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For a 25-year anniversary, the traditional gift is silver; for the 50th, it’s gold. For their 100th anniversary, the Bruins gifted Montreal an easy 5-1 victory. The charming and modest Montreal fans couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Founded in 1909, only 36 years after the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, the Canadiens are a proud franchise indeed, who dominated the 20th century, only to fade away into the dustbin of history well before the current century even started, just like, say, the Soviet Union. They won a lot back then, and they have every right to celebrate their past glories– a right that they’ve been exercising for a very long time now.
Montreal’s two-year-long 100th-anniversary celebration finally ended tonight, capped off by an interminable 17-hour pregame ceremony at la Bell Centre— celebrating the glorious past that is a decade and a half gone, evoking not so much a relevant dynasty so much as Gloria Swanson continually watching silent movies of herself in “Sunset Boulevard.” “Les Canadiens are still big, it’s hockey that got small. All right, Peter Puck, we’re ready for our close-up.”
The endless pre-game ceremony was enough to almost make the New York Yankees look modest. (At least the 1992 Yankees didn’t present a multi-year orgy of self-congratulation when their roster featured the likes of Kevin Maas, Danny Tartabull, Scott Kamienecki and Hensely Meulens, the baseball equivalents of the current Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.)
But, there was no stopping the ostentatious self-glorification tonight. The self-proclaimed best fans in hockey (yes, the same ones who booed Patrick Roy all the way to Colorado, where he won two more Cups) were awed by the spectacle on display: “Look, there’s a banner with all 107 of our retired jersey numbers! Look, it’s the actual gloves that Maurice Richard wore when he punched a referee! Sacre bleu, it’s the actual tear-gas bomb that Montreal fans set off near Clarence Campbell for suspending Richard! Mon dieu, it’s the actual baby booties that Yvan Cournoyer wore as skates! Holy Lafleur, it’s the actual carousel that the team’s five head coaches in the last six years rode in and out of town on!”
Old Habs from glory days long gone were wheeled out and displayed, and Montreal fans got to pretend it was 1979 again for a little while. And as all Canadiens fans will yell really loudly in your face, Bruins fans have no right to rain on their parade. At least Montreal won the Cup 16 years ago. That’s kind of close to this century, far closer than the Bruins last Stanley Cup. So there!
Just don’t bring up the fact that such franchises as the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the South Carolina Tornadoes have all won the trophy far more recently than the storied Bleu, Blanc et Rouge have, and so therefore maybe it might be a good idea to show just a little bit of humility and hold off on too much “dynasty” blather. Sure Montreal used to be a dynasty, back in the 20th century. (Avais ete, not etre, if I remember my passe compose at all.) The Ottoman Empire also used to be a dynasty, back in the olden days that no one cares about anymore. The fact is, once a team goes more than half a decade without winning a championship, that dynasty is over and done and part of the history books. (That sound you hear is the clock ticking, Patriots fans.)
But perhaps there is hope. In just the past couple of years, such former dynasties as the New York Yankees, the Boston Celtics and the Pittsburgh Steelers have resurrected themselves and won championships. Maybe the Canadiens– no, wait, I just looked at their roster, not happening.
So anyway, a glorious past is a great thing, and should be celebrated. All the greats were trotted out, and most of them looked younger than Mark Recchi. Lafleur was there, Henri Richard, Gainey, Roy (“Wah”), Ken Dryden, Chris Nilan– wait, what? Chris Nilan, seriously? They dragged that goober out for this? When did he get out on bail?
And so the lovable Montreal fans went hog wild for the Old Habs for a couple years, and when the ceremony finally ended, the only big question left was which hideous alternate jersey would Les Canadiens wear in the (hopefully anticlimactic) game that followed? Would it be the Scary Pine Tree? Or would it be the Bizarro Barber Pole? Whichever way they went, they’d be wearing Toronto’s leaf logo on their chests, rather than the traditional toilet-seat shaped emblem, and they’d generate mocking laughs from all reasonable people. But alas, in an ominous omen, it would be neither of the alternate shirts, as they came out in non-humorous red jerseys (going with dark shirts at home rather than white, in honor of a long-standing NHL tradition of about five years now.)
Anyway, with the Canadiens in red and the Bruins in white, the game finally began. Tim Thomas was back in goal for Boston, and Carey Price, aka TNPW (The Next Patrick Wah, in that he is a goalie and Montreal fans are sure to boo him out of town any day now) was between the pipes for Montreal.
Early in the first, with David Kreijci in the penalty box for hooking, Marco Sturm came up with a loose puck and broke in alone for a shorthanded breakaway bid for Boston, but he waited a bit too long and was stuffed nicely by TNPW.
