The Montreal Canadiens kick off their 112th season this week (today, January 13, to be exact, as they face off against Toronto); however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Habs will be embarking upon their quest for a 25th Stanley Cup in a much changed NHL format.
Gone are the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles from last year. This time, the league has established as 56-game season, with the teams realigned in divisions that cater more to their respective regional proximity to other teams, and will finally get to play their home games on their home ice. In the case of the Canadiens, they have become part of the newly (yet temporarily) established Canadian Division, in which they will be playing their regular season games against their fellow NHL teams that are situated north of the 49th Parallel: the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets, the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks.
What does this mean? Simply that the Canadian-based teams don’t have to worry about the travelling headaches that are associated with crossing the sealed U.S.-Canada border to play their American counterparts; and that the Habs can play against the other Canadian teams more often during this season than the usual two or four-game annual match-ups.
Also, for fans who remember the pre-1967 Original Six era, this new format can help fire up the once fierce rivalry between the Canadiens and the Leafs, which peaked between 1942 and 1967, and will make these games the most highly-anticipated ones to watch this season.
As for the team’s chances of winning that elusive 25th cup championship, Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin has taken a more cautious, guarded approach. In a recent interview on TSN Radio 690, Bergevin admitted that “while (a championship’s) the goal, we haven’t played one game yet.”
Fans can take comfort that veteran players like Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki, Shea Weber and Tomas Tatar will be returning to the roster for 2021. However, Bergevin spent the offseason making some important trades and acquisitions that will hopefully result in a Stanley Cup championship. Most notably, the trade that saw Max Domi and a draft pick go to the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Josh Anderson, who signed a seven-year, $38.5 million contract with the team. Other additions to the roster to look out for include Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Alexander Romanov and Tyler Toffoli.
And aesthetically speaking, when it comes to the team jersey, the Canadiens will play a select number of games wearing an alternate third “reverse retro” jersey, in which the Habs’ familiar “bleu blanc rouge” colour scheme will go vice versa, and have blue as the more dominant colour. When it was revealed last month along with the other new NHL alternate jerseys, there were a number of fans who commented that it more resembled the home jersey of the New York Rangers. Only time will tell if the Habs’ new blue “reverse retro” jersey will have a life beyond the 2021 season (especially when it comes to merchandise sales).
And finally, with the excitement of watching the Montreal Canadiens in action in their Canadian Division bubble on TV, some hockey fans would be tempted to dabble in some sports betting and add to the excitement, especially when your home team wins and you can win a few dollars on the side. In order to find the best online casinos in Canada, check out Stashbird (www.stashbird.com).
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Now you’re ready for the 2021 NHL season. Go Habs Go!