Monday, 20 October 2014

"Chickens" coming home to roost for Milan Lucic.

Milan Lucic is the master of deferring and delegating responsibility.  He's called Alexei Emelin a chicken for applying a textbook hip check, but denied spearing him in the groin, in the face of indisputable video evidence.  Days later, after getting caught again, this time on Danny DeKeyser, he glossed over it, saying he admitted to it, but not dealing with the initial staunch denial.  He then proceeded to spear Alex Emelin again in the playoffs.  As Kurt Vonnegut would comment, so it goes...

This weekend, he gave a faux, half-hearted apology, one we'd characterize as "du bout des lèvres", meaning that it came from the very tip of the lips, rather than deep within, from the heart, for getting caught making an obscene gesture to the fans at the New Forum and getting fined for it.  So not necessarily owning up to it, but admitting he'd been caught, he kind of grudgingly played the game, but didn't necessarily appear to be chastened by it.  He gave us the 'learning lesson' platitude, but really, didn't the hundred or so previous incidents serve as lessons, and fail to correct his behaviour?

David Pratt of TSN 1040 in Vancouver would have none of it on Monday morning, and spent a segment of the "Bro Jake Show" tearing Mr. Lucic’s head off.  He stated that the Bruin forward is always blaming others: the media, the city of Vancouver, Dale Weise, the fans in Montréal.  He opined, without supplying any evidence, that the money and lifestyle aren’t helping Milan, that his life is spinning out of control.  Which has been our analysis here at Relentless Ineptitude.

Here are some quotes from Mr. Pratt, as best they could be transcribed:

“He’s great, a great player, plays the Bruins’ game, had tremendous success as a Vancouver Giant. I want him to succeed.”

“I’m tired of the fans, the Bruins, the NHL, making excuses for him.”

“He embarrassed the Bruins, the NHL, the game with his disgusting move in Montréal.”

This is where the rogue organization that is the Bruins failed him. They’ve encouraged this type of behaviour for years from him and his teammates, or at least tolerated it. Andrew Ference, Zdeno Chara, Mr. Lucic, they’ve all crossed the line and been ‘supported’ by their coach, their GM, and team president Cam Neely.

If the Bruins had snapped to it with Andrew Ference’s glove malfunction, if they’d made him apologize appropriately, genuinely, and maybe sat him out one game, they’d have sent a message to their team that they are expected to play hard, tough, but fair, and with a spirit of sportsmanship and fair-play. Same with Zdeno Chara punching Sidney Crosby in his recently healed broken jaw, and a myriad other instances too long to review.

Last spring, after the handshake line fiasco, Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli awkwardly sat at a table and pretended to tell the assembled media that they hadn’t viewed any video of the incident and were in no position to comment. As if viewing that very video wasn’t the first thing they did. As if they were too busy contacting the beer distributor to cancel deliveries to attend to mundane things like the team and on-ice performance. Like it escaped their attention somehow.

The Bruins could have prevented this latest incident caused by Milan Lucic by very clearly and forcefully making him apologize about his threats during the handshake line and his conduct, and making him understand that such behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated, that he best save that famous competitiveness for when it counted, during a game. Instead, they waffled and let him off the hook and dissembled for him.

Accountability just isn’t the M.O. of the Bruins. Violence, intimidation and lawlessness is. As explained by a Gazette reporter, pre-game videos meant to pump up the fans in attendance at the New Gardens aren’t of goals or great saves, but almost exclusively of fights and concussive hits and instances of thuggery. They have a shill and manipulator in Jack Goebbels Edwards as their play-by-play man to fan the flames of excess.

So Cam Neely and his henchmen have kind of painted themselves into a corner, trading away Tyler Séguin for disciplinary reasons, but allowing Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand and Shawn Thornton and Greg Campbell to fester. And now that there’s a possible movement afoot to change the culture, it may come too late for them. And for Milan Lucic, who is very far down a path that means big trouble for him.

And Milan, giving an easy apology second-hand to a pool reporter in this age of Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and NBC-Comcast doesn’t cut it, it’s as meaningless as Andrew Ference coming clean a year later about his middle finger not being quite so accidental.

Canadiens recall Michaël Bournival from Hamilton as promised, but where does he fit in?

The Canadiens had sent Michaël Bournival down to the farm team prior to the weekend to get him some action, not having had a chance to work him into the lineup so far this season.  At the time they said he'd play two games and be back on Monday, and so it came to pass.

The question now is where and how does he fit in on the team?  Michel Therrien is very complimentary of the young player, that he plays hard, that he's a part of the depth of the team, and the fact that there are no injuries right now makes it harder for everyone to get a chance to play.  So we wonder now who has to sit out for Michaël to get into a game?

