MONTREAL — This is no peach of an assignment, but it’s one I must comply with, because this decade of Montreal Canadiens hockey is coming to a close and there actually were three moments from it that are truly worth remembering.
I say it’s a somewhat tedious task because to look back fondly on one of the only two decades over which the winningest franchise in NHL history didn’t manage to win a single Stanley Cup is…well…somewhat disappointing. Up against all that great history — 24 Cups the Canadiens won between the years 1919 and 1993 — it would be ridiculous to suggest anything that happened over the last 10 years would compare.
And, let’s be real, the last half of the 2010s was rife with controversy and otherwise utterly forgettable moments.
Believe me, I know. I was there for all of it.
But I was also working on each of these three momentous occasions from the first half of the decade, and what I witnessed on those nights will stay with me forever. So, with the help of some quotes, tweets and videos, I’m bringing those memories back to life as we bid adieu to the decade.
3. May 12, 2014: P.K. Subban guarantees a win for the Canadiens after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Boston Bruins
If you want to know how P.K. Subban became one of the most beloved Montreal Canadiens in history, it officially happened months before he pledged to raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
It was a gradual build from his June draft day in 2007 that percolated to a full boil on that May night back in 2014, when Subban said this about playing Montreal’s archrival, the Boston Bruins, in an upcoming Game 7 at TD Garden for a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Final: “It’s going to be great. The crowd, the noise, the energy in the building — I can’t wait to take that all away from them.”
OK, this wasn’t Mark Messier’s “We will win tonight” guarantee in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final, which the Hall of Famer backed up by scoring a hat trick to help the New York Rangers force Game 7 of their series against the New Jersey Devils. But it was a quote that was guaranteed to get plenty of play in Boston for 48 hours after our very own Chris Johnston stapled it to his Twitter profile following Montreal’s 4-0 win in Game 6 at the Bell Centre.
I mean, this was a bold — bordering on dangerous — thing for Subban to say after the Canadiens had worked so hard to erase a 3-2 series deficit to a Bruins team that had clinched the Presidents’ Trophy and finished with 17 more points in the standings than the Canadiens had accumulated. Especially since the Bruins had a league-leading 31-7-3 home record in the regular season and had beaten Montreal in two of the three playoff games at TD Garden after losing the first one in double overtime.
But Subban’s confidence in himself and the team had skyrocketed after he had five assists in a first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning and three goals and three assists through the first six games of the Boston series.
He didn’t pull back from his assertion before the Canadiens dressing room was vacated by the press. Rather, he doubled down.
“I play to win, I don’t care who’s there,” Subban said. “I don’t care if there’s nobody in the stands. I’m going there to win. It’s irrelevant to me. I hope that it’s a hostile environment, it makes it all better.”
Dale Weise, Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere did the scoring in Game 7, but it’s fair to say the Canadiens wouldn’t have won the game 3-1 without Subban leading them in ice-time (26:17) and without his four hits and two blocked shots.
2. April 26, 2010: Jaroslav Halak makes 53 saves in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal to help the Canadiens tie their series with the Washington Capitals 3-3
OK, so we can’t pinpoint one specific moment of this game, but we’ll count the whole experience as one of the top-three moments of the decade. Because, honestly, it was one of the most surreal and epic experiences ever witnessed at the Bell Centre.
The circumstances were downright laughable, actually. Jaroslav Halak, the Slovakian netminder chosen in the ninth round of the 2003 draft, had made a grand total of 85 regular-season appearances and three more in the playoffs before being given the assignment of backstopping the 88-point, 16th-seeded Canadiens against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning, 121-point Washington Capitals. And yet, Halak got the job done through Games 1-5 to get the Canadiens to a sixth game in the series.
He had stopped 122 of 135 shots a Capitals team that scored 313 regular-season goals had managed to that point, but what he did in Game 6 will go down as one of the greatest single-game goaltending performances in franchise history.
I’d go as far to call it one of the greatest performances in NHL history, actually.
