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.

Closeted NHL players received a stern warning from New Jersey Devils winger Cam Janssen last week when he threatened them with violence if they made their sexuality known. And in doing so, Janssen perpetuated the harmful stereotype that the NHL—and the hockey world in general—is an unsafe place for queer athletes.

Janssen, a so-called “tough guy” whose sole job is to provoke opposing players, went into detail in an interview on how he tries to throw people off of their A-game.

Janssen: “There’s some shit-talking that goes down that pisses some people off. There’s a lot of personal shit, man, like, guys know personal shit. … You wanna get in people’s heads to get them off their fucking game, and, don’t get me wrong, you don’t wanna go too deep with shit because we all have our issues here. Let’s be honest.”

Interviewer: “But if the guy was sucking cock four weeks ago, you’re gonna let him know about it?”

Janssen: “Oh, if he’s sucking cock, he’s getting his ass kicked.”

The message is clear that gay athletes should watch out: if they want to play their best game, they’d be best not to give Janssen, or any other goons, extra homo-fodder with which to torment them.

But is the professional hockey world still as bigoted as Janssen makes it seem? Judging from the excellent work of the You Can Play project launched earlier this year, it actually seems that Janssen’s antics are falling out of fashion fast.

The You Can Play campaign aims to root out homophobia from the sports world—starting with hockey. The project was co-founded by Philadelphia Flyers’ scout Patrick Burke in memory of his brother Brendan, who passed away tragically in 2010.

Brian Burke. 

 

 

Brendan, who was a student manager at Miami University, shocked the hockey world when he came out publicly in 2009. As a son of the tough-as-nails Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM Brian Burke, he became the first person affiliated with the NHL to go public with his homosexuality.

The implicit message of this courageous act is immortalized in the simple, yet effective, slogan that defines Patrick’s campaign against homophobia in sports: “If you can play, you can play.”

With an outpouring of support from star athletes, the campaign is demonstrating that a future of sports without homophobia is a lot closer than we might think. In fact, that several on-the-ice goons have appeared in You Can Play ads only highlights how rare off-the-ice goons—like Mr. Janssen—are.

And interest in the project is growing. In a recent interview with on TVO, Brian Burke said that he receives phone calls from some players bemoaning the fact that they weren’t asked to participate, while others ask eagerly when their turn will come to be in front of the You Can Play camera. It seems that hockey players may just have needed the proper outlet to let the world know that they’re not a bunch of neanderthals.

The campaign’s success can be measured, in part, by how quickly Janssen both apologized for his comment and rained praise on the work of You Can Play. In an apology released through his agency, the Devil said:

“I would like to apologize for my poor choice of language. The tone of the interview was very casual and off-color, and I lost focus on what is and is not acceptable and professional. I am deeply sorry to anyone who was offended by my language. Moving forward, I hope to eliminate that type of language from my vocabulary. I would also like to take this chance to express my support for the work the You Can Play project is doing, and for the gay community in general.”

Of course, there is still a strong culture of homophobia/femmephobia in sports to be tackled. But athletes aren’t the only problem. Everyone involved in sports—from players to coaches to the fans and the media—needs to be held to higher standards than they currently are.

In this vein, the next target of any campaign to rid sports of homophobia should be aimed at sports commentators, who are arguably louder and more influential than the athletes they cover. Read the transcript above from the Janssen interview and you’ll see that the homophobic comment was instigated by the host. Such intolerance might not usually be so overt, but it’s definitely present in mainstream sports commentary.

This homophobia is detailed in a recent article for “Left Hook: A critical review of sports and society” by Tyler Shipley. The article documents how the likes of Don Cherry—the reigning king of homophobia in sports— and other commentators like him, engage in an old-school machismo that worships violence and denounces players who aren’t violent as “sweethearts”.

Pressure needs to be put on public figures who perpetuate these intolerant attitudes that make sports an unsafe place for so many people. The response to Janssen’s comments was just one example of how powerful a public shaming can be.

Photos courtesy of Doug Kerr and Angela MacIsaac via Flickr

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.

After 82 games of practice, the real season starts. Welcome to the good old fashioned heart attack, blood and guts type of hockey. All teams have a clean slate, doesn’t matter if your team was the best all season or squeaked into the last playoff spot, it’s who can beat who for the Stanley Cup.