I think the players on the Top 6 are immune to pressbox duty right now, so Michaël must be worked into the lineup ‘by committee’, everyone has to take a turn. Travis Moen certainly, but maybe also Brandon Prust needs a therapy day against a less pugnaciously-inclined opponent, Manny takes an occasional night off, Jiri Sekac since he’s a rook, and yes, of course, René Bourque if he doesn’t sharpen up.

During Thursday's game, I noted four separate instances when he did a ‘fly by’ instead of finishing his check against a Bruin. With the proviso that I hate the whole ‘finish your check’ mentality, the latitude that is offered by refs to slow players who are a step or two behind chasing the puck, it still was glaring that René passed up those easy opportunities, almost as if he’d skated by a puck lying in the crease, waiting for a tap in, with the goalie out of position. It was a situation where you expected the forechecker to apply some kind of hit on the Boston defenceman, certainly in that type of game and rivalry, and when it didn’t happen it was surprising, greatly against expectations.

René is a big body, a useful player who can certainly be cost-effective.  I don’t think he voluntarily takes a night off, he just sometimes loses his focus. I posted a couple of years ago that his coaches should hold him to a simple standard: ask that every game, he get two hits on the scoresheet, and two shots on net. That’s it. Don’t worry about goals or assists, those will come and go, but every game, focus on giving the team two shots on goal, and two hits, and things will fall into place. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll get there.

On Thursday, René wasn’t playing with 100% commitment, for whatever reason. You still keep trusting him, keep playing him, keep coaching him. Have Scott Mellanby speak with him some more, apparently during the playoffs they talked and it triggered something (did it ever) in René. I still think you give him some powerplay time, to change things up, make it unpredictable and harder to defend, harness his big shot and big body, maybe give him a spark of motivation.

But also, based on results, and based on the need to play Michaël Bournival, you sit him a game or two here and there, until he makes it impossible to do so based on what he delivers.

Depth up the middle, or, should the Canadiens trade Tomas Plekanec so that Alex Galchenyuk can play centre?

I skimmed more than read the posts this weekend, but one general point that occurred to me, inspired by others' comments, is how we're debating whether to trade away Tomas Plekanec while his value is high, in exchange for a substantial return and assets we can use somewhere else in the lineup, and to precipitate the installation of Alex Galchenyuk as a fulltime centre.

Compare that to the Oilers who dealt away Sam Gagner because... because why again?  I remember the media prognosticators treating this as a fait accompli last spring, that he had to go, and I took it in stride, accepted that bit of logic and figured it must be a cap hit or 'fit' problem.  Except he was their #2 centre, and they didn't really have a #3, and Matt Hendricks used to be a decent #4 but is aging rapidly and is no longer a nice option, more of a patchjob now.

So they pulled the trigger on that trade, received little return, and then didn't find their #2 or #3 centres on the trade or UFA market, and stuck with Matt Hendricks.  And they're terrible, and have no depth.  Their #2 centre Leon Draisaitl really should go back to junior and progress, he's now in a sink-or-swim situation in a toxic atmosphere during a perfect storm, to roil metaphors.  The brittle Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has already missed games with injury after a fight with Dan Hamhuis.  They're naked at centre.

Compare again to the Canucks, who received an ultimatum and had to trade Ryan Kesler, but insisted on getting another NHL centre in return and landed Nick Bonino and other pieces.  They also got Linden Vey in a separate deal, a decent prospect who is thought to have completed his AHL apprenticeship and being ready.  With Brad Richardson as a stopgap, and Henrik Sedin as the #1, they retooled, they're not naked.  Bo Horvat will undoubtedly get sent back to Junior since he's not quite ready yet, and since they have that option with their roster, enough depth at centre to not be desperate.

Back to the Canadiens, there are two schools of thought on L'Antichambre, articulated by Vincent Damphousse and Guy Carbonneau.  Mr. Damphousse two weeks ago reassured everyone that there was no rush to put Alex at centre, that he's still got lots of developing and learning to do on the wing, that he won't waste his time there, he can contribute to a high degree on the wing, and used himself as an example, explaining that he played nine seasons at wing before coach Mario Tremblay made him a centre permanently, and he responded with his best season and over 100 points.

Guy Carbonneau meanwhile shows less patience, and referring to the salary cap and early UFA status for players (in his career you became a UFA at 30 or 31), as well as the slow indoctrination of Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, thinks that the time for Alex "to be good at centre is now", stated as a response to the slow and steady faction.  He pointed to Nathan McKinnon and other high draft picks, and said that these kids are counted on by other teams to take a lot of responsibility, so why should we insulate Alex and use a lesser player in his stead?

