So, tonight was my first away game, and I think I know how to pick 'em.
(By the way, I really thought I had hit "publish post" on a game preview I wrote this morning, but alas I did not. Smartphones with data plans accepted so that these horrible oversights never occur again.)
How could I go to Los Angeles and be in town the same weekend as the Habs and NOT get tickets to watch them at Staples Center? I would have probably wanted to see a hockey game anyway, but somehow I was slightly less compelled to watch the Kings or the Ducks take on the Colorado Avalanche. Sure, I don't really get to see much of the Avs, and maybe Matt Duchene's rookie season will be something to talk about for a few years to come, but I couldn't settle for Colorado when Nos Glorieux were coming to town. (Sorry, Avs-loving friends.)
I was especially looking forward to seeing the Kings' gold medallist Drew Doughty and star player Anze Kopitar, who is beloved by one of my friends (who also loves Ovechkin and Avery, so I'm never too sure about trusting him). They didn't disappoint. I'd be happy to have them as Habs... which is not to say that I'm unhappy with our current roster, because obviously there was a lot to be happy about tonight.
Brian Gionta's surprise goal 22 seconds into the game brought Habs fans to their feet. (There were quite a few of us.) I'm guessing that he was what caused most of the Staples Center to be eerily silent for most of the first period. It was the quietest hockey game I'd ever been to, with the exception of this one douchebag who booed the Habs but didn't cheer the Kings at all. Benoit Pouliot deserved to be first star of the game.
This is what the game's three stars look like in Los Angeles... if I had access to Photoshop I'd have put a little puck or something in place of the film camera.
Jaro Halak played a smart game, knowing exactly what he had to do and where he had to be. Scott Gomez was extremely visible during his significant ice time (which pleased the adorable little girl I saw with "Go Habs" rubbed off one cheek but a very clear "#91" still painted on her other cheek). Travis Moen was the Canadien with the most shots on goal. I'd especially like to single out Ryan O'Byrne, who played a great game. Maybe I said too much about him at the beginning of the season, when he was still being criticized for his less-than-stellar turn last year, and maybe I noticed more than other people did tonight since I was on his side of the ice for the first and third periods (EIGHTH ROW, right behind the press photographers, oh yes that's right) but he was fantastic. He used his size and played aggressively. He delivered some really big hits.
As for what it's like to be a Habs fan outside the Bell Centre... um... let's just say I appreciate my fellow fans a little bit more than I used to. Because the Habs fans around me were pretty great, and some of the Kings fans... weren't so great. I already mentioned the douchebag a few rows behind me whose support of the Kings consisted of wearing an LA jersey and booing the Habs. Some of the Americans were also sore losers, apparently dissatisfied with Team USA making it to the gold-medal game. They booed their own defenceman because he played for Team Canada. I might hate it when Habs fans boo a former Canadien, or a self-goal, but booing Doughty was ridiculous. The contests didn't really get the audience involved - I guess I'd take the Kiss Cam or the Make Some Noise contest over seeing someone be handed a prize on the Jumbotron or watching the ice girls. If I wasn't before, I'm now most definitely certain that there's no place for ice girls in this sport.
There are more LA Kings fans than I expected, but as usual, like any unhappy fans, they left two minutes before the game ended because their team lost. I guess it's not as big of a deal if your 100-level tickets cost one-third of what they'd cost at the Bell Centre. As for the Habs fans? The post-win hoopla was a little more subdued on the ice and in the arena, so maybe it's not quite as fun as cheering on a winning home team, but there was just enough chanting and celebrating outside the game to make a Habs fan feel at home in the City of Angels, without making the Kings fans too sore.
All in all, it was a great game to be at. It's just a shame that everything goes by that much more quickly when you're close to the action, and I don't know when I'll get to see the NHL from the eighth row again. Even if I don't, I'm good for a while.