The Montreal Canadiens play the Boston Bruins in the most anticipated match up. So what should you fans anticipate in this year’s playoffs and where should you go for the games? Here’s a guide for all your playoff needs:

1)All bars will be showing the games. Anywhere in Montreal that has a TV will be showing hockey so no scheduling anything on game night. Hockey is so important that they moved the French federal election debates for it.

2) Make sure to show up one hour to 90 minutes early for a spot. If you have a friend who can hold seats for a couple hours, you better buy that friend beer. Also, it falls into the happy hour time slot, so cheap beer.

3) Scott Gomez better produce for Montreal or this is how one wastes 8 million.

4) If the Vancouver Canucks can beat the Chicago Blackhawks, then we can talk Stanley Cup favorites. PS, I still don’t understand Vancouver Canucks hockey.

5) If you want to check out a bar that’s downtown and close to the action check out Irish Embassy, Mckibbins, Cage Aux Sports, Ye Olde Orchard Downtown and McLeans. All food is decent. All links are to reviews I did all season.

6)I’m a sucker for beards so the more rugged, the better. There will be no Sidney Crosby stache this year unless he’s back from his concussion. Why don’t you get a marker and shade it in or opt for Patrick Kane’s Mullet.

7) Washington will continue being the San Jose of the East while San Jose could pull a Chicago or even a Detroit.

8 ) Montreal’s strength against Boston is in special teams, so make sure Boston takes stupid penalties. Hurting Chara will be tricky, however it would be cool to see a 6 foot 8 man brought down by a tiny Hab.

9) Boston’s strength against Montreal is defense, they’re all healthy. Hope that Sopel and Wisniewski can fill in for Markov and Gorges.

10) If you want to check out a bar with a great hockey crowd go to Taverne Chez Normand, Nacho Libre, Chez Baptiste, Bar Laurier and Cafe Romolo. Only in one out of the four do hipsters outnumber fans.

11) Don’t put more pressure on Price by reminding him about what Halak did last season. Price has proven himself, if he can’t go further than Halak, don’t chase him out of town.

12) If the Habs fail in their bid, then I blame crazy fans with the expectation that every Spring we can party on the street and riot. When was the last time any NHL team defended their title? The Cup is up for grabs, no real favourites.

13) If you’re looking for a bar with cheap beer then check out Bar Bifteck, PJ’s Pub (who says no to a 4 litre pitcher) and Romolo’s two beer/plate of Nachos deal.

14) This is the playoff year for goalies, all with hot hands and something to prove.

15) I’m watching you carefully Andrei Kostitsyn, your brother Sergei is no longer your excuse for failure.

16) If you’re looking for a bar where you’re least likely to find bandwagon fans and you get to watch playoffs in peace check out Bar Laurier, Le Courtier, Next Door, Chez Baptiste or Le Cherrier.

17) Prediction time: Habs will take the series to 7 games, it’s a toss up on who will win. It depends on which Montreal Canadiens team shows up. It better not be the one from the 7-0 game. Max Pacioretty won’t approve of this. Nor will half of Montreal. Boston is playoff-ready.

18) Stanley Cup final prediction: Vancouver might actually be ready to win one, the surprise could be in the East ( my gut says a team that finished lower than 5th).

19) Let’s pretend that Montreal has a good chance, PK will repeat what he did all year, more triple low fives for all. If the Habs want a reason to win other than for Pacioretty, it’s Kirk Muller’s last year on the Habs bench. Shout out to the BBQ with Kirk Muller group.

20) Lastly, if the Habs play for 6 weeks or 6 games, one thing always remains the same: there will be beer.

Game on!

If you want more bar suggestions check where I went all season on the Hockey Blog.

* Video by Liam Chapman

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

I now understand how long road trips can take a toll on teams such as the Montreal Canadiens, especially when there are a few weeks left in the schedule. I was covering the SXSW music festival in Austin Texas and did the drive down into the United States. The open road can be long and exhausting. That same week the Habs played a series of games, from a shutout in Pittsburgh to being shut out in New York City after playing the night before in Tampa Bay.

The United States via the highway can be quite the adventure. We passed truck stops and lots of fast food chains. We drove by cities known for minor hockey teams and passed by places like Columbus and Nashville who have NHL franchises and wondered how on earth these cities have teams. We also passed Dallas, home of the Stars and found out that even that team was on the selling block. These aren’t really strong hockey markets yet they have teams. Winnipeg and Quebec are not pleased.

At SXSW I went in search of some hockey amidst large music crowds. Was there a sign of hockey in Austin? I can say this about Texas: they do love sports, especially college sports. On this trip I saw many football stadiums and hockey arenas. They do take those sports to heart the same way Montrealers do with the Habs (Montreal fans had a rally last week in support of injured player Max Pacioretty).

