders in this Federal Election: your approval rating will go up when you appear at bars watching the playoffs.

I ended up at Ye Olde Orchard downtown. An hour before the game the bar was already packed and in a sea of Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. My bartender who looks like James Wisniewski and his crew were knee deep in pub food and sheer Habs hype. They played a pre-game playlist to calm the fans, then hyped them with the sounds of Queen and Van Halen. Even Arcade Fire is now part of the sports anthem.

We were all nervous. Could the Canadiens win one game in Boston? The microscope was on the goaltending duel. Tim Thomas redeemed himself this season with the best goals-against-average. While he hasn’t had much playoff luck he, is the lucky one compared to Price who hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008 and has to live up to the heroics of Jaroslav Halak.

The bar was tense, it must have been extreme in Boston. Who was going to score the first goal to break the ice? Captain Brian Gionta did so on Montreal’s first shot early in the 1st period. Now we can relax and drink up.

Good news, Scott Gomez remembered to show up as he assisted. It was a fast paced game with Boston taking shot after shot on Price who was in the zone making save after save. Ryan White did an excellent job taking Andrei Kostitsyn’s slot when he took a hit off Zdeno Chara. Habs fans watched Chara like a hawk, seeing what dirty move he’d do this time (we all know what he did to Pacioretty). He was waling on Tomas Plekenec. So when does hitting someone in the head count as a clean shot?

The Habs continued playing great on special teams and even shutting down Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, defenseman Brent Sopel eased pressure off of Price by taking a few shots of his own. Next to me, everyone was taking shots of Jagermeister as a one goal lead can still be scary. It helped that the Wisniewski bartender was a better color commentator than Bob Cole from the CBC. Gomez to Gionta again and the stressed is relieved. Habs win!

This puts a rest to the ones who thought Boston would sweep. The shutout was the icing on the cake for Price who exorcised some playoff demons and gave fans more confidence in him. “Jaro who?”

Game 2 will have Boston playing a lot tougher, more shots onto Price. What the Habs got to do now is create more scoring opportunities and hope that regular scorers like Plekanec, Cammelleri, even PK Subban can take a shot on Thomas. It’ll be tense, however it just got a little less stressful. This does answer some questions.

Shout out of game one: Hab Mathieu Darche and other NHLers taking part in the NHLPA beard-a-thon where their playoff beards are being used to draw pledges for money for the Heart and Stroke foundation. Even fans can raise money by growing some great beards, I love beards. for more info check out www.beardathon.ca.

We finally made it to the last game of the season. The Montreal Canadiens looked playoff-ready and were playing the Leafs for the sake of where we finish in the standings. It’s strange that we played this team as our first game of the season not realizing what was going to take shape during the next 81 games. I chose to go to a familiar haunt where I used to watch my hockey last season: Bar Bifteck (3702 St Laurent).

What can I say about this bar, dirt cheap beer and sleazy good vibes. It’s a mixed crowd tonight of old men drinking tall beers and university kids buying one cheap pitcher after another. They have specials from 2 till 8:30 pm with beer on tap ranging from $3.75 big glasses to $9.50 pitchers. Not to worry, after 9 pm it only goes up a buck, still a good deal. Great for hockey watching.

And the tradition of me walking into a bar as a Hab scores continues! This time it was Ryan White. Soon after, he got into a fight, guess someone wants another Gordie Howe Hat trick.

You have got to feel sorry for the Leafs. They made a real attempt at a playoff spot, this time it wasn’t all talk. They were winning in the second half, thanks in part to hot-handed rookie goalie James Reimer. Oh, so close but not close enough. Phil Kessel got the lone Leaf go. He really gets on my nerves, but not as much not as the guy next to me astonished that I’m sitting at a bar by myself watching the game.

Carey Price made a save that looked like a goal. He thought it looked like a goal, but the referee said it wasn’t. That summed up the Leafs’ season in a nutshell, so close but not quite.   Meanwhile Brian Gionta scored twice, Price played in his 72nd game and for the 38th time this season: a triple low five.

