Enjoy some writeups on the Habs!
2020-2021 Montreal Canadiensby Veronica, July 11, 2021
Reality. As defined by the Oxford dictionary, it means:
The world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
Oxford never considered hockey when listing this entry.
The average Habs fan (is there a more offensive moniker?) has been instructed by hockey media going on a solid several years now that your Montreal Canadiens are a mediocre assembly and their general manager is an out-of-his-depth, old-school, woefully-behind-his-times executive - and to get on a first-name basis with reality. As if reality has anything to do with hockey.
The Montreal Canadiens nonetheless just won 13 post-season games in 2021, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, giving the Leafs three chances to eliminate them, then rested for exactly one day before sweeping the Winnipeg Jets (after the most gruelling regular-season scheduled in NHL history), then eliminating the Vegas Golden Knights in six games, at home. Each of these eliminations happened upon the Habs’ first opportunity.
But let’s go back to the regular season for a moment. The regular season, a time of year that I’ve often said on the Habby Hour is irrelevant, but for when it’s determined who gets to play for the prize.
The regular season, the frankly most pathetic measuring stick, dictated that your Montreal Canadiens were going to be predicable failures in the post-season against each of those teams. And the commentariat stubbornly didn’t get more intelligent with each round.
Because you can’t predict hockey. You just can’t, no matter how worn out your calculators become after punching in all those McDavid, Matthews or Marner numbers. WATCH THE GAMES!
To win a Stanley Cup, you need to have brothers. Who aren’t afraid to die, and are valiantly going to war. The Miami team got it this time. They got it last year, too, because they get it. They get the post-season. (Finally.)
It was in Game 1, with Paul Byron’s short-handed goal, from his stomach, in a tied third-period against the Leafs in enemy territory, that it was confirmed to me that the Leafs were toast. One way or another. We watched their stars get tossed around by the collar, counting on not getting a penalty as some sort of victory. Cowards!
First chance the Leafs got to eliminate them? Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki teamed up for an embarrassingly easy two-on-one in overtime. Second chance? Two days later, an overtime joyous, smiling goal by Jeseperi Kotkaniemi, who was scratched for the first game of the series (and the last two of the Stanley Cup, to the delight of non-post series fans of Brady Tkachuk). Game Seven did not require overtime. There is nothing that tells you more about this than the Leafs’ current roster. Gallagher scored his easiest goal of his career and Perry scored off his ass-area and the Habs won in regulation.
Enough about them. They’re such a waste of time. No disrespect; they’re just such an annoying non-factor.
In the second round that Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield all got past, their second of three, they dispatched the Winnipeg Jets, another team predicted to sweep *them*. Excuses this round, too - luck. Because luck somehow plays a role in a sweep.
Mark Scheifele, who the Canadiens beat in the first game, got himself ejected from the series for a cowardly hit on Jake Evans, who secured the win in Game 1 by netting an insurance goal - Scheifele tried to end Evans after the goal. Evans appeared again in the playoffs, thank god. Scheifele will miss the Jets’ season opener in October.
Enough about them.
The third round - against the Vegas Golden Knights. This was supposed to be *the* test. The Habs were the first team, too, to punch their ticket to the Final Four, having begun their second series way late. I had been looking forward to this one, because I knew the Habs would know exactly how to get into Max Pacioretty’s head, a guy important to the VGK team.
It was supposed to be another sweep by the VGK. How delicious. The VGK won Game One, to the delight of all the experts. The Habs won Game Two 3-1. The next game, Fleury left his net open and Josh Anderson smacked the puck in, like good teams do. He then smacked another one in, in overtime, absolutely dummying the goalie again, at home. Michel Lacroix’s call was chilling. The Habs won by three goals in the next game to tie the series, and then the Habs got rid of the third team that was supposed to sweep them, in six games. First opportunity.
In Game 6, the captain, Shea Weber, being held together by literal dental floss, opened the scoring on a blast from the point. Cole Caufield, with yet a year to play an NHL regular season, scored the next one, beating the NHL veteran that dared to play mind games against him the previous day. Caufield didn’t even SMILE, but he did blow a kiss to the Bell Centre faithful, greatly reduced in numbers but loud enough to be heard in British Columbia. We were screaming so hard our neighbours put their houses on the market.