It's an interesting debate, and I think we'll all feel pretty smart when one of our centres goes down to injury with a groin pull for ten games or so, and we have a great fallback solution.  Last season we might have had Daniel Brière as our plan B, this year we're a good step beyond that.

Game 6: Canadiens 3, Avalanche 2

I was forced to watch tonight's 3-2 defeat of the Avalanche by the Canadiens on Sportsnet's frankensteined Hockey Night in Canada.  There was no way around it, RDS wasn't televising this game, so I had to slum it.  I admit there are some strong elements to the new show, mostly speaking of some of the added on-camera talent.  

Elliotte Friedman as always is excellent, and he's dropped a few pounds and gotten a haircut since last season, when he'd given up and let himself go.  

I've always enjoyed Damien Cox, despite the faint arrogance he emits.  He's strong, knowledgeable, authoritative, and opinionated without any histrionics.  

The new host George Strombolopoulos is a definite plus.  I like all his work, and he'll get the hang of this gig, he's vastly improved already from the first show, in terms of the segues and timing.  

Paul Romanuk who called the game is doing okay, I used to enjoy his game calls, enthusiasm and sense of humour.  Still strange that they fished him out of the U.K. when there is already so much talent in Canada, when Mark Lee was left to wither on the vine, but that's not a knock on Mr. Romanuk.

I'm very happy that Stephen Brunt is being used for long form reports.  He did great work with the back story on the small town in Sweden that the Sedins and Peter Forsberg among others hail from.  Mr. Brunt is not a barker, he has an understated tone, but I'm glad they're injecting his intellect and capacity to reflect to the broadcast.

Jean-Sébastien Giguère was a revelation.  He was smooth, informative, relaxed, shifted from the desk to the ersatz ice surface effortlessly.  The man has a future in broadcasting.  

The negatives are still the same, the cheesy graphics, the assault on the senses that the sets are, all lucite and neon and LED's and incipient seizures.  Imbeciles like P.J. Stock and Nick Kypreos who can barely speak and resist soiling themselves at the same time.  And don't get me started on Bob Cole still haphazardly doing a job many younger broadcasters could do much, much better.

The game was a delight for a fan of the Habs.  There were a couple of shots of a very expressive Patrick Roy after the Alex Galchenyuk and P.K. Subban goals.  I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking.

"Ta-bar-naque...  Maybe I should 'ave coach 'ere hinstead of the Colorado.  P.K., Galchenyuk, y sont pas mauvais pantoute..."

Max needs to shoot on breakaways instead of trying to deke, leave those for P.K.  

Alex Galchenyuk plays with impressive desire and confidence now.  He's rising to the expectation level we set for him, for a player of his talent and experience.  We talked a lot about the young defencemen benefiting from the departure of Josh Gorges, of the young leaders taking a step forward.  Well maybe Alex is one of those guys who'll benefit most.  There's no Brian Gionta or Daniel Brière for him to look to, for the team to rely on for the clutch goals and leadership.  He seems to have taken a look around and realized he needed to assume the role.  He's flying, swooping around, doing magical things with the puck.  The first couple of seasons, the puck found Alex.  Now, he's hungry for it, and he goes and gets it.  Love it.

Jarred Tinordi is settling into his role, in that we don't notice him much, which is good for him, but would be bad for a Nathan Beaulieu.  Nathan has to thrill us with his offensive acumen, and pile up point.  Jarred has to be quietly dependable.  

He also neutralized Cody McLeod when the Avs' forward thought he should 'jumpstart' or 'energize' his team by initiating a fight.  Early in the tilt, you got the sense that Mr. McLeod was regretting his decision, that he knew he'd bit off more than he could chew.  That's what I want from Jarred in this area, as much as possible.  Don't start stuff, but if a Brian Boyle or a Dave Clarkson is looking for trouble, re-adjust their attitudes.

Brendan Gallagher didn't add to his point total, but he was the Tasmanian Devil again out there, the little buzzsaw that never quits.  It was discouraging for us generally, in terms of the state of the game, when they showed a sequence where he held on to the puck, trying to take it from the corner to the net, protecting it, while a defencemen crosschecked and slashed him ceaselessly, with Mike Johnson happily narrating as if it isn't a problem, and all this happening right under the nose of a referee.  He was right frigging there, in the frigging camera closeup, but didn't deign raise his arm, didn't deem any of the dozens of stick fouls committed by the Avs' defender a penalty.

