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.

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!

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.