Montreal regrouped after the miss, and just as the power play expired, Miroslav Spacek scored on a blast from the point, clanging it in off the post, to give Montreal the lead at 11:30 of the first. (How fitting, because when you think of the Montreal Canadiens, you invariably think of Miroslav Spacek. Or Travis Moen. Or Brian Gionta. Or pretty much everyone else on their generic current roster of journeymen, no-names, and people who used to be good with other teams.)
Boston had another great chance when Byron Bitz let loose a wide-open snapper at the 10-minute mark, but Price stymied him as well.
Then, for a long time, nothing happened. The period ended with the bad guys up 1-0, Montreal outshot Boston 10-8 in the period.
Things were still close early in the second period, when Matt Hunwick coughed up the puck and fell down tragicomically, allowing Canadiens legend Max Pacioretty to break in 2 on 1 with Moen, but Thomas made the save to keep the Bruins within hailing distance. A minute later, Marc-Andre Bergeron broke free in the Bruins zone– a recurring theme of the night– but Thomas was there again with a kick save.
At the other end, ham-handed Bruins pugilist Shawn Thornton had a chance to tie the game, but he couldn’t quite redirect a sweet dish from Steve Begin into the net, Price again making a nice stop while figuratively standing on his head.
Dennis Wideman then had another good chance for the B’s, blasting from the bottom of the circle, but Price was there, as he was again a minute later when Blake Wheeler fired from the slot.
With the score still 1-0 and less than six minutes gone in the period, Marc Savard did his best Argentinian soccer flop and drew an extra penalty in a scrum after the whistle, giving Boston a two-man advantage for two full minutes. But Boston could only generate a few routine shots that the suddenly invincible Price yawned while saving, and the Habs killed off the two-man advantage, inspiring the crowd and shifting the momentum fully to themselves. The scoreboard didn’t actually flash brightly with the words “TURNING POINT,” (nor even “TOURNANT”) but it probably should have.
A minute later, Tomas Plekanec broke in all alone on Thomas, and fired the puck just wide of the post. The rebound came bouncing back off the wall, past players from both teams, to Mike Cammalleri in front, and he snapped it home for a 2-0 Canadiens lead.
Soon after, the Bruins bumbled again, as Matt Hunwick whiffed on a pass that bounced clumsily off Thomas’s leg pad, right to Cammalleri, who slipped it into the net to suddenly push the lead to 3-0.
Thirty seconds later, they were at it again, as the Pride of Novopolotsk, Belarus, Sergei Kostitsyn ripped a shot toward the top corer that Thomas gloved.
But Thomas couldn’t do anything to stop ex-Bruins Glen Metropolit and Hal Gill, as Metro deflected Gill’s slapper into the net to to push the score to an embarrassing 4-0. The night after the last-place Habs were routed by Buffalo 6-2, they were inspired enough to completely outclass the Bruins.
The nightmare continued when Derek Morris fanned on a clearing pass, allowing Scott Gomez to set up Cammalleri, who blasted a shot into the top corner for the natural hat trick, sending the Montreal crowd into spasms of arrogant glee, their chapeaus raining onto the ice.
The third period started with Thomas mercifully sent to the bench, as Claude Julien called on Tuukka Rask to Finnish the humiliating rout. Less than five minutes into the period, Vladimir Sobotka saved some face for the Bruins, tipping Hunwick’s shot past Price to avert the shutout.
Two minutes later, Boston got a chance to make things more respectable when Maxim Lapierre was called for a double high-sticking minor and was sent off for four minutes, but they couldn’t generate much, and actually allowed Montreal the best scoring chance, when Connecticut’s Own Max Pacioretty scooped up a loose puck and skated in on a 2 on 1 shorthanded bid with Metropolit, but Rask easily made the save.
As if taunting the Bruins, Montreal gave them yet another opportunity, when Scott Gomez was called for slashing with 1:26 still remaining on the power play. And then as if that wasn’t enough, they gave Boston yet more help when Plekanec was called for punching Kreijci in the face. Boston kept the puck in the Canadien zone for about an hour and a half on the delayed penalty, skating 6 on 3, but their only chance, a Chara deflection, was smartly kicked out by Price, to the raucous jeers of the home crowd.
Sturm immediately put a stop to the 2-man advantage when he was called for tripping on the ensuing face-off. The teams then pointlessly slapped the puck around to little effect for a while, with the Bruins falling to a pathetic 0-for-8 on the power play.
The third period ticked away mostly uneventfully after that, as the Bruins’ seven-game point streak came to a close, and Canadiens fans chortled, sang, taunted and celebrated wildly, as their legendary team moved back to within one game of .500, only four spots away from the conference’s last playoff berth.