Thursday, March 29, 2018

Washington Capitals 6 at Montreal Canadiens 4 - March 24, 2018


After watching the Laval Rocket lose to Charlotte, Sharpy and I made the quick walk over to Montmorency station and grabbed the Orange Line to downtown Montreal to complete the hockey doubleheader. Having bought our Metro tickets in advance allowed us to bypass the lines at the ticket machines, saving at least 10 minutes, which was crucial as we had only 1:15 between games. There are two stations that serve the Bell Centre, Bonaventure and Lucien L'Allier; the latter is named for the engineer who supervised the construction of the Metro system. We disembarked at Bonaventure, making the short underground walk to the Bell Centre. One problem with this route is that we did not get to see the exterior of the building, nor the statues that honour many of the Canadiens greats. Below is a shot of Maurice Richard's statue taken from inside.



Fortunately, there is plenty of history along the lower concourse, which does get crowded as game time approaches.



Near section 109 is a collection of photos of past stars along a back wall. Note the open space beneath; this is a mezzanine where several concession stands can be found, usually with no waiting since most fans don't bother taking the stairs down.



For each photo along the wall, there is a matching plaque and bilingual information board next to the railing along the concourse. It is quite narrow here but do take the time to read through a few of those who have made history at the Club de Hockey Canadien.



Another reason to visit the mezzanine is Youppiville, a small collection of memorabilia for Canada's favourite mascot. When the Expos moved to Washington, Youppi! was without a home, so the Habs adopted him and he is now found at every home game, plus the occasional mascot promotion, such as at Laval that afternoon.



A large Lego sculpture is the highlight of this tiny exhibition, which seems a bit dreary with empty display cases along the way. Some refurbishment would be welcome here.



In terms of food, you can again find cheap eats both at the mezzanine and along the concourse, with smoked meat sandwiches going for about $10, still a bargain for the amount of meat you get. I bought a box of Timbits (Tim Hortons signature donut holes) for $4.50 and that lasted Sharpy and I the whole game.



Inside the rink, you will note the many, many retired numbers and Stanley Cup banners. As much as it pains this Maple Leafs fan to admit it, the Canadiens have had a long and successful history and it is well displayed here.



This was my third visit to the Bell Centre, and in the past, I had sat in the upper level, which is far, far away. With a capacity of 21,288, this is the largest arena in the league and the 300 and 400 level seats have to be the farthest away from the ice, except perhaps for the Staples Center. With time limited, I did not make my way upstairs on this visit, preferring to take the picture above from behind one of the nets. Given the limited downtown footprint and large capacity, the steep seating incline was a necessity. The lower bowl is termed "Reds" while the upper level seats are White, Grey, and Blue. Note that there are 10 rows in the White 300 sections, with the first 6 rows going from AA-FF, while the 7th row is A.



Tickets here are ridiculously overpriced for the quality that the Habs showed this season, with lower level seats going for around $200 a pop and those in the upper level usually over $100. The Canadiens have an official secondary market known as "The Vault" but even here, season ticket holders rarely lowered the price below face value. StubHub had some deals up high but as mentioned, I wanted to sit in the lower level. I ended up using Kijiji, a Canadian online bulletin board, where I found someone who was offering two lower level seats for half price. The possibility of a scam was on my mind, but after a couple of email exchanges, it seemed like the seller was legitimate and I bought the tickets for $87.50 each. These were electronic tickets, so I had to download the Canadiens app and create an account to receive them. Man, I miss hard tickets. Anyway, the view from my seat in the last row of the lower bowl is above, taken as the teams prepared to start the game. The large Go Habs Go banner was a nice touch.



Each entryway is painted blue, which makes for a really cool impression with the red seats. The best I could do is the shot above. The shot below demonstrates how large the lower bowl is, and includes the larger club section above, which is even pricier but comes with unlimited food and non-alcoholic drinks.



It was a tough task to replace the venerable Forum but they did a decent job with the limitations they had. Any hockey fan has to visit Bell Centre just for the history on display, but keep in mind that it will be an expensive education.

The Game

The Capitals were in town, and Carey Price (below) got the start, his second after coming back from a concussion that saw him miss just over a month of action. Price was excellent in the first few minutes, making a couple of spectacular saves that made it look like the Habs could challenge the Metropolitan leaders.



Montreal opened the scoring when Alex Galchenyuk picked up a loose puck along the boards and skated in alone on Philipp Grubauer, roofing a backhand shot. Just over a minute later, Brendan Gallagher scored after a Capital turnover, but the play was challenged by Caps coach Barry Trotz and it turned out to be offside. No goal! Two minutes later, Evgeni Kuznetsov wristed a shot from the right circle that beat Price, a power play marker that tied the game. That overturned goal was really the turning point of the game as after that, the Capitals had their way with Montreal. Tom Wilson added two more before the end of the period, and when Jay Beagle scored early in the second, it was 4-1 Caps.

Charles Hudon potted one for the Habs with just 2 seconds left in the middle period to make it close, but Kuznetsov and Jakub Jerabek each scored for Washington in the first 5 minutes of the final frame to clinch the game. Hudon and Gallagher tallied later to make it respectable as the Capitals won 6-4 in a sloppy affair. The scoreboard was turned off immediately upon the final siren sounding, so no shot of that.

Notes

I did manage to find a hard ticket, which is colourful, with Karl Alzner shown. The translation is "Create the Spark". I can't believe people just drop these on the ground. Some teams now offer their season ticket holders the option to include a hard ticket instead of mobile for a nominal fee ($35 for the Arizona Coyotes) and I hope other teams follow suit because hard tickets are the best souvenirs out there.



Next Up

Baseball is here and I hope to add two or three road parks for the Blue Jays, starting with Minnesota's Target Field in early May. Check back then to see if I made it.

Best,

Sean

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