|John Bishop is the beat writer for BostonBruins.com. He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room. |
I am going to forgo ye old "On the Road" portion of the proceedings, because it seems certain that the Bruins (and myself) are going to live, eat and breathe Montreal for the next few days -- no need to overdose on the first night.
Besides, we have done the old Jack Kerouac thing a couple of times here already.
However, I will start the series by explaining to those of you who have never been to Montreal, but have been to Boston, and would like a reference point for our discussion, here you go:
Take the Hub, and make it, say, three or four times bigger. Then take all of Cambridge, including Harvard and MIT and all the students, and drop it into downtown. Make Chinatown bigger and stretch Boylston Street (almost infinitely), lose the Atlantic Ocean and make the Charles, wider and more important. Then, Get some really good shoes and walk it. You would pass the MFA, Harvard, Chinatown and the North End in just a scant few blocks on your way to the TD Banknorth Garden. Oh, and one more thing, put the streets on a grid like New York, and make it easy (gasp) to drive around. Then put a whole bunch of businesses and shops underground and link them to the T. Add the piece de resistance: that almost everyone here speaks two (and sometimes more) languages and there you have Montreal. Sort of.
Anyway, the bottom line is that you will never catch me saying anything but terrific things about this town. There are nice people here, beautiful places to see, visit and enjoy and the city is as close to Europe as you can get in a five-hour drive from Boston. In fact, I had an application to McGill in my hands the very week I met the General (my wife) back in 1999, and I proposed to her in front of the Mr. McGill statue in front of the school as a "I choose you" kind of gesture.
So, as you can see, Montreal holds a special place in this writer's heart.
|Monument to Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve. Photo: Denis Tremblay, www.old.montreal.qc.ca |
Now, on the other hand, their hockey team tends to give me heartburn and, unfortunately, there's no doubt that the Habs have had their fair share of success against the Bruins. But you have to respect the bar-raising level of accomplishment over the years and you also have to understand the resulting expectations on everyone involved with the team. And boy, do they love their hockey here.
The saying around here is La Ville est Hockey
and they really mean it. It’s almost a religion.
For instance, if you were to take all the B's, Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots paraphernalia around the Hub and change it into Habs stuff and then double the number, you have a decent idea of the hold the Canadiens have on their plot of Earth.
The other two pro teams in this town, and the myriad local college squads, hardly seem to get a mention.
But I guess that is understandable. For much of the last century and a decent portion of this epoch, the Habs have been more than competitive -- a la
the New York Yankees. And for a long time, the Canadiens worked on a similar plane to the Bronx Bombers.
The Habs owned entire leagues and could pluck talent willy-nilly from the province of Quebec (and other minor and pro teams) to put on le tricolor. In hockey's golden era, they employed the sport's Joe Dimaggio (Jean Beliveau) and Ted Williams (Maurice Richard) and those two legendary forwards were only the tip of the iceberg.
And even though the amateur draft eliminated Montreal's monopoly on the seemingly limitless local talent that grew up desiring only to be a member of le bleu, blanc et rouge
, the Habs success continued, thanks in no small part to two goalies, Dryden and Roy, a talented guy named Lafleur and a defensive forward named Gainey.
But now, as the Habs attempt regain a perch at the top of the hockey heap, the Boston Bruins have stood up and have boldly skated to a place directly between the Montreal Canadiens and the Stanley Cup and said, "Not so fast."
It should be a great first round and I can't wait until tomorrow night.
Thursday, 7:04 a.m.
Game One tonight!
|Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron rests along the boards after a drill during a morning skate Thursday, March 20, 2008 in Boston. Bergeron has been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion and broken nose October 27th in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) |
Did you sleep? Me neither...and I didn't even watch hockey last night.
Although, I really wish I had watched the Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa tilt -- on the highlights it looked like the movie "Slapshot" for a while. How about former BU Terrier Ryan Whitney sticking up for Sidney Crosby!?
No, I kept the TV off last night, thinking it would be all-Habs all the time up here.
And I think I was right, because when I threw on the tube this morning the top story was a guy who had dozens of Canadiens jerseys and 2,500 autographs. He appeared fully bedecked in sweater and gloves billed as the worlds biggest Habs fan.
I switched the channel quickly -- not because the matchup concerns me more than it should -- but we've already heard it from everywhere. It's getting old.The Montreal Gazette
. Montreal in five. The Hockey News
. Montreal in five. The Sporting News
. Montreal in five. The Canadian Press
. Montreal in Five. ESPN.com
. Montreal in six. The Toronto Star
. Montreal in six. Inside Hockey
. Montreal in six. The New England Hockey Journal
. Montreal in six.
And hey, all of TSN's panel, including former Boston Bruins player and current NESN analyst Mike Milbury, picked the Canadiens.
To me, it all sounds awfully familiar, these prognostications of doom and gloom, after all it was only a few months ago that I threw all my season prediction magazines into a corner of my basement because they predicted a tough season for Our Boys.
