Every game during the long 82 game NHL schedule offers the Montreal Canadiens the same opportunity, a chance at two points in the standings. However, the thirty games they play against Atlantic Division rivals, hold a little more weight, as the teams within the division are directly battling each other for playoff position.
Looking at the recently released schedule, there are several games that stand out a little more than the run of the mill, two points up for grabs contests.
October 1st, Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens
The most obvious game to look forward to is the season opener against the rival Maple Leafs. After a long offseason, fans will finally have some actual results to discuss, instead of potential line combinations and trade rumors that dominate the Summer months. It will be the first glimpse of Daniel Briere in a Canadiens sweater, and the beginning of a season of promise.
October 24th, Anaheim Ducks at Montreal Canadiens
The two number two seeds from a year ago face each other early in the season, but all eyes will be on Ducks veteran center, Saku Koivu. The former Canadien, wore the Captain’s C on his chest in Montreal for eleven seasons, longer than anyone not named Jean Beliveau. Saku was the unquestioned leader, and one of the top scorers in each of his thirteen seasons in Montreal, and always stepped his game up in the playoffs, leading the Canadiens to some of their biggest playoff upsets against the Bruins. This will be Saku’s only visit of the season, and only his second game in the Bell Centre as a guest.
November 7th, Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators
The Montreal Canadiens will get their first shot at revenge for their early playoff exit when they visit Ottawa in November. Montreal entered the 2012 playoffs as the second seed, but were knocked off in just five games by the seventh seeded Senators. Ottawa has lost captain Daniel Alfredsson, but brought in sniper Bobby Ryan from the Ducks, and will be in a battle with the Canadiens for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
December 5th, Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens
We will have to wait until December before Montreal will face its most bitter rival as of late. It will be a bit of a different looking Bruins squad from the one that recently represented the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. No longer in Boston are Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, Rich Peverly and Bell Centre finger waver, Andrew Ference. New to the Bruins are sniper Loui Eriksson and veteran Jarome Iginla. No matter who is in the lineup, it is always an entertaining and spirited bout when these two Original Six rivals meet.
January 11th, Chicago Blackhawks at Montreal Canadiens
Another member of the Original Six, the Blackhawks will visit the Bell Centre for the first time since April of 2011. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and will provide a midseason litmus test for the Montreal Canadiens.
January 14th, New Jersey Devils at Montreal Canadiens
At first glance, a mid January meeting with the Devils does not appear to be anything extraordinary, but it could be the final visit from a legend. Martin Brodeur, who is from Montreal, is 41 years old, and could be playing his final homecoming game on January 14th. Brodeur has set too many records to count, won 3 Stanley Cups, two Olympic Gold Medals, and has won more games than any goaltender in the history of hockey.
February 8th, Montreal Canadiens at Carolina Hurricanes, and February 26th, Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens
With this being an Olympic year, the NHL schedule contains an 18 day break for the Canadiens in February. Montreal visits Carolina on the 8th, and this game will be the last chance to see the Canadiens play, until they return on the 26th, hosting the Red Wings.
March 18th, Colorado Avalanche at Montreal Canadiens
Not only will the contest versus the Avalanche be fans in Montreal’s first look at recent first overall pick, Nathan MacKinnon, but a former goaltending legend of the Canadiens will be making a return to Montreal. Patrick Roy, who won two Conn Smythe Trophy’s, along with two Stanley Cups, as a member of the Canadiens, will be making his first trip to Montreal as an NHL Head Coach. The last time he was on a bench in Montreal, was after he was infamously pulled in an 11-1 loss to the Red Wings, before demanding a trade out of town. He was recently welcomed back by the organization, when they hung his number 33 jersey in the rafters of the Bell Centre, honoring him for his spectacular career with the Canadiens.
April 12th, New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
The season wraps up, with yet another Original Six team coming to town, and the 2013-14 Montreal Canadiens regular season will be complete when the siren sounds to end the April 12th meeting with the New York Rangers. Anything can happen in the run of an 82 game schedule, but hopefully the Habs will be putting the finishing touches on a playoff bound season when they host the Rangers.
There you have it Habs fans, ten of the top games to look forward to, and circle on your calendar, now that the NHL schedule has been released.
What game are you looking forward to the most? Is there one not on the list you can not wait to see? Let’s hear it in the comments section below.