To sum things up for the Habs: they have a chance even when the chips are down. When they lose key players, young players take their role. Gionta has been a great choice as Captain and will keep notching goals in. Carey Price has lived up to his potential, so if anyone thinks eight shutouts and 38 wins aren’t enough, then they’re not a real fan.The Canadiens did finish better than what I had predicted: 6th (I said 7th, but it was a desperate “we suck but we need a playoff spot” 7th).

So, it’s Boston for the first round of the playoffs. The rivalry reaches a plateau after what happened this season. Montreal leads the series 4-2, however, there have been a series of fights, a humiliating loss and of course the Pacioretty hit to consider. How heated will this series be?   History is on the Habs’ side (Montreal has met Boston 32 times in the playoffs, winning 24), however, Boston has been building a team ready for the playoffs (and they won in the last match back in 2009).

The Hockey Blog will shift to playoff mode, starting with a playoff guide on what to look for in the hockey playoffs and what bars to check out, either with crazy fans or good TVs to yell at. I will be writing game by game of what the playoffs bring to Montreal and the excitement around the Montreal Canadiens in their bid for the Stanley Cup. The regular season was a practice, here comes the real season.

Shout out of the week: Those Quebec Nordiques fans invaded New York and New Jersey in their bid to convince the NHL that Quebec City is a suitable hockey market. There were more Quebec fans than Devils fans in New Jersey. Nordiques fans have been popping into games all season. Shout out to their bid for a team. I hope one day we can restore the Quebec/Montreal rivalry in the playoffs.

The funny thing about trying to get a playoff spot, it can be done in a manner where it wrenches a fan’s heart, good or bad. Usually the Montreal Canadiens are known for clinching the spot on the last day. It becomes unbearable for me as I grow frustrated about how the season went and find them undeserving of the spot.

This year is different. Even when they have heartless streaks of games, they find a way to surprise everyone and go the extra mile, so I went the extra mile and hit downtown for their last home game of the season.

I was in good spirits heading to Ye Olde Orchard Downtown (1189 De la Montagne), I was all dressed up and ready to enjoy the game against Original Six rival and defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks. Ye Olde Orchard has four locations in Montreal, the downtown location is two blocks from the Bell Centre which means that hockey goers can enjoy some pre-drinking before the game.

I was on my own at the bar when a couple guys from the States where trying to pick me up before buying scalper tickets. I did my best to be charming and got a free beer out of it. Sometimes it can be a blessing and a curse being the lone girl watching a game at the bar.

I didn’t care that night, I just wanted to make the playoffs with no worries. Glad I picked a friendly Irish pub known for great food, many TVs and a great crowd. Eats I recommend would be their capon wings (larger than regular chicken wings), burgers and Beef Stout Stew (very hearty when it’s a cold day). The staff I find incredibly friendly and on that night, good looking. I swore my bartender looked like James Wisniewski however he was as cocky as Sean Avery. Big turn off.

This was a game both teams needed to win, Montreal could avoid being last-minute clinchers while Chicago could still compete for the eighth spot. They may be the defending Stanley Cup champs, however they paid the price for overspending on players in order to win by trading half the team, ex-Blackhawk turned current Hab Brent Sopel being one of them.

It was a goalie’s duel that night, Carey Price setting the mark for most games played by a Habs goalie, playing his 71st game, while Montreal native Corey Crawford establishing himself as Chicago’s #1 goalie playing in his home arena. Both were sharp until Mike Cammalleri scored for Montreal. The bar went nuts.

As the end of the season nears, all bars will be loud and excited, especially the ones near the Bell Centre, as more people start getting on the bandwagon. I explained to two guys what the game of hockey was all about, later they would ask me if girls dig hair pulling during foreplay. Word to the wise: beware of guys in pairs if you’re by yourself. I also witnessed the Bell Centre crowd running back to the bar for a round of Irish Car bombs then running back to watch the game. Yes, it was that kind of night.

