On March 2 the Montreal Canadiens depart Montreal for their long western road trip; first stop, Hell-Ay. The boys touch down to temperatures decidedly balmier than snowy Montreal.
On March 3, the 24CH cameras visit Redondo Beach Cafe, home-away-from-home to Habs fans on the left coast, that broadcasts all Habs' games and the walls of which are covered in memorabilia of the bleu-blanc-rouge. Co-owner Chris Tsangaris tells us all about it, remarking, "The CH is Canada's team, Toronto can think what they want, but it's in our blood, it's who we are." Someone who gets it! Larry Robinson has visited, and he says that the day they opened, his brother put up a nice black and white of Rocket Richard and Chris figured if they were going to be about hockey they should probably put up a picture of, you know, Wayne Gretzky or something. But when a customer recognized the Rocket in the photo, he got a free breakfast and the Tsangaris' decided that it was going to be a Habs joint, serving up authentic poutine and Canadian beer.
Game day. Coach Michel Therrien is pep-talking the boys and I'm pretty sure he says the Habs are currently the best team in the NHL. Anyway, he goes on to tell them that they can never get respect, there's always something wrong with them no matter what. He's probably talking about half the people on my Twitter but not ME.
Game opens with Peter Budaj in net, and L.A. strikes first but P.K. Subban ties it up. J.J. Daigneault tells P.K. that he's "maybe gonna get a hat-trick tonight, I can feel it," and I can't tell if he's being an encouraging coach or a jokey jokester. In the second, L.A. takes the lead, and in the third, Budaj makes stellar stops to keep them in it but the score ends at 2-1. "Pas de happy ending hollywoodien ce soir".
On March 5, George Parros takes some teammates to his Violent Gentlemen warehouse with the intent of beefing up their wardrobes. We meet VG cofounder Mike Hammer, who talks about how sales and recognition have "obviously" been amazing since Parros made the move to Montreal. VG's name comes from George being a well-respected enforcer as well as an ivy league grad, but "at the same time he's 6'5" and he gets paid to punch people, so it's perfect."
With the trade deadline nigh, we meet our latest acquisition from the Florida Panthers, Mike Weaver. Therrien tells us that our new D-man adds depth, and yes, character.
Oh and also at the trade deadline, Marc Bergevin acquires Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders. He tells us that in the dwindling minutes you check for lost opportunities and guess what - he scored. Sidebar, I've read some passive-aggressive pieces about how he just won Vanek by default, because there were no other takers, blah blah blah. But guess what - he masterfully got the acquisition and I suppose anybody else could have too, but HE did. So there. Timing is everything. Just because it was at the 59th minute it doesn't mean no one else wanted him. Everyone else wanted him. Bergevin humbly says that time will tell if it was a good decision, but today, they're comfortable with it. Sidebar: Bergevin with day-old stubble is still ooh-la-la.
March 5, and it's game day vs Saku Koivu's Anaheim Ducks. Don't forget that George Parros played there for six seasons, and he gets a classy salute from fans which he reciprocates. Third-string goalie Dustin Tokarski will be playing his first game for the Habs in response to giving Peter Budaj some rest in Carey Price's absence.
Puck drop and, affection or no, Parros wastes no time engaging in fisticuffs with Tim Jackman, for which he gets a major and an unsportsmanlike which Therrien challenges with his "whoa, whoa, whoa!" best Fonzie impression but the ref isn't having it. No matter, the Habs get first period goals by both Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty to get a two-goal lead on the best team in the NHL.
At intermission, Tokarski is icing his neck and I've mentioned on Twitter but he sorta looks like Michael Buble.
In the second, Jackman gets a goal for Anaheim and Parros consoles Tokarski. And then the flukiest goal ever happens, with Tokarski far out of his net and the world's luckiest bounce off the boards ties the game for the Ducks. The Ducks then take the lead but our firecracker Brendan Gallagher ties it up once again. 3-3 going into the third.
The third renders no goals from either side, nor does the overtime period. On to the shootout. Budaj gives advice to David Desharnais, who goes on to put his puck in the net; Daniel Briere also makes his shot and then it's up to the General, Andrei Markov (the subject of nine zillion hours of trade and contract speculation on Montreal's airwaves), to break the 2-2 shootout tie. He SCORES and the Tokarski wins a thriller in Anaheim.
Next, 24CH travels to Rodovre, Denmark to profile Lars Eller. Berkshire also breaks it down here, but Eller basically grew up living and breathing hockey, with his dad, Olaf, fully immersed in the sport, whether coaching a team, managing another and commentating games in his spare time. Eller's older brother, Michael Smidt, talks about how Eller was influenced by his older brothers. He started out playing in goal because the mask was cooler; but eventually got bored because he didn't see a lot of action, so started playing centre. While in school, the thought of the NHL didn't even enter his mind. His cousin and childhood best friend, Lasse Fosgaard, talks about the cousins playing together when they were younger, and that no one took it easy on them so games would always end with one of them crying. Aw. Anyway they think that's what ended him making him tougher than any of them.
Eller, it's clear, is regarded as something of a Gretzky in Denmark. Which makes me crazy about his season this year because he's so super-talented.
March 6, and guess who gets to Phoenix? Thomas Vanek himself, Islanders' bag on his shoulder, sticks in hand. He greets his new teammates and dons the CH for practice.
Time for the game against the Phoenix Coyotes, the winnable-est of the road trip, right? So of course, Phoenix scores first. Then the General himself puts one in, so sneaky and ricocheting off the goal camera that it gets missed and play continues despite Pacioretty throwing his hands up in celebration. The score gets corrected to 1-1 after review. Phoenix responds, twice, and the period ends at 3-1 for the bad guys. Therrien, at intermission, calls that one, "the worst period of all f**king time."
In the second, gets a disallowed goal, but then a nice game of back-and-forth between Markov and Subban results in a beautiful goal. The score is now 3-2 going into the third.
In the final period, Budaj gets tested continually and the Coyotes manage two more, to end the game with a 5-2 victory. So much for winnable games. The boys have now played three games in four nights, and the trip is not over yet. Next up: the Shark Tank in San Jose. Who here prays? Pray.