The Montreal Canadiens have one of the most rabid fan-bases in all of professional sports. Across the city, province, and globe, fans of the Habs invest their time, money, and emotion to watch their team play. This evening, that collective energy will be focused elsewhere.
Back at home for the first time since the passing of one of the organization's foremost ambassadors, tonight's affair will be dominated by all that takes place before the puck is dropped.
Nonetheless, the 23 men who take to the ice for the Montreal Canadiens this evening have a special responsibility. A pillar of hockey's greatest organization, Jean Beliveau is perhaps the most legendary Canadien. Without question, a great city and a great organization will give him a send-off for the ages this evening. However, it is only the Habs of tonight can give him the send-off he deserves.
It is rare that one can be enjoy such a privilege while shouldering such a burden, and undermined by those employed to support them, the Habs have looked listless of late. Tonight, we witness their true character.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:30 PM ET
In Quebec and Atlantic Canada (French): RDS
In Quebec and Atlantic Canada (English): Sportsnet East
In British Columbia: Sportsnet Pacific
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|49.96||Fenwick % (Within 1)||52.40|
|1.04||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.98|
Know Your Enemy
The Canadiens may have hit a brick wall of late, but the Vancouver Canucks have seen obstacles of their own.
Heading into the weekend on a 6-1-1 hot streak, the Canucks were dealt a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first leg of their weekend doubleheader. Motivated by their shortcomings in Ontario's capital, the Canucks headed to our nation's capital, and roared to a 3-0 lead over the Senators. Unfortunately for Vancouver, that lead would also evaporate, and the Sens would ultimately take a 4-3 decision via the skills competition.
What does this tell us about the Canucks? Most likely, that they've used up a lot of their bad luck.
Vancouer has new life under head coach Willie Desjardins, and with the Sedins healthy and humming alongside Radim Vrbata, the boys from B.C. look dangerous as a probable Western Conference playoff team. Broadcast nationwide on HNIC, and then Hometown Hockey, the losses to Toronto and Ottawa were embarrassing and highly visible.
Look instead, however, to the team's wins over Pittsburgh and Chicago as a barometer of what this squad might be able to accomplish. In those terms, any Habs fan should understand just what their team is getting into.
Last Time Out
The Canadiens could not claim victory last time out, as a slick overtime marker by Daniel Sedin gave his team the victory.
Vancouver took the early territorial advantage, and managed the first goal of the contest, as well. It wasn't until a suspendable Alex Burrows hit that the game really turned, though, as the Canucks winger caught the defenceless (and not in the usual way) Alexei Emelin with a late hit, causing a turnover. That turnover would lead directly to an odd-man rush and a Brad Richardson goal, giving Vancouver an advantage that Montreal would equal but not overcome.
The team that will pull the Sainte Flanelle over their heads tonight will know the stakes of the event. They've played in Olympic gold medal games, Stanley Cup finals, and World Junior Championships. They've been to the Memorial Cup, the Calder Cup, and collectively, have experienced all of the glory and pressure that hockey has to offer.
Tonight, they will enter a game that has the type of special significance they have never encountered. Let's find out what our boys are made of.