Welcome to Montreal, where the city bleeds Bleu Blanc et Rouge. I took a pre-game stroll in the heart of downtown where the pulse of hockey beats loud. Fire trucks hanging hockey flags on the back, people walking around in red jerseys and kids playing around Centennial Plaza excited about the idea of a “25th Cup this year.” It’s a great feeling, even “Joey” the scalper’s best ticket deal was $300 for a pair of upper seats. All is great, for now.

Yes, the Habs were up 2-0 however there is one stat no one ever brings up. In the 2006 playoffs, they were up 2-0 against Carolina when Captain Saku Koivu took a stick in the eye and thus began the beginning of the collapse. Carolina would win the series, then the Stanley Cup. Yes, it ‘s not a lovely stat but to be realistic, I’m surprised that we even won the first two games.

Before the game I thought to myself that Boston looks hungry and Zdeno Chara is probably hydrated by now. As the city embraced the hometown vibe, my game 3 viewing would be at my closest neighborhood bar: Next Door in NDG.

The bartender assumed it was going to be quiet being a Monday night, but in an instant the bar was packed. We feasted on nachos and perogies, a great playoff snack, as we watched the pre-game ceremony. One thing I give credit to Montreal for: they know how to make a classic entrance with legendary Canadien Jean Beliveau and a little kid in full Canadiens gear, mixing history and the future all in one moment.

Boston knew that the first goal was important and David Krejci took the opportunity when the Habs defense wasn’t looking. Jaroslav Spacek was one second too late to help Carey Price. The Habs were not playing the same as in the first two games. They were playing weak hockey in front of their biggest critics ever, a sold-out crowd of 21 273.

It’s sometimes tough being a Habs fan. There will be highs and lows. Then there’s dealing with “fans” at the bar who give Carey Price sh*t for clearing the puck which ended up becoming Rich Peverley’s first goal. One mistake and there was sheer Price hate. The rest of the period he held it together however “fans” were begging him to stay in the net.

Back at the bar, there was plenty of yelling and frustration (and that was just me). Thinking at first putting Kostitsyn in instead of Weber was a mistake but he redeemed himself with his first goal. Good news, Tomas Plekanec, after several attempts, notched a goal. The real Canadiens came back in the third however it was too late.

Not to worry fans and “fans”, it’s only one game. There was word that the team was a little too relaxed before the game, Carey Price called them out as being too “chill”.   Coach Martin said they win as a team and lose at a team (so no looking for anyone to blame).

For game 4, it’s keeping in mind that Boston can come back if they play too loose. It’s learning from mistakes and hoping Weber will play (Poulliot will be benched for playing invisible). It’s all about playing smart with the defense taking some work off Price and it’s about getting the first goal (the key so far in this series).

Boston is currently practicing in Lake Placid facility where the US beat Russia in the 1980 Olympics (known as the “Miracle on Ice”). They hope to feed on that emotion, however Montreal is notorious for miracles of their own against Boston. In the meantime, the Habs should remain less relaxed and the fans should chill for a minute. It was one game, it’s not over yet.

Shout out of Game 3: Shout out to the Montreal Juniors for their excellent season. They were eliminated last weekend in their playoffs, however had a great season with Habs prospect Louis Leblanc. The future looks good for the Habs.

In light of what has happened in hockey with Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara, there still is a game and a bar to review. It casts a shadow on what was to be another meeting of the heated rivalry between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. This was a hyped up game, the first meeting since February 9 when fights broke out. I wanted to go to Chez Serge, however it was packed an hour before game time. If a bar fills up earlier than usual, this has to be the game to watch.

I scurried over to La Petite Idee Fixe (4857 Ave du Parc), a small dive bar in the Plateau. Idee Fixe has cheap beer and dim lighting and a sketchy vibe. The closest thing to actual light was coming from the video poker machines. No questions asked, if they’re showing the game I’m going to watch no matter what. I know for one thing, being by myself does attract some strange characters.

There were a few alright, one kept talking to me but I quickly ignored. There was one sitting and yelling in front of the TV watching the Ottawa game instead. I thought there was going to be trouble if I asked to change the channel, lucky there wasn’t. I knew somehow on game night there was going to be a fight, wasn’t sure if it was going to come from the game or the bar.

