The Future is Bright in Montreal

By now you’ve already heard the news that defenceman Hal Gill has been traded to the Nashville Predators along with a conditional fifth round draft pick in 2013  in exchange for forwards Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney, as well as a second round draft pick in 2012.

My initial reaction was sadness and a puzzled look on my face, never having heard of the two forwards the Canadiens acquired (okay, maybe I live under a rock sometimes).

After some quick research and more thought, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

With Gill being an unrestricted free agent, it was only a matter of time before something had to happen with him.

As my step dad predicted last week, he was traded.

It makes sense, seeing as we either would have lost him for no return or would have had to shell out the big bucks to keep him in town.

In return we pick up two young forwards who are 6’2″; one whom bleeds bleu-blanc-rouge and has Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion and Howie Morenz running through his veins, the other is a good Canadian boy.

According to the current roster on Canadiens.com, 19 of 25 players listed are over 6’0″ and 15 of them weigh in at 200 pounds or more.

For a team that’s been criticized for lacking in size all season long, those are certainly big numbers.

With only seven players over the age of 30 on the Habs roster, it’s looks like the beginning of a great future in Montreal.

Okay, here’s the part where the girly hockey fan in me shines through so close your eyes for two seconds boys.

By adding Gill to their line up, the Preds continue to bolster their roster of “sexiest NHL players.” To be fair, we still have a number of stunners on our team a la Josh Gorges, Carey Price and Max Pacioretty to name a few.

Okay, girl comments are done, you can start reading again guys.

What we gain:

As I already mentioned the biggest trade off is return on a UFA in size and youth. Geoffrion played 22 game with Nashville this season, where he earned three assists. In 20 AHL games he has two goals and seven assists. He was awarded the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, as the Top U.S. Collegiate Player in 2010

Wow..what a day…its bitter sweet, going to miss my hometown of nashville, but going to where it all started with my family…MONTREAL!!! -@BlakeGeoffrion on Twitter

Slaney has split the season between the AHL and the ECHL. He has one assist in nine AHL games, and eight goals and five assists in 23 ECHL games.

Want to thank everyone in Nashville for everything, and excited for a new start in Montreal!  #newbeginnings -@rslaney67 on Twitter

What we lose:

A veteran defenceman with a wealth of playoff experience, strong penalty-killing ability and depth.

Moving Forward

As sad as I still am to see Big Hal depart for Nashville, I am excited for the future generation of Montreal Canadiens.

They may not be having the best season this year, but neither were the Ottawa Senators last year and look at them now.

“We are also very pleased to have acquired a second-round draft selection in 2012 and two young prospects for our organization. We look forward to working together with Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney to continue their progression.” -Canadiens GM, Pierre Gauthier

This time, I’d like to give PG a pat on the back for a good trade.

My First Tweetup

Sporting my Habs colours, even my iPhone wears bleu, blanc, rouge. Photo by Laura Kenney (@Habbykins)

On Feb. 11 the All Habs Tweetup crew hosted a Toronto event at St. Louis Bar and Grill for a Hockey Day in Canada match up between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

During the last year I’ve been reading up on these tweetup events and the friendships that come out of meeting fellow twitter Habs fans face-to-face, and finally had the opportunity to attend one myself.

After carefully choosing which of

My fiance wearing my step dad's Canadiens sweater. I couldn't resist taking a photo for all his Sens fans friends back home.

my bleu, blanc, rouge outfits to sport to the bar (I went with a Josh Gorges t-shirt), and raiding my step dad’s closet to give my Sens fan fiance a sweater to wear, we were on our way to show our colours in enemy territory.

Not going to lie…the following words did escape my mouth en route to the bar:

“The Habs better win this game, I am going to be so embarrassed if we take over a Toronto bar and have to walk out with a loss”

Luckily for me, Les Canadiens not only won, they completely dominated the blue and white in their home arena and shut them out on a night they were celebrating their beloved ex captain Mats Sundin.

From the moment I walked into the bar, I knew it was going to be a great night.

We were welcomed with open arms by my Twitter acquaintances whom I’ve built online relationships with throughout the last year or two.

It was pretty surprising when I didn’t even have to introduce myself; as I walked in Dayes yelled “hey! Melissa”

I finally got to meet @habbykins, @Kuyaz and @cokeaddict who I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with on Twitter about the Habs, my own hockey endeavours, and not to mention cake. Mmm, cake.

