December 8, 2013. It's a Sunday in Montreal, and the Montreal Canadiens don't have another game until Tuesday. The Habs are enjoying a family Christmas party at the Bell Centre. Wee little James Gionta is riding a horsie on the carousel next to his daddy Brian, making my ovaries go pitter-pat. What? And Marianne, Michael Bournival's girlfriend, skates around the rink with him. Youppi is there, dressed as Santa Claus on skates and shoots some pucks as Brian Gionta looks on while his little boy glides across the ice on a tiny red toboggan. Rene Bourque is there with a tiny little girl who wishes us a Merry Christmas, and Brandon Prust is there with what Google Translate tells us is his "joint" (conjointe) but I'm figuring is his significant other, and she is hell on figure skates, demonstrating a wicked twirl.
On the bouncy jungle gym on the ice, P.K. Subban chases delighted little children, complaining that it's the hardest workout he's had had "all year". He then brags that he caught one going down the slide. Can this be my next office party, please. Afterwards, we see the Habs and family treating themselves to a nice buffet, and team owner and president Geoff Molson addressing everyone to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year as the cameras pan around to all the children whose faces have been painted like a variety of jungle animals. Santa comes out and the children file out to meet him. Peter Budaj's son comes to greet Santa and is presented with a Batman toy. Great, right? He's not impressed. "I asked for a robot!" Santa, read your correspondence. Budaj's adorable little boy clearly looks embarrassed at calling out Santa then looks disappointedly down at Batman. The players, Budaj, Lars Eller and Raphael Diaz, Tomas Plekanec and Douglas Murray reminisce over their Christmas memories and meals. One of Murray's kids, during his interview, is most intent on who is coming through the hallway door next, clearly hoping for P.K. Subban but instead getting coach Michel Therrien. Quel disappointment!
The next day, in Brossard, the team gets ready to shoot the team's annual Christmas card, which will be sent out to sponsors, suite holders, Habs TV and clients, and will also get thrown up on Youtube. The crew has scored David Desharnais, Brian Gionta, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, and a guest appearance by Michel Therrien. The group shoots some pucks at the net and have some Christmas wishes for the camera. All smiles and all is well for this team that is coming off a very successful week.
December 10, back in Brossard, and it's morning practice. Brian Gionta discusses the NHL's small problem of broken sticks with that guy whose name I don't know and no one ever helps me with. Tomas Plekanec, after good-naturedly ribbing Gio about broken sticks being an excuse for not scoring, gets some back about not scoring on the breakaway, YEAH, Plekanec. Clearly, BTW, these two love each other.
It's game night at home against the Los Angeles Kings, and again we are treated to Max Pacioretty's jumping heel-click in the dressing room, though this time he is wearing a tee shirt. In the video room, Therrien reminds and admonishes his troops to be physical and on top of their game. Budaj is holding a football. A football?
In the dressing room, Josh Gorges engages in his usual motivation and Budaj teases Eller about his hair - it looks like Eller just came in from a windstorm only blowing east. The laughter subsides into silent focus as the soundtrack eases into scenes of the ice awaiting the opening play. The team files out onto the ice, and the game gets underway.
L.A.'s goalie, Martin Jones, makes some nice saves and for their part, the Habs are making their presence felt with big hits by Alexei Emelin and Ryan White. L.A., alas, opens the scoring with a goal by Jordan Nolan that stops 24CH's soundtrack in its ... track. White talks to Galchenyuk at the bench and lets him know that he (Galchenyuk) can call the shots during play - despite all the well-intentioned teamwork, however, L.A.'s Anze Kopitar scores again in the final seconds of the period to make the score 2-0.
At intermission, the team brainstorms how to come back. Josh Gorges offers, "Let's make some good *bleep* clean plays," which sounds like a total plan to me. Michel Therrien focuses not on the negative, and bolsters the team to work defensively and come back strong.
The Kings have terrible manners as guests, and decide to put another goal into Carey's net less than two minutes into the new period. And about three and a half minutes later, they score again to make the score 4-0. Therrien calls Price out of the net, Budaj nods, extracts his gum from his mouth, and gets ready to take over. As Carey skates back to the bench, he low-fives Budaj; clearly delighted to be getting out of this mess. A couple of minutes later, the Kings score again anyway and the Canadiens are "starting to get frustrated." 6-0. This is when I think hockey coaches should get a "throwing in the towel" option, which of course is horrible from a confidence point of view, but come on.
Second intermission, and I can't comprehensively tell you here the diatribe Ryan White goes on in the dressing room, but it's peppered with bleeps, and he is NOT HAPPY. I haven't seen White be in charge of the room before, but I like it, and he certainly has everyone's attention.
Gerard Gallant comes into the dressing room and says all he really can say, that the players must not give up now. Which is super nice of him.
In the third, White is still pissed off and throwing his weight around. At the face-off circle, he engages in a little chit-chat, ostensibly about throwing down with Daniel Carcillo, whom I don't recognize because he doesn't look like a hippie.