The guy yelling at the TV I found out was an actual referee and he was yelling out the plays that the NHL referees were missing. Yes, there was a lot of yelling, even in dive bars you can find hockey hardcores. The guy also has a blog himself, he reviews beers.

Montreal started the battle early with Ryan White getting into a scrap with Johnny Boychuk. Word to the wise, Ryan: if you’re going to get into fights in the NHL, get a haircut. Sorry to say that he looked like a girl fighting, physically.

The surprise that night was Lars Eller, not only he scored but twice! He finally found his touch, the Great Dane scores! Then Brian Gionta notched one. It was strange that both the tall and small guys found their way into the net. Things were going great, the Habs were up by four goals and Carey Price looked like he was heading towards another shutout. There was no stopping the Habs, the win was ours until…well, you know what happened.

Pacioretty is still the topic of the town. The issue on head injuries was supposed to be the main focus Monday when NHL owners met to discuss the state of the game. I wondered what Coach Jacques Martin said to his players heading into the third period after the incident. Their teammate’s health must have been on their minds, keeping the win for Pacioretty was the option.

Milan Lucic scored the only Boston goal but The Canadiens got the win. As I sat there with my tall beer; the win didn’t seem to matter or where I watched it. The concern for someone sustaining that hit, and the way he lay there on the ice motionless was something I don’t think anyone could forget. It was a good time at the bar but that’s not a big concern right now.

The Canadiens organization has sent up a forum for fans to send messages to Max Pacioretty. Go to http://goha.bs/g9rDGt if you want to send your best.

Saturday nights in March in the hockey world
are different than in other months. Each Saturday
left in the season can either determine a spot in the playoffs or play the “what if” game after the last game is played. For the Montreal Canadiens, not to worry, there will be a playoffs (I guarantee it). Where we finish and who we play is what I still have yet to wonder.

I ended up wandering on the St Laurent strip this past Saturday, where everywhere I passed the game was being shown. From small restaurants to coffee shops, from popular bars to watering holes, I saw the Montreal Canadiens playing the Tampa Bay Lighting. Some dubbed this as a playoff preview. When I heard this, I wondered “Tampa Bay is no hotbed of hockey, yep, exciting playoff matchup.”

Tampa does hold the top scorer and potential most valuable player in Steve Stamkos, along with a solid supporting staff in Martin St Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Montreal always seems to be weak when it comes to Florida based teams, must be because of the snowbirds flocking down for Canadiens games come winter. We’re in luck however, a two goal night for Max Pacioretty, some poking around from Carey Price and yes, Hal Gill has been on a scoring tear (a goal the last two games, he’s not a notorious scorer but it’s a big deal).

It is that time of year where anyone can be playing some miracle based hockey, it doesn’t even matter where you end up watching. A pizza place showed the game as well as a magazine shop, so literally the game had been following me the same way I follow the Habs.

The trading deadline had past and what you see is what you get. The addition of Brent Sopel helps ease pressure on the young defensemen playing extra time due to key players with injury. Add Jaroslav Spacek to the company of injured defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges. Sopel has been a great addition so far and to anyone new following, he won the Stanley Cup last year with the Chicago Blackhawks.

So all we can really do is watch. That’s all I can really say. Glad that Andrei Kostitsyn has found his scoring touch, stunned that Hal Gill has one. Things can either come together or fall apart but I know one thing: we’re all watching.

Shout outs of the week: NHL players on Twitter. Couple weeks ago Jofrey Lupul of the Maple Leafs lost his iphone in a cab and sent a message via Twitter for help (he did find it but with many responses). Our new Hab Brent Sopel was in search for a notary and other things in his first couple days in Montreal. He and fellow teammate Mike Cammalleri have twitter accounts. You can follow them at @BrentSopel and @MCammalleri13.

Shout out to minor league team the Bakersfield Condors capitalizing on the Charlie Sheen phenomena with a Charlie Sheen night on March 12th. There will be some “winning” indeed.

One more shout out: in the Quebec junior league there is a big game Wednesday March 9th where it’s more about the coaches matchup than the players. The Quebec Rempants are playing the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, both coached and owned by former Montreal Canadiens Patrick Roy and Guy Carboneau. It’s a heated rivalry, like Montreal VS Boston this Tuesday.

Photo http://montreal.streetviewtours.com