My heart hadn’t been in the hockey spirit since the hit. We had the Halak game a while ago, I was going to be excited about playing against the goalie that took the team and this city on the brink to the final. However after Pacioretty it was hard for me to go back into game mode, same with the players. But good news, looks like he could be back during playoffs. Nothing can stop this guy, not even a cracked vertebrae. He is on Twitter now if you want to know if he’s been watching movies other than Hall Pass. Check him out at @MaxPacioretty67.

My search for a hockey game ended on my last night as I found hockey in a place called Paradise. Paradise housed Canada House, home of the Canadian showcases during SXSW. I was not surprised that they had a hockey game going on.

On the way home, we stopped at another fast food joint showing the Texas/Arizona basketball game from the NCAA tournament or March Madness. I was astonished to see how people would crowd around a bar early in the afternoon yelling at a game. Then again, I do the same thing in Montreal.

At the same time, my enthusiasm returned. During the Habs road trip, the kiddies were up to some good. Ryan White had his first goal in the game against Minnesota, then a fight, then an against. Yes! Gordie Howe Hat trick!

It was a scoring affair, the Habs were scoring goals the same way they have been losing players. The highlight being PK Subban scoring his first hat trick (three goals out of the 8-1 affair against Minnesota). And yes, Alex Auld assisted also.

Road trips can be a strange affair. High scoring wins, horrible losses and a lot of takeout. However myself and the Habs can’t wait to get home and keep the playoff fight going.

Shout Outs of the week: Shout out to the city of Austin for a great SXSW experience, everyone was friendly and there were many amazing shows and free drinks, lots of free drinks.

Shout out to anything in hat trick form, PK Subban’s first hat trick, Ryan White’s Gordie Howe hat trick. We ran out of hats, who knows what can happen next? Anyone else want to score 3 goals next?

In light of what has happened in hockey with Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara, there still is a game and a bar to review. It casts a shadow on what was to be another meeting of the heated rivalry between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. This was a hyped up game, the first meeting since February 9 when fights broke out. I wanted to go to Chez Serge, however it was packed an hour before game time. If a bar fills up earlier than usual, this has to be the game to watch.

I scurried over to La Petite Idee Fixe (4857 Ave du Parc), a small dive bar in the Plateau. Idee Fixe has cheap beer and dim lighting and a sketchy vibe. The closest thing to actual light was coming from the video poker machines. No questions asked, if they’re showing the game I’m going to watch no matter what. I know for one thing, being by myself does attract some strange characters.

There were a few alright, one kept talking to me but I quickly ignored. There was one sitting and yelling in front of the TV watching the Ottawa game instead. I thought there was going to be trouble if I asked to change the channel, lucky there wasn’t. I knew somehow on game night there was going to be a fight, wasn’t sure if it was going to come from the game or the bar.

The guy yelling at the TV I found out was an actual referee and he was yelling out the plays that the NHL referees were missing. Yes, there was a lot of yelling, even in dive bars you can find hockey hardcores. The guy also has a blog himself, he reviews beers.

Montreal started the battle early with Ryan White getting into a scrap with Johnny Boychuk. Word to the wise, Ryan: if you’re going to get into fights in the NHL, get a haircut. Sorry to say that he looked like a girl fighting, physically.

The surprise that night was Lars Eller, not only he scored but twice! He finally found his touch, the Great Dane scores! Then Brian Gionta notched one. It was strange that both the tall and small guys found their way into the net. Things were going great, the Habs were up by four goals and Carey Price looked like he was heading towards another shutout. There was no stopping the Habs, the win was ours until…well, you know what happened.

Pacioretty is still the topic of the town. The issue on head injuries was supposed to be the main focus Monday when NHL owners met to discuss the state of the game. I wondered what Coach Jacques Martin said to his players heading into the third period after the incident. Their teammate’s health must have been on their minds, keeping the win for Pacioretty was the option.

Milan Lucic scored the only Boston goal but The Canadiens got the win. As I sat there with my tall beer; the win didn’t seem to matter or where I watched it. The concern for someone sustaining that hit, and the way he lay there on the ice motionless was something I don’t think anyone could forget. It was a good time at the bar but that’s not a big concern right now.

The Canadiens organization has sent up a forum for fans to send messages to Max Pacioretty. Go to http://goha.bs/g9rDGt if you want to send your best.