Michael Kuyaz and I meeting in person for the first time! I'm wearing a Gorges t-shirt, he's wearing Pacioretty!

I also met @thetonyjones and new follower @ange_ducharme, among others.

When Erik Cole scored five minutes into the second period to give Montreal a 1-0 lead, the entire bar (okay, our entire group…which made up 3/4 of the bar) errupted in cheers as @Kuyaz came around and gave everyone a high five.

The blue and white crowd at St. Louis would remain silent for the rest of the game as the Habs went on to rout the Leafs 5-0 just hours after Sundin claimed Toronto was the hockey capital of the world, in his pre game speech.

So much for that, eh Mats?

The Canadiens chased James Reimer out of the net after 40 minutes of play, after he allowed four goals on just 15 shots. Jonas Gustavsson replaced “Reim Time” between the pipes for the third period and was beat once on three attempts.

Carey Price made 32 saves for a perfect game, as Montreal won their fourth straight.

It was the first shutout by the Canadiens in Toronto since Jose Theodore blanked the Leafs 4-0 on Oct. 11, 2003.

The Canadiens league-leading penalty kill was tested five times, while they’re power play (which is second worst in the league) was 1-for-2.

Kuyaz and I, he added the caption. Photo by Dayes (@Cokeaddict)

Back to the Tweetup…

On each table was a piece of paper that included feedback on the event and a short quiz about Hockey Day in Canada.

Needless to say, I didn’t know a single answer on the test but wound of winning a prize, $25 St. Louis gift card, for ‘most creative answers’.

Mike managed to snap this photo as I was cheering for the Eller goal. Epic! Photo by Mike Milonow (@MikeMilonow)

When Lars Eller dangled Dion Phaneuf and undressed Reimer for the Habs fourth goal, we were pretty sure the Leafs would not be able to come back into the game in the third period.

During the second intermission our group sang happy birthday for former Montrealer Jaroslav Spacek, who was celebrating his 38th birthday.

There’s a video recording of it somewhere, you’ll have to ask @cokeaddict for it.

After filling up on nachos, wings, delicious drinks and plenty of high fives, hugs and photos the night came to an end and it was time to part ways.

A big thank you to @Kuyaz and @Cokeaddict for putting on a fabulous event. I can’t wait for the next one!

Next on my bucket list is to attend a Tweetup in Montreal.

AHL Outdoor Classic

I’ve been to a lot of live hockey games in my life: NHL, AHL, OHL, NWHL, CWHL, University etc… but I had never experience an outdoor game before, until this past weekend.

With the AHL Outdoor Classic taking place less than 100 km from my house, in Hamilton, I jumped at the chance to watch future NHL stars duke it out, outdoors, in the middle of January.

This is Canada, eh.

Everything about the entire experience, from purchasing tickets to the final buzzer, was above my expectations.

I purchased my tickets online, where I was able to pick my seats from the section, to the aisle to the exact seat numbers I wanted. (In the end I wound up sitting two rows, in the same seat numbers, in front of fellow Tweeter @thirtyonesaves).

The ticket prices were outstanding, $80 per person, for great seats AND that deal came with tickets to the PepsiCo Outdoor NHL Alumni Game Friday night between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs and tickets for the AHL Outdoor Classic Saturday afternoon with the Hamilton Bulldogs hosting the Toronto Marlies at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

In the days leading up to the event I was a bit apprehensive because of the strange weather we’ve been getting around here lately, but it turned out to be the most beautiful weekend possible for outdoor hockey!

A beautiful January night for an outdoor NHL Alumni game

I had never been to an NHL Alumni game before either and wasn’t sure what to except from ex NHLers, especially when some people on Twitter said they’d never waste money on that, but I was actually blown away.

Sure, it was much slower than an NHL game but damn, most of those guys can still outplay me, that’s for sure!

Cujo was absolutely brilliant for the Leafs, some fans even went as far as to say he played better in the outdoor game than he did his last few seasons in the NHL!

During the second half of the NHL Alumni Game, Kraig Nienhuis left the Leafs bench and climbed on stage, in full equipment, to rock the crowd with his rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

He wound up playing the tune again on Saturday for the record-setting crowd of 20, 565 fans at the AHL Outdoor Classic.