White: "What's up, man?"
Carcillo: "No point, eh?"
White: "Uh, it's up to you, man, I wouldn't, like ..."
Carcillo: "I really don't want to."
White: "It's up to you, man, I don't give a *bleep*, I'm trying to get the *bleep* outta here. You let me know, I'm gonna continue to play the same way, and if you need to, you come find me."
So business-like. They don't fight, and the game ends at the 6-0 score, the Habs didn't register a single goal. And like Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.
December 11, and at the Bell Centre the team is acting like the last game didn't happen and is playing a little soccer with Galchenyuk in nets and Budaj and Price kicking shots at him in a nifty role reversal. Pricey hits a post but gets one in, and Budaj gets the crossbar and you hear someone say, "Jesus." I'm sure it's not Budaj.
On December 12, the team is at practice in Philadelphia prior to their second meeting of the season against Daniel Brier's former team of the Flyers. Briere shares some of the rink's secrets with Carey Price, such as the way the puck rebounds against the boards as opposed to in Montreal. They're way bouncier at the Bell - as Daniel explains to the camera, someone tosses a towel at his face. Anyway, time will tell if any of his wisdom pays off during the game.
Price gets the call in nets tonight, and Therrien explains to the team that Philly is tired after having played the previous evening and arriving back in town at 3 AM. Get the pressure on early, and play in a disciplined fashion. "Attack, attack, attack!"
The Wells Fargo Center gives a classy "welcome back" to Briere, and the game gets underway. In what is abrupt theme (and get used to it), the bad guys are first on the board, and the period ends in a 1-0 score. At the first intermission, Therrien is disappointed. "The worst feeling on the coaching staff is having a group that are not *bleep* hungry."
"Make sure you hustle and you're hungry, we could do something after that. If you don't have that in your game, forget it, there's nothing we can do. We're really, really, really disappointed, but I just want to make sure I'm polite." Therrien then walks out. Politely, I guess.
In the second, Briere gets a chance he misses on to score. Claude Giroux then doubles the Flyers' lead to 2-0. Brendan Gallagher has no quit but cannot register a goal. Emelin then delivers a hard hit to Steve Downie, and receives a major elbowing penalty. He gets thrown out from the game, then we see him burst back into the dressing room, throw his stick, and his glove. Why's Subban sitting in there? We don't know. This is all the second period footage, btw. We are not treated to any second intermission footage, and I think we have to give an early Christmas thanks for that.
In the third, captain Gionta is still in it to (try to) win it but can't get the back of the net. Price skates off for a sixth player and the strategy is successful with Galchenyuk getting the Habs on the scoresheet. However, as games in Philly go, the goalie starts to get chippy and a mini-brawl ensues. Flyers being Flyers. No Habs are backing down, but the game still ends in a loss.
After the game, Michael Bournival meets up with fans who traveled from Shawinigan to watch him play - business is still business, and fans still (should) come first. It's these facets of the game and the status attained by being in the NHL that should be paid attention to, and Bournival genuinely seems happy to meet his fans, and he remarks that he is touched to see them there.
December 13, and the day before their next game against the Islanders, the Habs are training in the freezing training centre in Syosset. Gionta practices and talks about puck-deflecting. In the dressing room, Price and Subban mess around with what looks to be hand sanitizers and direct the streams at each other, and are admonished like children by coaching staff.
The following day, the Canadiens practice in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Say that fast five times. Coaching staff discuss the team's lack of offensive play. "Forget the mentality of nice play. Shoot the puck." SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN.
The game kicks off, and we get to see George Parros challenge Eric Boulton in a fight. They don't show it, but the music tells us when Parros goes down and gets dazed, then skates off the ice. Ladies and gentlemen, this is concussion number two. In the dressing room, we see the concerned faces of White and Francis Bouillon as they watch the fight on their monitor. Parros marches into the dressing room in seemingly coherent shape, but we all know how this ends.
Alexei Emelin receives a cross check that (surprise!) goes uncalled, but Emmy eventually makes it back to the bench and seems okay. Back in the dressing room, Francis Bouillon checks on Parros, and tells him it was a great fight, to which Parros responds, "Yeah...."
0-0 score after one period, and in the second Briere gets a couple of really good chances but doesn't capitalize. Nothing again in the second, and in the third we have more scuffling with Eller getting a (surprise!) penalty for checking John Tavares to the head, which is followed by a mini-brawl. Price stands like a majestic giant in nets and the game ends in a 0-0 tie. And then guess what? We finally win in overtime without having to go to a shootout. Desharnais (for Prime Minister) makes a great pass to Max Pacioretty who scores the winner. And sheathes his motherf*ing sword. Yeah baby.
After the game, the Canadiens get on their seemingly teeny tiny plane to fly back to Montreal in the midst of a snowstorm ... and fade to black. Relax, we know they made it home.