At the time, I figured they might be good kindling for my wood burning stove. But now I am glad I saved them, because now they just make me smile, especially when I think about what might have been if the B's were healthy all season.
Yes, it was a tough campaign. However, as opposed to last year, it wasn't tough because the team was not winning. No, it was injuries, several of them very scary, that plagued the club and made this year's journey a little more daunting than even those last place predictions could ever forecast.
|Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien, left, uses a hockey stick to illustrate a point to the team during the first day of practice for the playoffs on Monday, April 7, 2008, in Wilmington, Mass. The Boston Bruins will play the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of the Stanley Cup quarter finals on Thursday. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper) |
It also made the B's new head coach, Claude Julien, into a leading candidate for the Jack Adams award. But that is fodder for its own story.
It still seems unfathomable that we went through almost an entire season without Patrice Bergeron
and still made the playoffs. Getting to see other players (like Andew Alberts and Manny Fernandez) overcome their own injuries is just icing on the cake and make this playoff appearance that much sweeter.
Now, as Bergeron (and the more recently injured Marc Savard
) hope to return to the lineup, everyday just seems more important. Add that storyline to the already amazing storyline that is Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and you have yourself quite a rollercoaster ride.
Only eleven hours and change til the puck drops. I can't wait.
Good sign of the morning: They serve Boston Baked Beans with breakkie. Mmmmm.
And a big, "Thank you!" to Red Fisher!
After more than enough days hearing that the Habs will roll this week, one of hockey writing's all time greats thinks that nobody should count their cups before they are lifted. Red actually picks the Canadiens four games to two, but he also wrote:If I'm reading and hearing it correctly, the Canadiens tonight embark on their journey to a 25th Stanley Cup.
A slam dunk.
A walk in the park.
Men vs. boys.
Check your box, G. Carbonneau: the Boston Bruins already have mailed in their games.
Whoa! Have I missed something in the translation? I admit the numbers say the No. 1 seed Canadiens should be able to handle the No. 8 Bruins, but don't the games have to be played before they move to the second round?
There are other questions, such as when does Saku Koivu, who's day-to-day with his broken foot, return to the lineup.
Or how much of his hard-hitting game can Mike Komisarek bring back with him after a hip injury sidelined him for the last seven games of the regular season.
Hey there, folks, I'm not trying to rain on your Stanley Cup parade. The Canadiens may have shaken the universe with GM Bob Gainey's recent announcement that since they're in the playoffs, they're now going for the Cup, but I suspect so are 15 other teams. Anything can happen in the playoffs, but trust me on this: there are a lot of good teams out there. Upsets happen
Upsets happen. Alriiiiiiiiiiight.
And I wonder what in the name of "Spenser for Hire" the Bruins are going to think when their bus passes the huge banner that says "16 for 25" or 16 wins until Stanley Cup 25 for the Canadiens.
To continue my setting of the table, it seems like every other car has a "CH" flag hanging off a window and many of the shops have Canadiens signs in their window.
|The underdog Boston Red Sox celebrate after defeating the New York Yankees 10-3 in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. (AP photo) |
The closest comparison is, again, when the Sox are in the World Series, or maybe when they play the Yankees.
"I love the fact that there is a rivalry," said Coach Julien after practice on Thursday. "It doesn't matter what side you are on -- [it's] intense. It's fun, not only for the players and the organization, but for the fans.
"I think this is what this game is all about. We have to create excitement.
"And that's what we've got," he said.
Coach Julien, a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan himself, likened the rivalry between the Habs and the B's to the rivalry between the Sox and the Yanks.
The parallels are compelling as is the history between the clubs. And noting that the recent history between the Bronx and Boston has shifted toward Yawkey way, Coach Julien was asked if he is ready to become hockey's version of the Red Sox.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said with a big smile.
So, Go Sox, er, I mean, Go Bruins!
Breaking News: The Bruins WILL NOT practice this morning and will instead stay in their hotel resting up for tonight's match. Coach Julien will address the media at 11:00 a.m.
12:46 p.m.Patrice Bergeron
and Manny Fernandez were the only players who skated this morning, signifying, of course, that they are not in the lineup this evening.
Montreal is said to be missing Saku Koivu, Francois Bouillon and Ryan O'Byrne. No word on Boston's scratches.Tim Thomas
and Carey Price should be in goal.Marc Savard
is a gametime decision.Coaches speak...
This morning's pressers for the Coaches were interesting and were held in French and in English.
The most intriguing comments were from Montreal head coach Guy Carbonneau who, after being asked Boston's physical play, said, "I haven't seen the lineup for the game tonight, but they are probably going to have the same lineup they had the last eight games.
"They can try and go and hit, but we can do that also.
"I don't see how they can change the game from 0 to 100 in a couple of days," he said.
Asked about some of his lineup changes (including the insertion of puck moving d-main, Patrice Brisebois), Carbonneau added, "If they want to come [in] hard and hit, well, we'll move the puck faster.
"That's the only way.
"He can't hit what he can't see [or] if the puck is not there [and] if we can get 3-on-2's and 2-on-1's like that, that is what we want," he said.