Patrick Kane would score for the ‘Hawks as we entered the third period with Carey Price making save after save. I was having beer after beer; another word to the wise: speak up real loud if you specifically want a half pint. Chicago took 20 shots on Price, carrying the team into overtime. Now things are even more unbearable. Will an overtime point win or lose be enough to clinch? There’s always a lot of math to process in order to qualify, who needs to win or lose or how many games.

PK Subban knew a familiar equation he’s done 13 times this season. And that’s what he did, taking a Kostitsyn pass and turning it into the most important goal of the season. Goal 14 for the rookie defenseman electrified the Bell Centre, the bar and the entire city.

So now as we play the final game against Toronto, we wait to see where we finish in the rankings and who we play. Yes, there’s more math. However, it was possibly the best memory of how we made it to the playoffs. I did get my heart won over at a fun Irish pub.

Shout out of the week: Here’s an extra shout out to the important guys who hold the Canadiens together: the athletic training staff who   dealt with all the injuries from all the players this season. Shout out to Graham Rynbend and his staff as they were featured in a Gazette article by Dave Stubbs.

Photos by Cindy Lopez

 

Sometimes when the chips are down, it’s best to be in a safe warm place. I decided to stay home to watch the game against the Devils, as the looming fear over the Montreal Canadiens recent play had me worried about the inevitable worst case scenario…missing the playoffs. I knew they weren’t going to do so in their up and down season, however ever since the Pacioretty hit a few weeks ago, they haven’t been playing with heart and grit. And where there’s playoffs on the line, this is not a time to lose confidence.

All they needed was to beat New Jersey and everything would be fine, a little breathing room against the other teams trailing us. Unfortunately, New Jersey has always been Montreal’s weakness and with future hall-of-famer Martin Brodeur in nets, the situation doesn’t bode well for their chances. This is why I chose home, it was familiar and less scary than some of the bars I’ve ventured to this season.

Alas, my home (and most homes) for a hockey night should be equipped with the following: a fairly decent couch to sit on and yell at the TV, a TV with one of the major hockey channels and beer in the fridge. I’m fortunate to have cable so I can switch from the CBC to RDS at my leisure.

Those less fortunate are lucky that the CBC now features more Montreal Canadiens games knowing that it’s a waste to keep showing the Leafs. Then again, the Leafs have decided to go for a run for a playoff spot also, look out Montreal.

Mind you, home can also be there for you when you’re too tired to frequent the bar or don’t feel like spending the bar beer fees when the team starts to let you down.

Strangely that night the Habs didn’t let anyone down, filling in for Max Pacioretty was Mathieu Darche, a journeyman player who now has found a home in Montreal. Darche had filled the gap that Pacioretty would play and off he went with a goal in the first, assisted by former Devil and current Hab captain Brian Gionta. I think he feels at home each time he’s playing in Jersey. Could someone say that to Scott Gomez, he was a Devil also, he did score during his time in Jersey.

The arena was filled with more Montreal fans than New Jersey fans. In most cases, Montrealers will drive down to arenas like Long Island and the Jersey swamp as they know that tickets are most accessible to these games than actual Montreal home games. It did feel like a home game as the rink was chanting the familiar “ole ole” when, in the 3rd period, Darche scored again a few minutes after PK Subban’s goal. This was looking good for the Habs.

Thank God for that, everything was in sync, power play, penalty kill. Even Carey Price stopped a penalty shot from Devil rookie Mattias Tedenby. Not only did the Canadiens take the win, but they took away New Jersey’s hope of making the playoffs. Eliminated right in their home rink. Sometimes home isn’t where the heart is. Glad that Montreal has found their heart in their game. Let’s hope they can do that for the remaining three games this season.

I promise for these games I will be out of the house, time to get off my couch.

Shout out of the week: Shout out to referee Bill McCreary retiring after this season. He has officiated many playoff games, holds the record for consecutive Stanley Cup finals (13 from 1994-2007) and has officiated the Olympics also. With the his familiar moustache and flip of the puck, McCreary was respected by both the players and the NHL.