Before the game and between periods the ex NHL players signed autographs for fans waiting along the pathway to the dressing rooms.

It was funny how OLD some of those guys look now!

It wouldn't be an outdoor hockey game in Canada in January without a little snow.

The weather forecasters called for snow flurries at 9 p.m. and low and behold they were actually right, as flurries started coming down at 8:56, delighting the snow flake loving kid in me.

What I loved the most about this setting was how friendly the fans were – Habs and Leafs fans alike.

I was surrounded by Leafs fans and they chimed a few cracks at me here and there but they took the comebacks in great stride.

There were even a few people sporting Boston Bruins apparel -puke- that I was joking around with.

Normally the animosity between these fan bases is pretty high in other settings, so it was a welcoming surprise to share some good laughs with them.

Picturesque weather conditions for the first AHL Outdoor Classic in Canada

I couldn’t have asked for more picture-perfect weather for Saturday’s AHL game. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Hamilton came out flying, scoring less than 30 seconds in the game which led to an ensuing fight (which Hamilton won).

Unfortunately, the Bulldogs went on to lose 7-2.

The crowd kept cheering until the end though, not like the boos you would typically hear ringing through the Bell Centre.

If you didn’t have a chance to watch the live feed on Sportsnet, here is the game in six minutes from the NHL Videocenter.

You can find more photos of the game on the Facebook Page for the 2012 AHL Outdoor Classic presented by Molson.

Overall, it was a great experience that I would do over in a heart beat (although, I can’t see myself paying the $200+ ticket price for the NHL Outdoor Classic).

This guy made my night!

At Friday’s game there was a Habs fan sitting in front of us with a Cammalleri jersey on. He had taped over the name bar and wrote “GM is an idiot”.

I wound up posting the picture to Twitter and it was still getting retweets more than 24 hours later.

Amazing!

During the NHL Alumni game, one of the Hamilton announcers interviewed George Laraque at the Montreal bench regarding the coach, Guy Lafleur.

After telling the reporter what a great coach Guy was behind the bench, he threw a little jab at the Quebecois media with a sly grin on his face.

“He’s great…and he can speak French”

The entire stadium roared with laughter and the play-by-play announcers had a field day!

Oh, George…you funny man, you.

Here are a few other photos I took with my iPhone…sorry for the quality.

Canadiens Alumni lining up for the national anthem

Alumni players walking to the dressing room between periods

Rocking my bleu-blanc-rouge touque and Josh Gorges t-shirt before the game

Bruins Extend Win Streak to 9 in Montreal

Going into this game I predicted P.K. Subban would sit in the sin bin more often than the most hated man in Montreal, Zdeno Chara, on the TSN Predictor – Hockey Edition contest.

At least I earned a point tonight.

While the Habs were killing a Subban penalty in the first period, Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen broke out of the zone on a 2-on-1. Pleks gave Moen a perfect tape-to-tape pass but Moen missed the net.

Fanning on shots or just plain missing the net entirely seems to be a common trend for le bleu, blanc, rouge as of late.

The Canadiens deserve a lot of credit for their first period action, though. The boys were hard on the puck, going in the corners and winning battles against their giant counterparts.

Erik Cole lays a hit on Andrew Ference. Photo by: REUTERS/ Christinne Muschi

Alexei Emelin had a huge hit behind Carey Price and I fell in [hockey] love with Josh Gorges a little more when he levelled Lucic just inside our blue line. Even our smallest player, and wonderful captain, got in on the action throwing a few hits at the 6’9 Chara.

Although Montreal outshot Boston 10-5 in the first, Mr. Glove Malfunction (or Andrew Ference) flipped the bird at Price’s shutout, ending his streak at 148:11 minutes of play to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Ference was left all alone in front, took the pass and beat Price who had no chance to cover the net. The goal would ultimately be the game winner.

Is it bad I hoped someone would jump that guy cheering in the Lucic jersey the camera panned to after the Bruins goal?

While Sidney Crosby (remember him? Yeah, The Kid is back) was lighting the lamp in Pittsburgh, the Habs played a lackluster second and third period which would not go unnoticed by Twitter.