Game 6 went to overtime. One of my favourite players, Artturi Lehkonen, off beatiful passes from two of my other favourites, Gallagher and Danault (they’re all my favourites, we all know this) scored the definitive goal by the Habs in recent memory. The OT goal that sent the Habs to the Stanley Cup final, for the first time in a generation. A GENERATION. I can’t watch it without crying, and I never cry, and this urge will never dissipate with time.(Also, that was not an icing.)
The general manager, who had most fans infuriated after Game 4 of the first round, was wearing his red suit that night, and danced around the press box with a very lucky blonde lady who is as yet unidentified. He hugged and kissed his players. There was a little too much celebrating for this suspicious, superstitious witch. In the back of my mind. Who cared; the Habs were in the final. THE FINAL!
I’m less able to play-by-play the Miami team because for superstitious reasons the losses were automatically deleted from my PVR. The Florida team, despite the expert commentariat weighing in, did not sweep the Habs. We had to endure their coach for only five games, which is obviously the good news. They won Game Four, Tampa couldn’t complete the sweep, because they are cowards, in my opinion. Anyway yay to them on their back-to-back wins, those cheating bastards.
All in good fun. I’d never use an excuse for losing to a back-to-back champion, even though they’re cheaters. We’re going to get it next year. The GM, who we here at the Habby Hour have backed from the beginning, and haven’t had to talk up for about three years because he so obviously made excellent moves, assembled a culture that GETS IT.
He brought in Corey Perry, who I was just reminded yesterday scored a goal in the gold-medal 2010 game in Vancouver for Team Canada, because I am a huge nerd. He brought in Eric Staal. Both Stanley Cup winners. In the off season he brought in Tyler Toffoli, and Joel Edmundson, Stanley Cup winners, the latter of which for whatever fucking reason got Habs fans grumbling over, and he brought in Jake Allen. Jake Allen, a prince of a man, and formerly a starting goalie of the Stanley Cup-winning (as a backup to Bennington) St. Louis Blues.
Losing in the Stanley Cup final is still losing. Not one of those players is happy with a consolation prize. But they made it to two months into the post-season, and the final two. You cannot overstate how special that is. It’s been 28 years.
Let’s talk about Carey Price. There is a lot of back-patting about who is the best goalie in the league, after this playoff season. We can stop talking about it - it’s Carey Price.
Shea Weber. There’s not a player in the national hockey league the doesn’t kneel at his altar, though he detests that. Again - prior to the playoffs, after missing the last multiple regular- (meaningless) season games, his status was doubtful. Because he was broken. And old. A narrative that followed him around since the trade five fucking years ago.I’m so exhausted.
A word about our general manager. As previously mentioned, he’s been around for quite a while. He’s preached culture. He’s preached a team built for the playoffs. He’s been maligned, and fired eight million times by the experts, both local and foreign.
Yesterday, in his press conference, he admitted how hard these past 16 months have been on him, mentally. And a few weeks ago, Gord Miller told a story about being in the bubble last year, and he would work out most mornings at the hotel gym and MB was always in there working out. One morning after skipping a day MB cracked that Miller was taking days off. Miller asked about him working out every day and MB said that if he didn’t, his job would kill him.
Marc Bergevin is fucking jacked, and was relatively puny when he won the job.
I am signing here as one fan who wants the man to see the job through. Habs 2022.
Playoffs, baby!by Ariane Audet, May 18, 2021
It’s official: the Montreal Canadiens will face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1979. The Canadiens clinched their playoff spot at the end of the season, and what a relief that has been for both players and fans. This season was harder than usual on the team, due to the grueling schedule, injuries, and salary cap complications they had to deal with.
The Canadiens played without Shea Weber, Phillip Danault, Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Tomas Tatar, and Jonathan Drouin at various points toward the end of the season. Tatar and Byron have returned, but the others are still recuperating and Drouin will not return this season. Weber, Danault, Price and Gallagher have resumed skating and could be back for the start of the series. Everyone knows what these four players bring to the team in their various roles, and it will be a huge boost to get them back on the ice. Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher back after some rest? Yes, please! These two can change the series all by themselves. The Canadiens also have some time off between their last game of the season and their first game of the playoffs, which will benefit the entire team.
