Thursday, March 19, 2009
37-26-8: Sacré Bleu (Blanc et Rouge)!
If you ever get a chance to go to a game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, I recommend you take it. What an experience. It is amazing to be part of a massive crowd where each and every person cares about the game, knows about the game and pays attention to the game.
The fans cheered most everything good - every rush, every pass, every shot. The booed Sean Avery. They booed me and the Ranger fans I was with. And no matter which, they were doing it loudly. When Alex Kovalev scored to tie the game at one, you would have thought that the Habs won yet another damned Stanley Cup. Yes, I'm jealous - it is intimidating to sit beneath rafters filled with such excellence. Banner after banner after banner ... ugh. And the pic to the right is just half of them!
But back to the game itself and what a game it was. That was some good hockey right there and it was exciting from start to finish. The goaltending was terrible, there wasn't any fisticuffs and neither team showed the composure they needed and took bad penalties. So what? It was a see-saw battle between Original Six rivals that the Rangers came out as the victors - I don't think it gets much better unless Stanley is involved.
Quick shots on the experience as my hangover can't handle much more:
*Bell Centre staff doesn't let fans come down to watch warm ups. The usher I asked said that there was an 'incident' that ruined it for everyone. So uncool.
*Also uncool were the fans booing the U.S. national anthem. That is just classless. I refrained from yelling Let's Go Rangers as I normally do out of respect for them and they didn't respect us. Jerks.
*The Canadian national anthem was sang by all and had one of the coolest pieces of video I've ever seen up on the gigantic scoreboard - a single hockey player skating across a glacier at sunset. Gave me chills.
*The Montreal fans cheered everything remotely positive, everything. The Habs are heading up ice on a two-on-four rush during a line change, YAYYYYYY. The Habs connected on a smart pass in their own zone, YAYYYYYYY. And when they scored? Deafening YAYYYYYYY. Then again, for all those accusations that Ranger fans are fickle, these people had been boing Jesus Price for a while but he made a decent save and they went bananas, chanting his name and giving him a huge ovation. Hypocrites.
*Note I said ovation and not standing ovation. These people didn't stand for big plays other than goals or for the shootout, it was weird.
*Also weird was how their french accents screw up their trash talk. Yelling "Rangers Socks, Rangers Socks" just brings the lols. And look at the moron with the sign - Avery never married Elishe. Get your facts right before you sit down to make a sign. Clown.
*The building itself was quite nice. It was pretty clean, the staff was courteous, I was able to get my pregame pretzle ... The sightlines were also good from what I saw - the seating is quite steep (narrow seats with little leg room too) so you do feel like you are looking over the ice.
Now some thoughts on the game itself, which really was quite the contest:
*Both Hank and Carey gave up regrettable goals but both made a huge save or two as well.
*If Andrei Markov was not Russian, he probably would get more of the credit that he deserves. Everyone has been raving about posterboy Mike Green in Washington but where are the accolades for Markov? He is leading the Habs in scoring and is all over the ice. Alex Kovalev also looked damned good. He always could have been a superstar, too bad he only did it when Messier or Lemieux was riding his ass.
*Borat did well for the Blueshirts and even solicited one of the stranger comments of the night, from a Habs fan a section over from me - "Antropovvvvv! Go back to Torontooooo!" Huh?
*Man did I want Sean Avery to score. Dammit. That hit that he took was tough and the place roared as he didn't get up from it for a while. He still managed to have a good game and make stuff happen every shift.
*The same can be said for Lauri Korpikoski, who barely got any ice time. It was an impressive effort by the youngster and he appears to be embracing the opportunities that he is given. Unfortunately, Colton Orr has gotten worse with the lessened ice time. With Georges Laraque out with injury, Colt didn't have a foil and Torts put him on the shelf most of the night.
*Bettsy, on the other hand, got much more time because of the penalty kill. He was on the ice shorthanded for 5:26 as the special unit went 1-6, with the one being that bad angle Kovalev one-timer that Hank shoulda stopped.
*Scott Gomez wasn't at his best as Montreal played him tightly but Chris Drury was significantly better - not 'Hey, I'm playing the Islanders' better but more involved at both ends of the ice than he was against Philly.
*Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are by far the best defensive pairing on the Rangers. They made defensive stops, smart passes up ice and even fired a few towards the net. Told you they would work well together. What is going to happen next year when Bobby comes up? He won't be able to replace Mara's physical presence so the Blueshirts may have to split these guys up again. You can't put the kid out on the ice with Rozy, you just can't.
*Wade "Out and Drown" Redden made the defensive play of the game. Yeah, I never thought I would write that either. He made a perfect diving stop to break up a Canadien 2-on-1 that shocked the hell out of the entire building. My response? Yelling "haha, you got stopped by Wade Redden! You suuuuuuuuuck!!!!" I had a good time.
*PHW Three Stars
3-Maxim Lapierre - one goal.
2-Nik Zherdev - one goal.
1-Andrei Markov - one goal and two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ryan Callahan - I nearly gave this to Sjostrom for his pk work but that puck over the glass penalty sucked. Cally didn't have any negative marks as he went to the net hard and came out with a goal. I still think he was tripped into his own net so that goal shouldn't have counted.
2-Markov - A well rounded effort by one of the more well rounded defensemen in the NHL.
1-Lapierre - Of all of the youngsters on the Habs offense, Max made the most impact. He seemed quite quick and constantly buzzed around the Ranger net. His goal made the statement that the Blueshirts were in for a dogfight as Z's tally to make it 2-1 sucked the air out of the building.