Welcome back Les Boys…well, most of them.
First game of the season, the air filled with the noise of “where are you going to watch the game tonight?” There was the idea of heading downtown for the first game against the much hated Toronto Maple Leafs however I had to deal with a Toronto problem of my own and had to change the game plan.
Looks like I’m heading to the “office” tonight.
My office, better known as the Copacabana on St Laurent, was where I hurried before the opening faceoff. The bar was packed to capacity, no standing room tonight. Copa is my usual haunt for beers and loud cheers. Normally a soccer crowd is gathered in here, it being in the heart of the Portuguese neighborhood but where there’s hockey they will gather.
Copacabana: The bartender blaring the TV volume on high, a group of regulars doing a draft for their hockey pool, people fighting for seats, and the waitresses on their feet with pitchers of beer in each hand.
Ladies and gentlemen, hockey is back!
Since it’s a road game, I had to endure what the Leafs call an opening ceremony. I had to endure a pre-game concert by Hedley before faceoff. I don’t think of Hedley when I watch hockey. There was a symbolic unification involving the waters of Canada and other stuff that no one really cares for. What’s so wrong with just naming the lineup and getting the real show on the road?
So we see the Leafs lineup, and man, are they huge! During the ceremonial faceoff it became obvious that Dion Phaneuf is not only larger than Brian Gionta, he might actually eat him. Let’s hope the Habs have bigger hearts.
It was obvious that we were missing key players, mainly from the defensive core. O’Byrne missed the puck on the blue line (he should be getting better at this by now) and Spacek made a costly error that became goal #3 for Toronto. With the absence of both Hamrlik and Markov, there are holes in the defense that are being filled by young and inexperienced players. I’m shaking my head at Spacek and O’Byrne right now, please step it up. Look at PK Subban, full of energy and poise, but can he handle the grind of 82 games?
Other than that, Dion Phaneuf continues to be Montreal’s pain in the ass. A hockey observer I know pointed out this week that he still hasn’t cracked a smile since joining the Leafs.
Carey Price actually played alright despite flu like symptoms. He’s no Patrick Roy playing with appendicitis during a playoff run but it’s tough playing when your sick. There were some solid saves that showed the Price of old. I hope this will quiet the skeptics, at least until the next game.
To all the fans that are still bellyaching over the Halak trade: GET OVER IT, HE’S NOT COMING BACK! I know it’s harsh but it’s been a few months, he’s in St Louis now. Price is still talented (he could be better if he wasn’t under so much pressure), give the guy a chance! Quit talking about the Halak deal. It’s not like a zombie Halak will come from the rafters summoned by the Forum ghosts to make Carey Price’s life miserable between the pipes. (but that would be quite interesting).
The crowd did hold their collective breaths each time the puck entered Price’s zone but there was a sigh of relief when at the end of the day when he didn’t let in a soft one. For the time being he will make us a little nervous and there will be screaming at the TV, but at least we didn’t have to yell at him last night. Note to the referees with their new contracts: We all saw the stick to Gionta’s face. CALL IT!
As this was the first game of the season, I had my first beer since POP Montreal, beer and hockey go hand and hand. I opted for Pakoras as my dining pleasure, not exactly chicken wings but they did the trick. So the Copacabana serves food you ask? The crowd may be hardcore Canadiens fans but the food is South Asian Indian cuisine cooked up in the “Scratch Kitchen”. The food is good and its fun watching the cook as he keeps popping his head out of the kitchen each time we all scream at the TV.
The Copa crowd were on their feet for the 3rd period, Dustin Boyd was all over the puck! (He got the first goal of the Habs season). There were so many missed opportunities. Andrei Kostitsyn and Brian Gionta were hitting posts and pads but just couldn’t find the back of the net. The Canadiens were racking up shots but J.S. Giguere’s had the hot hand. As Gionta fought to put the puck in the net during the dying seconds… it ended. Toronto 3, Montreal 2.
The Leaf fans on TV were celebrating as if they had won the Stanley Cup. Hey! There are no parades for winning the first game of the season. Oh Toronto, why, why, why?
The bar cleared out fast, I stayed behind to see how the regulars picked in the pool. The good news is that Carey Price didn’t suck, the bad news is that our defense did. There are a couple new faces and a lot of rookie mistakes. Lars Eller, will hopefully develop into the power forward we all want, but this was just the 8th game of his career.
Game one in the books. We can’t make the same mistakes 81 more times. Wait till Cammalleri returns this Saturday!