On this night, Halak stopped eight threatening Alexander Ovechkin shots; he made some 10-bell saves on noted playmaker Nicklas Backstrom; he stretched himself in all directions to block seven shots from sniper Alexander Semin; he made a combined 12 saves on Brooks Laich and Mike Green; and he came up with some of his best stuff of the soiree on the 10 shots Joe Corvo recorded.
Eric Fehr was the only Capital to sneak one through Halak. He did it on Washington’s 52nd shot of the game, with just under five minutes left.
But Halak made two more stops and helped Montreal to a 4-1 win to force Game 7.
“Huge saves. Big, big-time saves,” said Montreal winger Brian Gionta after the game. “We got two early goals, we wanted to get the lead, and then he shut the door. It was him from that point on. And it wasn’t just the amount of shots, he faced a lot of quality shots. He’s unbelievable.”
I was standing within an earshot of Ovechkin when he disagreed with that assessment.
“We make goalies feel unbelievable,” Ovechkin said. “When we played Philadelphia (two years ago), (Martin) Biron was good. (New York Ranger Henrik) Lundqvist was good last year. And this year we make Halak feel good.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ll find a way to break that and win. No panic. Nothing.”
Close to nothing is what Ovechkin and the Capitals got in Game 7, when Halak stopped 41 of 42 shots to help the Canadiens win 2-1.
That was something else, but it was nothing like what he did at the Bell Centre two nights prior.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see anything like that again.
1. May 10, 2010: Mike Cammalleri breaks the sound barrier at the Bell Centre in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins
The press box at the Bell Centre is suspended high above the ice, and when I tell you that it was shaking so much it felt like it was going to come down after Mike Cammalleri went forehand to backhand and scored his second goal of the game — and 11th of the playoffs — to pull the Canadiens into a 2-2 tie with the defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the 11th minute of the second period in a must-win Game 6, I am not exaggerating.
It was, without a shred of doubt, the most hair-raising moment experienced at this arena since Saku Koivu received that incredible ovation upon his return from successfully battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002.
That was emotional, and visceral, and nothing will ever compare to it. Ever.
But this? This was eardrum-shattering mayhem. And it felt like a full-blown earthquake in the building, with a television timeout extending the moment.
Watch the whole thing for yourself—no video could possibly do it justice — but take note of how crazy this gets from 1:42 onward.
Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly shocked when the Canadiens scored two minutes and 30 seconds after Cammalleri’s goal to take a 3-2 lead, even if the goal came from an unlikely source in defenceman Jaroslav Spacek.
Cammalleri later described the crowd’s outburst as being “like they’re giving you a little push as you go up the ice.”
That “little push” turned out to be a massive shove, with the Canadiens winning the game 4-3 and eventually taking the series with a 5-2 win in Game 7 two nights later.
Here’s what Cammalleri said about the moment when I revisited the memory with him in a telephone conversation last week:
“I remember the building just feeling like it was the centre of the universe,” he started, “you feel like at that point you’re living in the centre of the universe, like all eyes are here.
“I’ve always had such a romantic view, and that’s one of the reasons I loved playing in Montreal so much is I’ve always been a romantic about sport. I was brought up that way, and my father is that way. It’s just a romantic feeling when the crowd is that engaged, and you’re literally feeling them. You’re feeling connected to them when they’re that passionate about it in that moment. I don’t know what else to say other than it’s got to be tough for the other team. For us to come out and score after a three-minute ovation like that says something. It’s tough for the other team, and I’d say it’s great for us.”
Cammalleri’s memory of the goal that created that magical moment remains well intact.
“I just remember feeling like I got that puck after (Andrei) Kostitsyn threw it across and (Max) Talbot was covering me on that check,” he said.
“I got inside on him, I got on the backhand, and it was kind of a feeling like, ‘Hopefully (Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre) Fleury’s overplaying this,’ because that was kind of my read on Fleury was that he kind of liked to move a lot and overplay plays. I tried to be deceptive with him and always tried to go cross-grain on him, so I was thinking I could get this cross-grain on him and go backhand the other way, and he probably had pushed over and given me some exposure there. I was hopeful, and not even really looking at the net but just kind of feeling it, and it goes post-and-in and it’s like, ‘Alright, 2-2, we can beat these guys.’”