Rule 59 - Cross-checking
59.1 Cross-checking - The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.
59.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent.
59.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent (see 59.5).
59.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking.
59.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.
59.6 Fines and Suspensions - When a major penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic fine of one hundred dollars ($100) shall also be imposed.
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).

So crosschecking isn't a penalty unless the crosscheck is too forceful.  If a crosscheckee gamely resists and perseveres, no harm no foul right?  Crosscheck away, crosschecker.  But if the crosscheckee falls as a result, does he get a diving penalty?  What's the line, a broken rib and punctured lung for the recipient, is that too forceful?

Rule 61 - Slashing
61.1 Slashing - Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an opponent, whether contact is made or not. Non-aggressive stick contact to the pant or front of the shin pads, should not be penalized as slashing. Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.
61.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who slashes an opponent.
61.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who slashes an opponent. When injury occurs, a major penalty must be assessed under this rule (see 61.5).
61.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by slashing.
61.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – Whenever a major penalty is assessed for slashing, a game misconduct penalty must also be imposed.
61.6 Penalty Shot – refer to Rule 57.3 – Tripping.
61.7 Awarded Goal – refer to Rule 57.4 – Tripping.
61.8 Fines and Suspensions - There are no specified fines or suspensions for slashing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule28).
Again, a grey zone the size of Nunavut here.  Slash away pal, as long as Mr. Magoo thinks you're being non-aggressive while swinging your stick.  Don't mind the modulations as we adjust our tolerance level based on whether Daddy Campbell's son is playing, and all his cherubic gangmates.

The kicker was how, probably not more than thirty seconds later, they blew the whistle on P.K. for a holding call.  

To paraphrase D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Bettman just don't understand.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

24 CH, 2014-15 season, Episode 1: Notes

As a Canadiens fan growing up, I'd devour La Presse's sports section everyday for any scrap of news of my team, for the photographs, the stats pages.  I wanted to see how far ahead of the competition the team was in the race for the championship, or Guy Lafleur was in the scoring race, how close behind were pesky Marcel Dionne and Bryan Trottier.

When I could get my hands on Le Journal de Montréal, 'fruit défendu' at my house, but which was often left lying around greasy spoons or other house we'd visit, I'd dive into that too, so many colour photos.  There were also the call-in shows like "Les Amateurs de Sport" on CKAC, which were huge in those days, before the internet, you'd dial and dial the phone for days and never get through to have a chance to speak your mind.

Add in a five minute sports news blurb on "Le Téléjournal" on Radio-Canada, and that was about it in terms of where you could get your information on your favourite team.  Compared to today, it was a relatively arid landscape.

Which is why 24 CH is such a treat for me.  I'm like the Depression Era children who grew up to hoard food and cling to a steady job like life itself, and their Baby Boomer offspring who grew up in a time of comparative growth and wealth and imbued their own children with the sense that the world was theirs for the taking and there was nothing they couldn't achieve.  I too have been formed by my environment.  I grew up wanting to know everything and more about my Canadiens.

So I watch 24 CH attentively, despite the critics who point to the slick packaging and the editorial control of management.  I understand these considerations, but to me they're not reason to not watch the show, just a brake on any conclusions to be drawn from the viewings.  It's still an additional, fresh glimpse into the inner workings of a team, it provides insight and context when evaluating our team.

This season's episodes are again narrated by Claude Quenneville, a veteran from "La Soirée du Hockey", who handled the between-periods interviews and general hosting duties at first, then the radio play-by-play duties once René Lecavalier retired from TV play-by-play duties, and Richard Garneau moved up a rung in the hierarchy.

Mr. Quenneville was a little younger than his more aristocratic colleagues, but had a killer voice and a wry, understated sense of humour too.  There were reports that he and Guy Lafleur were close friends and would socialize outside of 'work', that they would go to nightclubs together, which gave him fantastic cachet.  When I think of the standard 'Who would you most like to have dinner with' question, if I couldn't go my usual Natalie Portman-Elle Macpherson-Stefi Graf trifecta, Mr. Quenneville would definitely have one of the seats at the table.  Oh, the stories he could probably tell of those Canadiens teams of the 70's and 80's...

Notes:

00:12  Opening montage of scenes of Montréal with a shot of Le Stade Olympique from a distance, probably from Mont Royal.  Sure, a white elephant of a boondoggle, but what a beautiful structure to look at from afar.  If I'd been mayor of Montréal back in the day, I'd have been panting to give Roger Taillibert whatever he wanted to get the thing built too.  What's a little budget overage between friends?

