I’m not one to get over-excited about the whole “Original 6” thing, but this always feels special. The Canadiens in Montreal is one of the big red-letter days on the calendar. The Habs have 23 NHL-Era Stanley Cup banners hanging in their rafters; which is only three fewer than the Wings, Bruins, Hawks and Rangers’ combined total. Names like ‘Rocket’ Richard, Jean Beliveau, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden all created their legends with this club. The Centre Bell may not be as redolent with history as the old Montreal Forum but it’s still one of Hockey’s great arenas and crowds.

I’m looking forward to this, in other words.


Of course, the Habs are far removed from their dynastic days: their last Cup win, in 1993, also represents the last time a Canadian team took home the trophy and their current squad doesn’t look like changing that any time soon. I’d had a sneaky feeling about the Habs this year, anticipating them building on last year’s 1st place finish in the old Northeast. As of now, however, they are fighting it out with Tampa for 2nd place behind the Bruins in the Atlantic and showing some erratic form of late (they are 5-3-2 in their last 10).

The big story in Montreal recently has been the treatment of PK Subban, last years’ Norris winner and one of the most exciting young players in the league. After taking a bad roughing penalty against Philadelphia a few nights ago he was rewarded with being benched for most of the 3rd period. This while the Habs were down 3-1 and chasing hard.  Canadiens fans are not pleased with Michel Therrien right now, although that’s drowned out somewhat by the derailment happening in Toronto.  SBN blog Habs Eyes On The Prize have more details.

As ever, with Montreal, it starts with Carey Price, who is in excellent form heading into the Olympics where he is the undisputed #1 for Team Canada. The Habs are 4th lowest in the NHL in Goals Against and Drinky Price has had a lot to do with that.  Subban currently leads the team in scoring with 33 points but there are 9 other Habs with 20+ points so they’re getting meaninful contributions from their forward corps, lead by Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec.  Of course, as is well known, the Habs forwards are a group of schtroumpfs; but size (or lack of) isn’t going to be much of an issue against the Hawks.

The real blind spot on the Canadiens is the old & useless Doug Murray and the even-older & useless Francis Boullion.  They simply won’t be able to handle Hawks forward coming at them with speed. Tonight is not a night for the stretch pass.. movement and accuracy will be key.  Subban is a wonderful offensive threat but has been known to shirk his defensive duties on occasion. George Parros is apparently in the line-up for reasons known only to Therrien. Hopefully he avoids another concussion.

As for the Hawks, we get a look at the reshuffled lines in action. I’m quite happy about the 2nd line: they’ve clearly shifted Bickell there in an attempt to kickstart him. Marcus Kruger is the best option currently in Chicago for 2C, but I don’t think he’s the long-term solution, either. The 3rd line is.. jeez, I don’t know. Saad-Handzus-Versteeg.. Either this line will click straight away or they’ll be riding the pine a lot.  Andrew Shaw drops to the 4th line where they are going to need Keith & Seabrook to help start any offense.

Good Quebec Boy Corey Crawford gets the start in net. With St Louis now ahead in the standings (I know its not important, but still…) a win tonight would be extremely welcome after this stuttering start to the new year.

Good luck to any and all of you who are going to #GonnaDrinken at Galway bay tonight.. wish I could be there.


Allons Hawks!