Game Day: Montreal Canadiens Vs. Nashville Predators
Most observers would say that there isn’t too much that is similar between the Montreal Canadiens and the Nashville Predators. The Habs are the most storied franchise in the NHL and the Preds were part of the late 90s Bettman era expansion into non hockey markets. The Habs have won cups while the Preds haven’t. I could go on and on but interestingly there are three things that make both teams very similar.
Coach Jacques Martin is closing in on coaching 1300 games in the league. That accomplishment hasn’t been achieved by too many people. Martin has done it with four teams. Coach Barry Trotz, surprinsgly to many, will be coaching his 1000th game tonight against Martin. Surprisingly because his team has never had any real success and even more important is that he will reach the mark coaching only one team. That era of one coach coaching a team for longer than one decade is long gone. Barry Trotz has done it with hard work, intelligence and encouragingly with class and dignity. Never have you ever heard about anything negative with the coach or with the players on the ice.
We all remember how the Habs started the season. There were calls for the head of general manager Pierre Gauthier and coach Jacques Martin. The radio shows, the television pundits and the newspapers were calling for Martin to be fired. But at the same time they all realized there was no one in the system to replace him. Well there was someone in the system. There were two. Guy Boucher fled to Tampa Bay at the starting of last season. Then during this off season Kirk Muller went backwards leaving his assistant coaching job with Martin. He is now the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals who are the AHL affiliate of the Preds. Around the league, Kirk Muller’s name rings loudly when talking about the next coaching candidate. Even the pundits in Montreal were wondering if he had a buy-out clause in his contract. He is another young mind lost by Montreal. Coach Trotz has gone on record stating that he will consult Muller for a scouting report on the Habs. The irony is not lost.
The teams themselves are very much similar. Pekka Rinne, the star goaltender for the Preds, just signed a seven year deal for 49 million. Carey Price is a restricted free agent next year. Wonder what the Habs will pay to keep his services. Shea Weber, the stud defenseman, is on a one year 7.5 million dollar contract while P.K. Subban is a restricted free agent next year. The Preds have a core of exciting young players both up front and on the back end. The same can be said about the Habs. The difference is that Montreal can spend up to the cap and the Preds can’t. I wonder who will be the more successful franchise in the years to come.
The Habs are coming off a well fought road overtime victory in Phoenix. Brian Gionta showed flashes of his play last season and Erik Cole continued his stellar effort. Nashville is coming off a four two victory against the Ducks
Who to look for:
Tomas Plekanec and Gionta have been hot for the Habs. Erik Cole, as I mentioned earlier, is having his best spell in a Habs sweater. The team has been working well as full unit. Alexei Emelin was benched for most of the second and third periods against the Coyotes so look for Yannick Weber getting some more time on the back end. Peter Budaj will get the start tonight between the pipes.
Pekka Rinne hasn’t lost in his last three outings. Weber and his partner Ryan Suter have been dominating both in shutting down the oppositions’ top lines and contributing in points. Mike Fisher is slumping and it looks like his form when he played with the Ottawa Senators is back. It was that form that lead to his trade.
The Habs are still without Markov, Campoli and White. Both Markov and Mike Cammalleri skated this morning. Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn are game time decisions. The Preds will be without David Legwand as he is their only significant injury.
After coming off a hard fought win in Phoenix, the Habs need to string together back to back performances which lead to wins. If the team wants to keep pace with those ahead of them, they must not waste opportunities to gain points whenever they can. Watching the Habs play in Nashville doesn’t happen often so hopefully both teams treat us to something enjoyable.
The game will be on CBC, RDS and broadcast on TSN990 in Montreal at 7 pm EST.
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Shahab Khan the Schoolboy