Cammalleri was feeling that, and it was abundantly clear the 21,273 fans in attendance at the Bell Centre that night were feeling it, too.
“That was a unique moment, for sure,” Cammalleri concluded.
I think it was the most unique moment of Canadiens hockey over the past decade.
Jets answer Maurice’s challenge with complete effort vs. Canucks – Sportsnet.ca
WINNIPEG — The offensive well was running a bit dry.
Going six periods without a five-on-five goal is certainly going to catch the attention of most head coaches and Paul Maurice was no different.
After the Winnipeg Jets bench boss saw his team get blanked 4-0 by the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night, Maurice made a notable admission about some bad habits creeping in and a plea to his players to simplify things in the offensive zone.
No, Maurice wasn’t asking his skilled players to abandon their creativity entirely, nor was he asking this group to adopt a shoot-from-anywhere mentality just to generate a few additional clicks on the shot clock.
But when a good scoring chance presents itself, don’t necessarily look for the perfect play or the seam pass for the backdoor tap-in.
The message was not a complicated one: be more direct.
It took just over five minutes for the approach to be rewarded and by the time the final buzzer sounded, the Jets had earned a decisive 5-2 victory over the Canucks in what was one of the most complete efforts they’d put forth this season.
Not only did the Jets improve to 14-7-1 to move into sole possession of second place in the North Division, but they’re also now 6-0-1 when coming off a loss and have yet to drop consecutive games in regulation time through 22 games.
“Short-term memory,” said Jets forward Paul Stastny. “A lot of times, you’re playing the same team again, so you want to get the edge early on. But more than anything, it’s just been the mindset that we’ve had from the start with Paul (Maurice) is all about if you can try to get a winning streak, do it. But as important as that is, getting off a losing streak as quick as possible is important too.”
The premise of not wanting to drop consecutive games is standard fare, but the ability to actually achieve that common goal is much more difficult.
This game represents another example of the Jets’ steely resolve — and a glimpse of the template they’re trying to employ on a regular basis.
Getting the offensive engine fired up again after getting shut out for the first time this season was important, but the Jets were also stingy defensively and paid close attention to the details.
They used their speed to be disruptive on the forecheck, they got a power-play goal and another technically-sound performance from backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, who made 30 saves to improve to 4-1 this season.
“I don’t want to get too confident, too cocky,” said Brossoit, who raised his save percentage to .936 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.19. “It’s the best league in the world and there’s great players out there, so I like to keep myself pretty grounded and realistic. I just prepare as best I can and hope that my best is better than anyone else in the league.”
Brossoit’s best to this point has been downright sensational.
There is no need to be on high alert when the Jets turn to the No. 2 man on the depth chart, his teammates realize they can count on him.
“This year, every time (Brossoit) got in net, he got the job done for us,” said Jets winger Mathieu Perreault. “He’s been rock solid. And the same with (Connor Hellebuyck). This is a key for every team that wants to contend for a Stanley Cup. You’ve got to have a goalie that makes the save, and we are lucky to have two of them that can do that.”
After being held off the scoresheet in consecutive games for the first time this season, Jets centre Mark Scheifele chipped in three assists.
Scheifele, who was on the receiving end of a big check from Alex Edler in the first period on Tuesday, has collected at least a point in 18 of 22 games this season and has recorded three points on four occasions as he increased his totals to 11 goals and 31 points.
The newly-formed top line of Scheifele between Blake Wheeler (an empty-net goal and two assists) and Stastny (an insurance goal) had a strong night, but the complementary players were also right in the middle of the action.
Aside from Perreault’s important contribution, Mason Appleton established a career-high with his sixth goal of the season to get the Jets on the board.
Not only has Appleton been able to solidify his spot on the Jets’ checking line, but he’s also blossoming as a penalty killer and showing off the offensive flair that was on display when he put up 66 points as a rookie pro with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
“You go into every season, you always want more,” said Appleton. “I’m still a young player in this league. I’m playing more minutes and that gives me more confidence and lets my game evolve.