“Habs playing like a PeeWee team” -@DannyBoyMTL

 

“This has to be the most emotionless Habs Bruins game in recent memory” – Arpon Basu

The refs finally gave the Bruins a penalty, after keeping their eyes closed to the dirty stick work in the first period, when ex-Habs Benoit Pouliot stupidly retaliated and hooked Emelin behind the play.

Michael Cammalleri had a nice shot from the point, which was deflected in front but Tim Thomas denied him with the kick save.

Too many times the Canadiens cycled the puck and didn’t take the right opportunities to shoot, then took shots from the weakest angles or coughed up the puck.

When the shorthanded team has as many shots on net as you during your power play, it’s time to rethink your special teams. Write that in your notebook, Jacques Martin.

Pouliot was sent back to the box not long after his escape, this time for four minutes, for getting his stick up in Subban’s face.

Once again, the Habs couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage.

Boston’s victory can no doubt be placed on the shoulders of Thomas who made 33 saves for his third shutout of the year, earning him the game’s first star.

The Bruins earned their ninth straight win while Thomas has gone 133:04 minutes without allowing a goal.

With 1:39 remaining in the game Rich Peverley took a penalty for cross-checking Cammalleri. Even with the extra attacker, the Habs couldn’t buy a goal.

At one point, with 45 seconds left in the game, the Canadiens pulled a dump-and-chase making me throw my hands up in disgust as Boston quickly cleared the zone and the time on the clock ran out.

Even with their mini-me sized roster compared to the Bruins, Montreal out shot and out hit Boston.

To give them credit, Price (17-18) and the boys only allowed one Boston goal. Impressive, considering the Bruins had outscored their opponents 42-14 in the first eight games of the hot streak they’re on.

Budaj Not to Blame in Habs Loss

Budaj's 29 saves would not be enough as the Islanders defeated the Canadiens 4-3. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

Let me start by saying I actually agreed with the coaching decision to sit Carey Price and play Peter Budaj against the New York Islanders tonight.

Many fellow Habs fans on Twitter did not agree with this decision, taking another opportunity to make shots at Jacques Martin (whom which I dislike just as much as the next guy, by the way).  Would these people have had a different opinion had Price not earned a shutout last night?

YES.

The decision to play Budaj or Price was more than likely made before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes even started. It didn’t matter to the coaching staff how the game ended; they had already made up their minds.

With two games in two nights and some tough matchups remaining this month (Rangers, Bruins, Hurricanes followed by back-to-back games against the Flyers and Penguins), giving Price a break was a smart move. He might be the saviour in Montreal, but the guy isn’t invincible; he needs a rest once in a while. That’s why we have a backup goaltender in the first place.

Onto the game itself, where the Habs fought back from a 3-0 deficit to ultimately lose 4-3 and the hands of the Islanders.

New York’s first goal of the game can solely be blamed on Budaj who attempted to play the puck behind the net and instead gift wrapped an early Christmas gift for Pierre-Alexandr Parenteau.

After playing a solid first period, the immediate “Pull Budaj” comments following the first goal he allowed were a bit much, to say the least. In my opinion, that would be the only goal of the game that he could take full blame for (let’s remember there are five players in front of him too).

The Islanders’ second goal, the first of the season for Jay Pandolfo, began with a 3-on-2 into Montreal’s defensive zone. Both Scott Gomez and Aaron Palushaj coasted into the zone, while Mathieu Darche came back hard and dove in attempts to break up the pass at the blue-line. Both Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz had their men covered leaving Pandolfo all alone in front.

Had Gomez or Palushaj actually skated hard to defend our zone, the goal may not have happened. Budaj was in position but stood no chance against the unprotected Pandolofo.

Mark Streit, who played for the bleu, blanc, rouge from 2005-2008, shovelled the Isles’ third goal passed Budaj on a Habs defensive error.

Emelin made a weak attempt to clear the zone, when he had all the time in the world to set up a play. Streit picked up the puck and brought it back over the blue-line then passed it in front when Travis Moen lightly bumped him. After getting around Moen, who barely put any pressure on him at all, he picked up the loose puck in front of Budaj and put it home.

You can argue it was a weak goal on Budaj’s fault but it started with two major weak plays by his teammates.

Max Pacioretty finally put the Habs on the score sheet late in the second with a snap shot that beat Rick DiPietro on a pass from Lars Eller who capitalized on an Islanders defensive error.