Playoffs are a Different Season
The Maple Leafs rely on their forward core to carry their offense. Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, among others, are very fast and skilled. The Canadiens will have to be careful not to turn the puck over and give the Leafs too many odd-man rushes. The Leafs also rely heavily on their power play, but there are fewer penalties called in the playoffs and they struggled at the end of the season. They were passing too much and not shooting enough. This factor alone creates an advantage for the Habs, who perform better at five on five. The Tatar-Danault-Gallagher line, for example, excels in that situation.
Speaking of five on five, the Canadiens did not perform like they wanted in overtime this season, but playoff overtime not being three on three will be beneficial for Montreal. If they keep possession of the puck and are careful with turnovers, they can win in overtime.
The Canadiens will also need to throw every puck they can at the net. Whether the Leafs start Andersen or Campbell between the pipes, the Canadiens need to shoot everything they have at them. They must disturb the goaltender and make him nervous.
Per StatMuse, the Canadiens led the entire league in hits per game this season with 28.30. The Maple Leafs were 4th from the bottom with 17.91 hits. If the Canadiens want to beat the Leafs, they will have to wear them down. They will have to make life miserable for the Leafs’ stars and goaltenders. The Canadiens have multiple players on the team who can disturb the opponent and create offensive chances, and they will need those players to be at the top of their game.
The Canadiens have a good mix of young players and experienced players on the team. Everyone will be looking closely at the young players as they continue developing. It will be interesting to see how Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Alexander Romanov and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are used by coach Dominique Ducharme and what impact they will have. Ducharme confirmed that Caufield, Romanov and Kotkaniemi will be scratched for the first game, but that he will not hesitate to reinsert them in the lineup as soon as game two if needed. Last spring, Suzuki and Kotkaniemi were stellar in the playoffs and I expect them to raise their level of play once again this season. Let us also not forget Jake Evans, who is not flashy, but incredibly effective defensively and can help offensively as well.
The veterans will also have an important role. Corey Perry will be a difference maker in the playoffs, even if he does not put up points regularly. His experience is invaluable. The same can be said of Eric Staal, Joel Edmundson, Jake Allen, Michael Frolik and Tyler Toffoli, who have all won a Cup.
The biggest unsung difference maker will be Josh Anderson. Without discrediting Carey Price, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault and all the other players who have important roles, the addition of Anderson to the squad will be a massive boon for the playoffs. Anderson is a combination of speed, skill and power and the Canadiens desperately needed this kind of player. He has earned the nickname ‘Powerhorse’ during the season because of his skillset, and the nickname suits him perfectly. I like to think that his level of play will influence other players, the same way that Gallagher’s does. Unsurprisingly, Anderson is pumped to play the Maple Leafs. He mentioned that there is no other team he would rather play more, and that he loves that the Canadiens are the underdogs. Remember when the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning a couple years ago in the first round of the playoffs? Anderson, who was a Blue Jacket at the time, was a nightmare for Tampa Bay. Steve Yzerman, of all people, said that the Lightning did not have an answer for Anderson, and I expect him to play the same role against the Maple Leafs. To me, Anderson is already a clear candidate to be our playoff MVP.
The keyword for the Canadiens in the playoffs: confidence. When these players believe in themselves, they can beat anybody. With a rested Carey Price in net and motivated players in front of him, anything can happen. I believe the Canadiens are built more for the playoffs than the regular season and we will see a different team on the ice as soon as the puck is dropped on Thursday night. I believe in the team and I hope they will feel our energy even if we can’t physically be at the Bell Centre. Wear your Habs apparel and wear it proudly. This team battled hard all season and they deserve our support.
My prediction: Canadiens in 7.
Ariane Audet is a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan, born and raised in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. Because of her love for the Montreal Canadiens, she has developed an interest in the Canadiens’ farm teams over the years. You can find her on Twitter at @kotkaniemiii