“You don’t just get bigger, faster, stronger overnight. It’s a product of years and a product of opportunity. I’ve really liked my development path and I’m going to keep my foot on the gas and keep trying to get better every single day.”
Appleton is a shining example for some of the young guys in the Jets’ system who are currently having trouble getting into the lineup or are currently down in the minors.
“He’s really developed into accepting a style of play that he can excel at,” said Maurice. “So, it’s different than Nikolaj Ehlers or Kyle Connor. It’s a different style of game. Killing penalties, playing with Adam (Lowry), they play against the other team’s best an awful lot. And there’s offence there, it’s just going to look different. It’s going to be a different style.
“(Tuesday) was a perfect example. Drive the net twice, once for a goal, once for a drawn penalty that leads to a goal. That’s real offence. That’s not a less-skilled offensive game. As a matter of fact, as the games become, as you move close and closer to the playoffs and into the playoffs, that’s the style of game that’s played and he should be able to excel in that.”
When asked about the contributions of Appleton and Perreault, Brossoit’s face lit up and he was bursting with pride.
“I see those guys practice hard, I see those guys preparing for the game,” said Brossoit. “(With) how little ice time they get and to still be effective is something I can relate to. And seeing guys like that playing so well lately, it’s great to see.”
With 12 of the next 14 games on the road and 17 games in 31 days during the month of March, the Jets are staring at the most difficult portion of the schedule.
This survival-of-the-fittest stretch continues with a five-game road trip that begins with two games against the Montreal Canadiens (beginning Thursday) and a three-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Can the Jets (who have won five of the past six games) keep it up and possibly start closing the gap for top spot between themselves and the Maple Leafs?
It won’t take long to find out.
At a time when it seems like several North Division teams are frequently dealing with a potential crisis, the Jets feel like they’re just starting to get into a groove.
“Every time you put points in the standings and you see the name of your team moving on up, it’s a good feeling,” said Perreault. “This is the feeling that we want to keep around this locker room. It’s nice to be sitting there right now (in second place) and going on the road, hopefully we can keep going up.”
OTT@MTL: Quotes of the night – NHL.com
MONTREAL – The Canadiens snapped their five-game winless streak with a 3-1 victory over the Senators on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
Following the game, goaltender Carey Price, forwards Brendan Gallagher and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and interim head coach Dominique Ducharme spoke with reporters via Zoom.
Here are a few highlights from their respective chats:
Price talked about the team’s efforts while short-handed, keeping the Senators from breaking the contest wide open when Joel Armia was assessed a double-minor early in the first period:
The penalty killers were huge for us. Everybody was working in unison and executed everything well. I thought we just did a great job of eliminating plays and closing seams. I thought that everything we wanted to do we accomplished.
The Habs’ starter also shared his thoughts on getting his groove back after a tough stretch:
I was just thankful to get back in the net and get that opportunity to get another crack at it. The whole time, it’s just been focusing on the process and keeping things simple, and the guys played very well in front of me tonight to help me out.
Gallagher, meanwhile, was happy to help Ducharme and assistant coach Alex Burrows pick up their first wins in their new roles:
Both Dom and Burr have been working incredibly hard to implement their system and kind of put their footprint on this team and get us playing the way they want us to play. The work ethic that went into this, it’s just a building block. We’re not satisfied. We had to work hard to get out of that little skid that we were in and we don’t want to go back there, so we’re going to stay humble. We understand it’s one win. Each win in the NHL is hard to come by, so you enjoy it, but when you leave the rink, you get ready for the next one. We know how much work went into this. We’ll just continue to build on what we’ve been working on here. The exciting thing is that there are areas in our game that can continue to grow, and if we do that, we can get back to being a team that other teams are worried about.