As per usual, Coach Julien did not give the Habs any locker room fodder, but when he was asked about the "prognosis" for the series, and the assumption by many that it will be one-sided in the Canadiens direction, Julien said, "I don't care."
"The game is played on the ice and it's an easy prediction to make because of what has happened this year...[but] I don't think we are going to roll over and play dead.
"We're coming to play hockey," he said.
I am hearing that there are tickets available for both Games 3 and 4 at the TD Banknorth Garden, but I am also hearing that you should not to wait too long to order them up.
And, just as an FYI:
Should Our Boys shock the Bell Centre crowd tonight, the next possible Bruins home game (Game 6 of the series, to be played on Saturday, April 19, time TBA) will be put on sale tonight immediately following this evening's contest.
Tickets will be available through Ticketmaster on the Internet
, on the phone (931-2000) and at the Garden box office tomorrow at 11am.
Apparently playoff fever has hit the Garden a little early, as well.
Members of the Boston Bruins staff and several members of the TD Banknorth Garden crew, sported their colors this morning as a show of solidarity with their ice-bound brethren.
After an impromptu pep rally, the staffers gathered for an extended "team picture."
Wish you were here, guys!
Well, our information blackout is about to end. The Bruins will join the Canadiens on the ice very soon for warmups and we will see which forward and which d-man will sit.
I spoke too soon. There are too many forwards and too many defensemen. Timmy led them out. Savard is on the ice -- with a new Mohawk. As is Ference, who already had a Mohawk.
As best I can tell it looks like this:Sturm-Krejci-Murray
Alberts (or Stuart)-Hnidy
Sorry about the extra guys, but I am pretty sure the B's are showing a little gamesmenship by not revealing their lineup until the last possible minute.
The place is ROCKING already.
The lights are down. And Phil Collins "In the Air of the Night" is playing. The fans are chanting "Go Habs Go!" and they started showing pictures of the Canadiens legends.
It's very loud. My ears are actually hurting.7:07 p.m.
Alberts and Sobotka are the actual scratches for Boston. First Period
0:00 The first goal is key. If not the first 30-seconds. I can't imagine what this place will sound like if they score first.
0:01 Metro won the first faceoff.
0:34 Montreal scores. Sergei Kostitsyn. 1-0, Habs. It sounded really, really loud.
1:45 Muzz just popped Kovalev.
2:02 Andrei Kostitsyn scores. 2-0, Habs.
2:37 First Boston shot. Save Price.
5:43 Canadiens power play.
4:11 "Ole, ole-ole-ole-Ole," say the Canadiens crowd.
8:34 Score Boston. Nice shot by Andrew Ference
, tipped in by Shane Hnidy and a nice play by Phil Kessel to slow things down for that shot! Kess brought the puck into the zone, and waited, dished to Andy who tore into it. Shane tipped her home. It was only the second Boston shot.
10:00 Carey Price reacts to having Jeremy Reich in his crease. Reich reacts by challenging Hamrlik. Hamrlik backed down immediately.
10:52 The score, 2-1, sounds much better.
11:29 Big save by Thomas on the breakaway.
14:16 Boston pressing Price. He fumbled a puck and the ensuing play ends up with a B's PP.
17:36 Montreal PP. Make that matching penalties. Four on Four.
20:00 End of one. Phew. The B's MUST press Price earlier in the second and avoid the hiccup they had at the beginning of the first period. Price has only had to make five saves and has bobbled three of those, including two that were right on.Second Period
0:22 Ward is down. Looks like he took a shot in the ribs. Is coming off on his own power.
2:18 Much better start. Play has stayed in the Habs end for the most part.
2:59 Murray got knocked into Price at the end of a play and that started a little somethin, somethin.
5:16 Habs score. Timmy made two outstanding stops before Smolinski stuffed it home. 3-1, Montreal.
5:36 Reich and Latendresse to the box for roughing.
8:00 Despite the goal, it has been a much better period for Boston. The Bruins continue to press the Habs defense and have not had the requisite lucky bounce that you need on the road. If they keep working, it will happen...
12:05 Some hustle from Marc Savard
leads to a B's PP.
17:43 Big pile up in front of Tim. But nothing came of it. Boston has played well, but to no avail.
20:00 A much better period. Much better. Unfortunately, the B's really need to hustle in the third so that they don't suffer for a bad two minutes at the start of the first for the entire night.Third Period
3:00 Back downstairs in the press room, watching the remainder of the game on French TV.
4:15 Habs on the PP.
5:00 Big scrambling save from Tim.
6:00 Or so. It's been all Timmy in the third. He is keeping the B's in it.
7:24 Kostopoulos got loose in front of the B's goal and beat Thomas. It's 4-1 Habs.
8:06 Habs on the PP.
11:36 Komisarek in the box. A late PP for Boston.
16:10 Five on three for MTL.
Very late -- a big pile up in front send Lucic to the box after he slashes Komisarek. But it's all over but the shouting, by friends.
20:00 Game one goes to the Canadiens.