Vancouver Canucks foe, Juraj Slafkovski

Vancouver Canucks Know Your Foe: The .500 Habs

Canucks Vs. Canadiens

It’s been a bizarre couple of years for the Montreal Canadiens, Wednesday night’s opponent for the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks are coming off a 6-4 win in Ottawa on Tuesday night, the Habs a 3-2 shoot-out win in Detroit.

Considering what’s taken place over the last 18 to 24 months and recalling the fact that the Habs were in the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, it feels a bit like a Twilight Zone episode. In other words: “how the hell is that even possible?!”

Great question, but rather than rehash the recent history, let’s just take a brief look at where the bleu-blanc-rouge stands today in comparison.

(By the way, most don’t realize there was a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team called the Blue Blanc Rouge that played in the Montreal Forum for three seasons back in the early 1970’s. Otherwise it’s just a Quebecois reference to the Habs three colours)

It seems as though the Canadiens spent much of the last decade looking for effective centres, a consistent weakness that prevented them from being serious playoff threats. In 2020 they put together a group that consisted of Phillip Danault, 20-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi and 21-year-old Nick Suzuki. It was surprising they made it as far as they did, but not surprising they lost the 2021 Final in five games to a much more mature and experienced Tampa Bay Lightning group.

Danault signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings three weeks after the playoffs and Kotkaniemi was plucked by the Carolina Hurricanes via an offer sheet five weeks after that.

The franchise also swapped out its general manager and head coach since the Final. Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis runs the bench and is an excellent motivator among other things.

Suddenly in a rebuild with star goalie Carey Price first injured and then taking a leave of absence, the Habs once again are not that deep up the middle or up front, young on the blueline, and relying on Jake Allen as their number-one goalie. They enter the game Wednesday night with a record of 6-6-and-1 via energy and determination.

They’ll be without their top overall pick Juraj Slafkovski, suspended by the NHL on Wednesday for two games, selected after the team finished dead last in the league last season. Forward Josh Anderson is also out while finishing a two-game suspension.

Speaking of determination, even after playing last night, one would think the Vancouver Canucks would give it their best shot tonight to try to continue their winning ways and preserve head coach Bruce Boudreau and his staff.

Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford will be in attendance.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.