Today marks the anniversary of probably the most emotional day in 21st century Habs history. In September 2001, Montreal Canadiens centre and captain Saku Koivu was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. After missing the first 79 games on the 2001-2002 season, Koivu returned to the lineup in a game against the Ottawa Senators on April 9, 2002. Koivu received a nine-minute ovation from the Bell Centre faithful, longer than the 8:33 of ice time he received from coach Michel Therrien in the game. I was a mere whippersnapper of 10 when this game was played, and truthfully not that interested in hockey. However, I can still remember that ovation and the reaction of the Habs fans in my family. I can't do the moment justice, but luckily I don't have to. Former EOTP Robert Lefebvre editor penned a beautiful history of Saku's triumphant return, drawing on the media coverage of the time. Here's a brief passage:
For [Habs left-wing Brian] Savage, he never lost hope, because he knew Saku better than anyone. He watched every step of the way as Koivu battled the uncompromising adversary that is cancer. He has seen Saku defy it with the determination that has always been a trait of his character. He has seen Koivu manage each stage of the illness, grimacing, crying, raging, and cussing. Savage had seen it at its worst, as Koivu looked as frail as a dead man walking. Brian Savage would have liked to be at Koivu's side last night.
I know I'm getting pretty purple here, but sometimes sentimentality is called for. I also know we have some Koivu fans on the blog, and I'd love to hear what number 11, and that moment 11 years ago, meant to you.
If you want to switch gears entirely, I've also assembled some pretty good for the day. Enjoy!
Habs News and Analysis
- There's not too much roster news to report today. Rene Bourque will be eased into the lineup tonight against the Washington Capitals, starting the game on the fourth line with Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern. Max Pacioretty left yesterday's practice early with a lower-body injury but will start tonight against Washington. I'm convinced that Max could spontaneously combust during his pre-game nap and be ready to by 7:30 that evening.
- Christopher Boucher has produced a series of summary charts, capturing the performances of Montreal's defensemen this season. Not surprisingly, P.K. Subban leads the team in a whole host of categories including individual scoring chance ratio, even strength risk/reward rating, overall risk/reward ranking, and overall ratio.
- Here's the Associated Press' preview of tonight's game against the Capitals, posted on CBC Sports.
Know Your Enemy: Washington Capitals Edition
- Not much stuff on the Washington Captial's front either. Michal Neuvirth will most likely get the start tonight. Meanwhile, Joel Ward and Martin Erat did not join their teammates for regular practice and neither will be in the lineup tonight.
- J.P. over at Japers' Rink looks at Alexander Ovechkin's offensive zone puck possession and even-strength shot selection. Specifically, he looks at when, relative to a zone-entries, Ovi has been touching the puck.
- Doug Johnson over at Russian Machine Never Breaks previews tonight's game between the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens. The preview is genuinely hilarious and insightful. Johnson describes the Southeast Division as "a division so abysmal that next year it will be forever struck from the NHL pantheon, and utterance of its name will be forbade as heresy." You shouldn't need any more convincing to check this piece out!
General News and Analysis
- Eric Tulsky over at Broad Street Hockey compares the save percentages of "rested goalies", goalies with at least one day off between games, and "tired goalies", goalies starting in back-to-back matches. By crunching numbers from this year and last, Tulsky notes that "a rested goalie stops about 1 percent more shots than a tired goalie."
- Cam Charron updates his weekly PDO numbers. The Montreal Canadiens have posted the sixth highest team shooting percentage at 9.30% and the sixth highest team save percentage at 92.6% thus far this season. They also rank sixth overall with a PDO of 1019.
- Kurt R. has his doubts about Steve Mason and his ability to get "back on track" with the Philadelphia Flyers organization. He notes that Mason's one year, $1.5 million contract is low-risk but that concerns over his work ethic abound.
- After Team Canada's 8-1 victory over Russia last night and Team USA's 3-0 win over Finland, Canada and the U.S. will meet tonight, for the 15th straight time, to play for World Women's Championship Gold. Puck drop is at 7:30 ET on TSN. The last time these two teams met in 2013, Canada rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the third period of the preliminary round game to win 3-2 in the shootout. It should be a barn burner.