01:50  Judging strictly by our respective golf swings, I'm a better athlete than Alex Galchenyuk.  Mike Weaver takes a Happy Gilmore-swing for one of his drives.  The guy is jacked, and adds to his reputation as a glue-guy, a good teammate to have around who keeps everyone loose.

02:05  I'm also a better athlete than P.K. Subban.

02:30  Speaking of jacked, here's a shot of Mac Bennett doing dryland training at the practice facility.  His draft year writeups and scouting reports spoke of a skilled player and skater who was undersized and needed to work on his size and strength.  Here's a kid who put his four years at the University of Michigan to good use.  Last season at the prospect development camp, he was thrilled to report at the target weight of 195 lbs set by Player Development Coach Patrice Brisebois.  This year, they have him measured at 198 lbs.

03:00  Same goes for Jérémy Grégoire, he looks very powerful, especially when cut in with shots of a relatively slender Zachary Fucale.

03:15  Long segment focusing on the four Assistant Captains, who say all the right things about the move, their duties and their peers.  Maybe that media training that the players undergo every fall is coming in handy here, no missteps from anyone.

06:00  First glimpse at the renovations under way at the New Forum.  Everything is bigger, with more room, and focused on providing the players with the best facilities possible.

François Gagnon had spoken of these renos on L'Antichambre, and explained how Equipment Manager Pierre Gervais told of how team owner Geoff Molson approached him and asked how the team rink's facilities ranked compared to others in the NHL.  Mr. Gervais answered that at first they were top-notch, but fifteen years on they were maybe in the bottom third of the NHL.  I'm sure this wasn't the only reason, but following this conversation plans were made to tear down and start over at the New Forum, to ensure that it at least matched the excellent practice facilities in Brossard.

07:30  Quick shots of the rookie camp, with brief interviews with Christian Thomas, Jacob de la Rose, Tim Bozon and Jiri Sekac.

09:00  On to the main camp.  Quick shots of the regulars doing dryland training and testing.  One shot of Magnus Nygren with his shirt off and hair coiffed just so will be the reason I dislike him: not because of his comments about and flight from Hamilton last season, but because when you go to the pub with the fellas, if there's a guy like that in your group, you don't stand a chance, you get no attention whatsoever.

Lots of stability and range of motion tests, to detect any imbalances or problems that can lead to injuries.  These are the tests where maybe P.K. and Alex might have a slight edge on me.

09:45  We see Tomas Plekanec undergoing the newfangled power test for bench press, which involves an Olympic bar rigged to an elastic band and pulley, and must have a dynamometre in the system somewhere.  This is a newish test for me, in that I'm more familiar with the NFL 225 test, which has you doing as many reps as possible with a 225 lbs (100 kg) weight.  The NHL scouting combine used a modified version of that test, with a 135 lbs weight, basically one plate instead of two on the bar.

Of course this is more of a strength test, good for predicting one-rep maximums for candidates.  The Canadiens don't tend to scrimp on things, they're rather at the forefront, and I assume their trainers felt that a power measurement was more useful, but it's still an interesting deviation from the industry standard.  I have to believe they think it's a more useful measurement for a player, that power is more what a hockey player should strive for instead of strictly strength.

It's also on trend with the new training methods and crazes, with 'isolation' no longer being the be-all and end-all when it comes to conditioning and gym philosophies, it's all about compound or even total-body movements now and functional strength.  Notably, Crossfit training eschews the classic bench press, preferring to train the chest with movements like pushups, dips and burpies, which involve the whole body and the aerobic and anaerobic systems when done in long enough stretches and with brief rest periods.

What world do we live in when you can no longer ask another person "How much ya bench?"

10:00  Lars 'wins' the sprint test on the treadmill, another test I'm not familiar with.  He does look a little trimmer than last year, when he came in looking like Thor.  Some asked whether he was too bulky and heavy, and whether it affected his skating, quickness and agility.

10:50  Canadiens getting to see the new digs for the first time.  P.K. and Dale Weise are agog, like kids at Christmas.  Manny Malhotra, who's traveled quite a bit in his career and is in a position to compare, raves that they are first class.

Marc Bergevin takes P.K. by the arm and leads him to the players lounge, more colleagues than boss-employee.  Hard to see any residual tension after a tough summer of contract negotiation.

Geoff Molson proudly touring as well.  He greets prospect and Bulldog Greg Pateryn by his first name.  Details.

Maybe not the same conviviality between Head Coach Michel Therrien and Greg.  He's not as easygoing in his demeanor as the team owner and General Manager, as we've seen in the past, more gruff and sometimes awkward.