The game really started getting exciting when Erik Cole cut the lead to one as he roofed the puck over a sprawled DiPietro who couldn’t regain position.

Just as quickly as the Habs looked to be taking back control of the game, Matt Moulson gave the Islanders their safety goal back.

Once again, on a 3-on-2 into the Habs zone, Moulson fired a wrist shot, which may have deflected off P.K. Subban’s stick as he turned, that beat Budaj between the legs.

Brian Gionta would give the Habs a power-play goal in the third, with an assist going to Mike Cammalleri who put in a solid effort getting the puck to the net.

From this loss I leave with the feeling that the Habs need to work on their defensive zone coverage. The forwards are not supporting their defencemen enough through the neutral zone and behind the blue-line and it’s costing them odd man rushes leading to goals.

The Islanders, who are last in the Eastern Conference out shot the Canadiens 33-29 in the 4-3 victory.

On the plus side the Habs continue to have a strong penalty killing unit, defending three New York power plays tonight. They have not given up a short-handed goal in their last six games.

I also really enjoy seeing Subban, Gionta and Cammalleri together on the power play. They were able to capitalize just once, but their chemistry led to a few great chances on others.

Social Media Fan of the Day

The Montreal Canadiens started a great contest of recognition this season; Habs Social Media Fan of the Day.

Beginning September 1, 2011 they announce a daily winner via the Habs officialTwitter account (@CanadiensMTL). The winner also receives a $10 gift certificate to use at any Habs Zone location.

Entering the contest is as simple as visiting the website, filling out the form and uploading a few pictures of yourself decked out in the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. 

On October 28, 2011 I was crowned the Habs Social Media Fan of the Day.

After seeing two fellow Twitter pals (@emann_222 & @GucciPucciPrada) also gain recognition in the month of October I was overjoyed to join them.

When I entered a week earlier, I didn’t think I had a chance of being chosen. Just knowing the size of the fan base on Twitter alone, I figured it was a one-in-a-million shot.

Thanks to this contest I also had my profile posted on the Canadiens website, including a link to my blog. That day, I had 30 hits on my site. I can’t say for certain if they were all because of the link on the Habs website, but it definitely played a role.

Thank you to all my friends, followers and family for all your continued support in reading this blog and a BIG THANKS to the Montreal Canadiens organization for being the number one franchise in NHL history and making it easy to be a lifelong fan.

Go Habs Go

Habsolute bust in home opener

Let me begin by first admitting that I was a Price nay-sayer when the unthinkable happened- Halak was traded to the St Louis Blues for a player I had never even heard of.

Dont get me wrong Carey Price is a great goaltender and he’s still very young and has a lot to learn.

I was however worried that the pressure of being a Hab would get to him and he wouldn’t be able to perform.

After tonight’s home opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning my Price worries are starting to fade.

Tonight the Price was right! The rest of the team? Let’s just say we’re still playing hide-and-go-seek.

I didn’t see the first period of the game so I can’t speak to that. I do know that in the last 40 minutes of the game the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge forgot to come back on the ice after that first period intermission.

Time and time again Price stood on his head putting up a wall against the likes of Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos but no one was there to help him out.

Les Canadiens were outshot 44-26 going into over time… That’s right Price made 41 saves to make sure the Habs took home a point tonight.

PK Subban… I think I know what the PK stands for now; Penalty Kill. You can’t blame the refs for that call but it was definitely the weakest, most unnecessary slashing penalty I’ve seen a guy take in a long time. Subban’s rookie error put the Canadies on the PK for the remainder of the game with only a one goal lead.

Vinny Lecavalier made sure to take advantage on that mistake when he was left alone to fake the shot and send a nifty pass to Stamkos (who might I add was also left alone, in front, in the slot) who sent the one timer into the net to send the game into O.T.

The Habs misery continued there as they collapsed yet again leaving Price to fend for himself. He managed to keep the first few shots at bay but was finally beaten.

Any ‘habs’ fan who booed Price tonight deserves a slap in the face. Any fan who booed those refs and threw debris on the ice needs to relax, take a step back and realize that the refs did not, I repeat DID NOT do this to the Canadiens.

They did it to themselves.

End of discussion.