A week ago, there was hope that the Montreal Canadiens looked confident on their road to the playoffs after an eight goal night. Three games later, the team and their fans were begging for a goal. With six games left in the season, confidence is the other thing we’re begging for, and of course a goal. I stayed in the confines of my home for the Washington Capitals game to avoid what happened when watching the Boston Bruins. Never again I want to watch a game like that, never again.

I witnessed the Boston Blowout at Brasserie Le Courtier (362 Sainte-Catherine Street) dubbed as the most intense game this season. It was the first meeting since the Max Pacioretty incident. The NHL would be watching this game carefully as they knew that the rivalry was beyond heated, incident avoided. The Habs knew what was at stake: to play smart, get the two points and win it for their fallen teammate. Well, that was the game plan we thought they could follow.

Brasserie Le Courtier is in the heart of the Place Des Arts (known as the Quartier des Spectacles). The bar had a Quebecois vibe which means Laurentide beer in tall bottles and Eric Lapointe on the juke box. They do have food, decent nachos but are known for their spaghetti and steak plates (served in large portions). Definitely hockey-friendly however the bar connects into the Belgo gallery building. Hockey and art can go hand and hand as the bar was covered in an animal and fantasy motif.

Usually when I walk into the bar, the Habs score. It wasn’t a good sign when I did that and Boston scored in the first few seconds of the first period. Myself and the small crowd knew that the Habs/Bruins series had been building up in fights, hits and sheer hate. However the only fight occurred when Defenseman Paul Mara duked it out against Gregory Campbell in the second period. The rest was all Boston scoring into the Habs net.

Carey Price was having an OK night but it wasn’t OK knowing that he can’t always be the savior each game. Yes, there have been missing players (mostly all defensemen) but “please show up for the only guy that has kept the team in contention all season.” There have been whispers of Player of the Year and goalie honors for Price, however after five goals, it made sense to send in backup Alex Auld. Why humiliate the goalie when the rest of the team are doing it to themselves. Man, did he looked pissed. This was he same face that Boston goalie Tim Thomas made earlier this year when we did the same to him. He   is also the talk of best goalie.

After seven goals (there was an unofficial eigth goal in the last second of the game) I said   “I never want to see that again.” So much for winning it for Pacioretty. To make things worse, Zdeno Chara had 3 assists. It was a lifeless game, everyone has lost their touch at the worst time. There are two weeks left and it’s starting to look like the Habs will play Boston in the playoffs. What a way to spark up the rivalry.

It remained the same against Washington, 2-0. It was a sea of boos in the Bell Centre with everyone calling out players. Why can’t Scott Gomez score when we’re paying him so much? Mike Cammalleri hasn’t scored in many games, no Captain Gionta on the highlight reel. PK Subban, Ryan White…quiet right now after the hat trick frenzy. This type of slump happened to Washington earlier in the season but now they’re fighting to finish first and this was with superstars. It wasn’t pretty but they did it.

Coach Martin held a practice Sunday on what was supposed to be a day off. Players skating hard and doing drills in hope that the message of production can be drilled into their heads. It must have felt like this. Or maybe words like what Coach Boudreau of the Capitals said would help to address the players.

Bar Le Courtier was a decent place to watch, however I hate to waste a bar on such a bad game. Will this be the trend by the time the playoffs start? The last time the Habs have been shut out this bad was in 1949, I just hope history doesn’t repeat and finally SCORE A F**KING GOAL!!!

Shout out of the week: The photographers of the Montreal Canadiens who were able to take the team photo. Shout out to the photographers who worked hard to create the image. As a photographer, I know it’s a lot of work that goes a long way.

Shout out to this past weekend’s Juno Cup in Toronto. It’s musicians VS exNHLers playing for musical charity during Juno awards weekend. Hooray for Jim Cuddy passing the puck.

* photos by Cindy Lopez