It all comes down to this game tonight for the Montreal Alouettes. Despite squandering two prime opportunities to clinch the Eastern Final at home, the Alouettes still have a chance to do just that. All they have to do is win tonight versus the Lions in British Columbia while the Stampeders have to defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Calgary.
Otherwise it’ll be an extra game played at the Big O versus Hamilton, then off to chilly Winnipeg for the Eastern Final. This is not to say the Alouettes can’t overcome such an obstacle if so presented, but there’s a reason they say “There’s no place like home”.
The Alouettes are 7-1 in playoff games at Olympic Stadium. It’s safe to say neither Winnipeg or Hamilton would want to walk into that den of 55,000 loud Alouettes fans if they didn’t have to. So tonight’s games mean so very much to both the Bombers and the Alouettes.
One thing we do know for sure; Anthony Calvillo will be looking to re-establish his dominant passing game and capitalize on scoring opportunities. Amazing that despite breaking all the records that he has this season and once again setting the standard for excellence, that he’s looked very beatable in the last 2 games. It’s my sincere hope that Marc Trestman & Scott Milanovich have devised a way to incorporate more of the running game into their red zone offense to give AC as many weapons as possible.
The Alouettes have left way too many points on the field due to their insistence on passing the ball in the red zone in lieu of relying on their superstar RB Brandon Whitaker. This cannot continue if the Alouettes want to have any sort of success against a Lions team that will easily give the Alouettes all sorts of fits. The Lions will want to win tonight in order to host their own division final at home and eventually represent the West in the Grey Cup being held at B.C. Place.
The Lions are the last team to host and win a Grey Cup, having done it last in 1994 against the Baltimore team that eventually became these Montreal Alouettes. History is looking to repeat itself in Van City. (Another fun fact: That same year the Vancouver Canucks lost in 7 games to a team that was in a long Stanley Cup drought. Anyone who watched the 2010-11 playoffs knows how it ended for the Canucks.)
The Alouettes opened the season against these same Lions at home with a 30-26 win, but the teams that will take the field are vastly different than the ones who played on June 30th. Injuries and trades have affected both teams and tonight will be a reintroduction of sorts.
The kick returns will be handled by the returning Tim Maypray and by Bo Bowling, whose announcement of playing in tonight’s game generated a frenzy of activity and excitement by Alouettes fans who remembered his exciting pre-season play. Biding his time on the practice roster, this is Bowling’s opportunity to make a name for himself and get out onto the field to contribute.
Regardless of whether Winnipeg wins or loses earlier in the evening, Montreal will be putting its best foot forward tonight. The last thing you want to do is go into the playoffs on a down note. So I’m expecting everything to be thrown at the B.C. Lions this evening and hopefully this game will be a shot at redemption for the Alouettes.
The CFL Players Awards nominees for each team came out and a lot of people were surprised that Jamel Richardson was edged out by Anthony Calvillo for the Alouettes’ Most Outstanding Player nominee. An argument could have been made for AC, Jamel and Brandon Whitaker as this year’s MOP candidate. AC did have another incredible season and broke a bunch of records while cementing his legend. Richardson has redefined the WR position and set a standard that will be very tough to match. And Whitaker came into this season with some big shoes to fill and far exceeded anyone’s expectations.
To have such an embarrassment of riches really speaks to the work of football operations and the keen eye of GM Jim Popp. You really never know what tricks he has up his sleeve and where he will find the next piece of the winning puzzle.
Alouettes fans in the Ottawa-Gatineau area can join me and a few other Alouettes fans at the Cage Aux Sports in Hull (7 Rue Montclair) to watch the game this evening. Naturally, I’ll be my usual live-tweeting self if you can’t make it.
I’ll be back Monday with a new blog post….with some exciting news as well to share with you all. I’ll be needing your help more than ever and your participation is greatly appreciated.