Gally and Chucky ignore everything and go right for the foosball table.  Those two kids, I tell ya...

Marc Bergevin, fully aware the camera is on him, approaches Francis Bouillon and asks "Do you know what paid for all this?  24 CH."  They have a good laugh, and you have to think this refers to a previous discussion the GM had with Francis or the team in general.

12:15  Geoff Molson at the Canadian Club.  He preaches, over and above financial contributions and investment in worthwhile causes, community involvement.  We see footage from last season's trip by the team to Lac Mégantic, to support the town after the catastrophe that destroyed their central core.

13:00  Segue to footage of the now annual meet and greet by players for fans attending the free Blanc-Rouge scrimmage at the New Forum, while Mr. Molson speaks of the impact the team can have for the fans.

"It's clear that the ultimate goal is to win.  To win, to succeed, it's the details that count.  It's the development of the player, not only on the ice, but also off the ice.  The development of the person, with the media, ..."

14:00  Behind the scenes footage of the new campaign with Jay Baruchel.  Should be good.

15:00  Exhibition games.  A win against the Bruins, then the Avalanche in Québec.  Brandon Prust humble-brags about calling his shot for his game-winning goal, he'd told Jiri Sekac on the bench beforehand that he'd close his eyes and shoot, and that it worked.

17:00  Game against the Capitals, and the big hit by Jarred Tinordi on Nate Schmidt that got him ejected.

17:45  Brandon and P.K. appear on a French-language TV show.  The host appears to know Brandon already, probably from being media personality Mariepier Morin's boyfriend.  P.K. is a ham and a star, shining in the spotlight as usual.  Brandon, P.K. and Mariepier end the show by shooting orange road hockey balls at the host, apparently wearing goalie gear for the first time.

19:20  Nathan Beaulieu admits to a difficult, up and down year the previous season, and vows that things will go different this year.

19:30  Exhibition games against the Senators.  I know Ottawa is a convenient team to play against in the pre-season, at least geographically, but I really like the suggestion from some fans that we avoid them in future, if only to punish/protest their goon tactics.

As is argued, they derive a financial benefit from all the Canadiens fans who buy tickets at their barn to see the Habs play, let's remove that benefit.  Marc Bergevin probably used his connections with Chicago to get us a game against them in the pre-season, let's do more of those, or with more 'neutral' geographic neighbours like the Sabres and Red Wings.

20:45  Closing montage.  The narrator speaks of constancy coexisting with change and upheaval, as we see shots of Greg Pateryn, Christian Thomas and Francis Bouillon, who don't make the cut at the end of camp.  We end with a shot of the team picture, with Dustin Tokarski at the right hand of Carey Price.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Game 5: Canadiens 6, Bruins 4

All it takes to silence the most hardened critics of the Canadiens, its players, its coaches, is a solid win against the ignoble Bruins, and what a relief tonight was, a Listerine barrel of a palate cleanser.  After a deflating 7-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night, which caused Elliotte Friedman to critique the team and its 3-1 record as "fool's gold", tonight's convincing 6-4 win against the smart-money favourite to win the East has righted the ship.

Great game from Alexei Emelin, who went above and beyond what's requested of him, namely that he be the steady-eddie next to P.K.  Rather, Alexei delivered the highlight of the night right at the start of the game, with a solid shoulder check to the ugly mug of Milan Lucic, who stewed for the rest of the game, and went full gorilla-mode at the very end.

It's time for mental health care practitioners in Boston or Vancouver to intervene before Mr. Lucic harms someone or himself.  Not to be politically incorrect, but if I was his girlfriend I'd find somewhere else to stay for a couple of days.  His scowling churlishness, his childishness, his petulance, his tendency to lash out in inappropriate ways at inappropriate times, all point to someone with very poor impulse control and anger management issues.

Despite all his pious vows to the media before the game that he was focused on the upcoming game for the right reasons, that his stats and his team's results were more important than any revenge to be meted out, Milan Lucic behaved exactly as we could predict he would.  He lumbered around ineffectually, took a boarding penalty at the end of the game against Alexei Emelin (pure coincidence we're sure) when he should have been trying to even up the score in a one-goal game, went maximum overdrive apespit gesturing to the New Forum fans while heading for incarceration in the box, then tried to approach the refs to harangue them after being let out of the cage after the Habs' powerplay goal, and got tossed from the game for a misconduct.