The Canadiens’ alternate captain praised the play of defenseman Jeff Petry as well, and the incredible progress he has made in recent years:
When he came to us, he was in a situation where he wasn’t really wanted in Edmonton. We were pretty unsure with what we were getting, but it didn’t take long to understand the talent that he had. You look at the playoff run we went on that year, he was probably our best defenseman. Since he came here, he’s been able to have that impact. He’s a guy we use in every situation. He’s a very, very good teammate, and he’s continued to get better. At this stage of his career, to continue to improve says a lot about who he is and the work that he puts in, his brain and the intelligence he has for the game. We’re fortunate to have a player like that. He’s definitely one of the best in the League. We’re just lucky to have him.
Kotkaniemi discussed the Canadiens’ success with the man advantage versus Ottawa:
We were moving the puck pretty well tonight. We were trying to drive the play towards the net all the time. If you keep shooting, that gives you a lot of opportunities to score. We were good in those areas tonight.
The 20-year-old Finn also talked about adapting to Ducharme’s system:
I like it a lot. At first, we changed little things. I could feel that day by day we were learning a lot of new things so we could try and play our game with the new system. I think it’s pretty similar to what we did in Laval last year. We saw a lot of the same things. I’m actually feeling pretty comfortable with it.
The Habs’ bench boss was asked about Jonathan Drouin picking up the game puck for him:
I didn’t know that it was Jonathan who collected the puck. When we got back to the dressing room, I said something to the players and Shea gave me the puck. It was a nice gesture. I’ve known Jo for a long time. I think it’s 10 years. I’m happy for our players. We’ve been through a rough period. We deserved to win on Saturday night in Winnipeg. Wins aren’t always pretty when you snap a streak like that. But we’re seeing that we’re headed in the right direction and we deserved this win.
Ducharme was proud of his group for a number of reasons:
We faced adversity. The Senators play the right way. They worked hard. They do a bunch of things that make life difficult for their opponents. I’d say we faced more adversity tonight than during the game in Winnipeg. When we had tough moments, I liked the way our players regrouped. I think it’s good experience for our players to keep on growing as a team. We handled the situation well.
5 Raptors ruled out for rescheduled game vs. Pistons due to COVID-19 protocols – CBC.ca
A greatly reduced Raptors team will host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday in Toronto’s temporary home of Tampa, Fla.
The team announced Tuesday that starters Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are out as part of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, as are Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn.
Jalen Harris and recently signed big man Donta Hall join the team from its G League affiliate, Raptors 905.
The game was originally slated for Tuesday at Amalie Arena but was postponed due to what the league said was “positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization.” Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls was also postponed.
The Raptors’ postponements bring to 31 the league’s total number of games moved because at least one team would not have enough players eligible to play this season.
“It’s the emotional stress of having colleagues that potentially, obviously, can be sick,” general manager Bobby Webster said of the current feeling on the team.
“Everyone’s walking a bit on eggshells here in the locker room, and you can’t necessarily be as friendly. … The basketball will go on. We’ll play the games, but just to maintain everybody’s belonging and familiarity is really important.”
Toronto had managed to largely avoid disruptions from the global pandemic until now, despite playing their home games in Florida — a COVID-19 hotbed — due to Canada’s border restrictions and health and safety protocols in Ontario.
The Raptors were able to do some on-court work Tuesday but have had “multiple days of no new cases,” Webster said.
“It’s been a tough couple of days,” Webster said. “To get to here and be able to practice, we had to clear a number of hurdles.”
Feels good to be back together on the court tonight. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WeTheNorth</a> <a href=”https://t.co/GFkmNt3c1x”>pic.twitter.com/GFkmNt3c1x</a>
Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and Siakam were all sidelined for Friday’s game against Houston. Assistant Sergio Scariolo stepped in to guide the Raptors to a 122-111 win and will take on the same role Wednesday with Nurse forced to sit out again.
“We will try to do our best for the guys who won’t be able to be with us tomorrow,” said Scariolo, who has been in contact with Nurse regularly throughout this process.
Assistants Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie are all still sidelined under health and safety protocols, while Webster said one other assistant who coached Friday is now unavailable. He didn’t reveal who, but it would be either Jim Sann, Mark Tyndale or Jamaal Magloire.
The Raptors at least have some time off coming up. Their last scheduled game before the NBA all-star break is Thursday at Boston.
Toronto tips off the second half of the season March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
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