Milan Lucic is so far from being a competitor, or tough, that it's laughable when he is described as such.  His whining, self-serving, duplicitous comments to the media about his team not accepting diving from its own players, about being a competitive guy which prevents him from acting like a gentleman in a handshake line, about his flexing and Shawn Thornton's water bottle squirt at P.K. Subban being part of their 'Boston Strong' ethos, about not having speared Alexei Emelin despite clear video evidence for all the world to see, about Alexei being a chicken for delivering a perfectly-timed hip check, all point to someone needing a reality check, an intervention.

The thing is, Mr. Lucic is so far into his own head, is so trapped in his persona of the tough guy who won't lose, that he can't act appropriately when facing defeat.  He needs to put on a show to display to the world that he's not going down quietly.  He has to act like Milan, instead of being himself.  So when he's losing a game, he tries to geld Danny DeKeyser, he utters death threats to Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin, and now tonight he blows a gasket and seals the win for the opposition with a 90 second bezerker tantrum.

Someone who understands right from wrong, understands that actions have consequences, yet cannot stop from acting impulsively like Mr. Lucic is definitely in need of counselling.  And this should probably happen before the next nightclub brawl or domestic violence incident.

And I have to request now that Brendan Gallagher sever any connection with that pathetic maniac.  I don't care about the Vancouver Giant connection, about whether Brendan's dad acts as his personal trainer, it's not acceptable for him to associate with that piece of garbage.  It's beyond awkward now.  If Brendan wants to hang around with other Vancouver NHL'ers like Evander Kane or Ryan Johansen, that's fine, but not with the guy who's threatening and spearing and boarding your teammates and making obscene gestures at your fans.  Enough is enough.

Oh, and how many more times does Zdeno Chara have to butcher a play in his own zone before we stop pretending he's an elite defenceman anymore?  How long do we have to keep up with this charade?  Because he scored a goal while standing in front of the net?  That's why he's an elite defenceman?  Because if so, stand by while I explain that Randall Cunningham is the best quarterback in NFL history because he could also punt very well.

With that off our chest, we feel better and can rattle off the positives.  The first line finally converted its chances when buzzing around in the offensive zone, unlike the last couple of games.  Max took a few shots on net, and was always a threat to break away.  David was his usual indefatigable self, forechecking and pressuring when he didn't have the puck, creating chances when he did.  Brendan potted two goals, finally being rewarded for his ceaseless sacrifice.

Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored two goals, his first as a Canadien, and we can see that he has a chance to contribute to a much greater degree than Daniel Brière ever could.  P.A. will be useful as a point producer on any line he'll land on, all he has to do is be defensively responsible on those nights when things don't click for him.

Lars Eller and René Bourque have had a rough start to the season.  Tonight, I counted four fly-bys from René, opportunities when he was forechecking and could have finished a check on a Bruin defender.  Now I hate the very concept of 'finishing your check', but that's the league we're in, and the Bruins will certainly do it to our defencemen, so you think René would use his 215 pounds and return the favour to Boston.  He doesn't have to destroy anyone, board or elbow them, but just bump them after they unload the puck.  Make them aware that you're around, and the next time you're pressuring them they might be a little more skittish.  Some of his missed opportunities were so flagrant that I'm sure the coaches will have some video for him to watch tomorrow morning, and will try to get him onboard with that.

It wasn't all bad for that line, they got Jiri Sekac his first goal in the NHL, and René again had a few opportunities he came close to cashing.  Lars got a goal waved off, but his effort in the opposition slot bodes well.

Carey Price again didn't have a stellar night, but kept it together to a greater degree than, oh, let's say Bruin basket case Tuuka Rask, who messed the bed before leaving in the third period, his tremulous tail between his legs.  Carey stayed in it and managed to keep his team in the game and get the win.  He'll come around, I'm not worried.

A great win, a few things we can fix in practice the next few days, but for now les boys bought themselves a lot of patience from the fans, at least one loss' worth.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Tom Gilbert is everything we expected him to be early this season.

I think we need to take Tom Gilbert's contributions and performance in context.  The former Panther is already drawing some scrutiny for his play, but I think it's much too early in the season to criticize him, and when he is dissected it should be with some perspective.

He is signed to a very reasonable contract for a player of his experience and skillset.  He has two years at $2.8M per on his UFA deal, which is a bargain compared to what the Matt Nyskanens and Brooks Orpiks got this summer.  He's a right-handed veteran defenceman, who come at a premium in the league, with a greater emphasis on having left-right balanced pairings nowadays.

He was brought in to change the makeup of our d-squad, to accentuate the ability to break the puck out of our zone, as opposed to being a stalwart to man the ramparts as Josh Gorges or Hal Gill were.  To fault him for not being tough enough in our zone would be the same as faulting Daniel Brière for not being enough of a thumper on the forecheck, misplaced.  We knew that going in.

His contract not being an anchor makes him more of custodian while the young defencemen in Hamilton are working on their game.  We saw in camp that players like Greg Pateryn, Magnus Nygren and Darren Dietz are all showing promise but not quite ready.  If halfway through the season they are playing at too high a level for them not to earn a callup, we can easily make decisions as far as Mr. Gilbert and Mike Weaver are concerned.

It's interesting that the Oilers have made Jeff Petry, a defenceman who might be a carbon copy of Tom Gilbert, a healthy scratch for the last two games.  The buzz about him being scratched isn't apocalyptic, but rather that the Oilers might be well served to trade him, seeing as teams like the Kings and Red Wings may have already shown interest, being in the market for a right-handed puck mover for their blue line.

If Jeff Petry can be traded after not cracking the Oilers lineup, then certainly Tom Gilbert can be too, especially as injuries mount during the season around the league.  So we can stop worrying about Tom Gilbert, he's delivering what was expected, cost-effective minutes from an easily tradeable asset that we acquired for nothing.  Good deal.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Game 4: Canadiens 1, Lightning 7

This one smarts, an ugly 7-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were obviously eager to avenge their loss to the Canadiens during last year's playoffs, like the Canucks did against the Bruins in the famous "Game 8" of January 2012.

Tampa Head Coach Jon Cooper was interviewed on the pre-show on RDS.  When I first got to know him I was impressed by his attitude and communication skills, but he kind of lost it I thought during the playoffs, maybe like Michel Therrien did in the series loss against Ottawa the previous season.  Tonight though, again he was impressive.  For example he didn't whine about having had to play the series last spring without his #1 goalie Ben Bishop, but rather stated he's not sure he would have made a difference, that his team got beat cleanly and decisively.

I'd set up my PVR to the free Center Ice preview to record the game, but when I checked in early on, being careful to not spoil the score for myself, I realized I was tuned to the Tampa Bay feed on Fox.  I searched and found the RDS broadcast and switched to that instead.

I may have taken Pierre Houde and Marc Denis and the excellent technical work of RDS for granted last year, would sometimes watch on TSN or CBC just for the change, but not this year.  Now that I don't have the option to see and hear them work every game, I'll watch them any time I can.

The thing is though, my concern as to the Tampa coverage was unfounded.  I had to watch them for the first half-hour, and they had a good to excellent pre-game show, which set up the game very well for viewers.  They took it down a notch possibly for an audience that may not be as sophisticated as a Canadian audience, but they covered everything.  They reminded us of the playoffs, again with no whining, put Andrei and Tomas under the spotlight, and spoke of the Canadiens' hot start.  Someone coming into the game cold might have had most of the information they needed to enjoy it.

Same with the play-by-play team.  They didn't only focus on the Lightning, but gave some background on who the Canadiens were, spoke of the young defencemen, mentioned that Dustin Tokarski was a former Lightning.  The colour man was amusing when he explained that even though P.A. Parenteau has been in the league for years, only today had he learned what it stood for: Pierre-Alexander.  He riffed on that for a minute or so.

They had a good delivery, in a tone that spoke of their love of hockey, and their anticipation of a good game, with little to no homerism.  They did their research before the game and delivered information, mispronounced 'Plekanec' and 'Beaulieu', but had a good handle on who these and other Habs were.  They mentioned that Jarred was the son of Mark Tinordi, and gave a brief background on the latter.

So not an orgy of one-sided hyper-focus on their home team, but rather an enjoyable, competent job of a broadcast.  Which made me wonder why the Bruins' team can't do the same, give a more even-handed slant on the game.  And more topically, why not the CBC or TSN or Sportsnet when they cover a Leafs game?

Jarred Tinordi had a good start to the game, highlighted by an assist on his slap pass to Brendan Gallagher for a goal.  I did notice however an instance when he was behind his own net, with the puck and time to move the puck, and his partner Mike Weaver to his right, free and clear with no one around him.

The easy, safe, correct play would have been to draw the forechecker in a little more, make him commit, then swing the puck to Mike Weaver and allow him to break out the puck, with no pressure on him.  Instead, Jarred hesitated, then tried a high-risk pass through the forechecker, between his skates and stick, which got through and reached his winger, who safely got the puck out of the zone, but this was symptomatic of what Jarred has been doing, which is make things difficult for himself.  Instead of keeping things simple, playing hard defensive hockey and a physical role, which is all that's expected of him, he's trying to make the fancy passes that are more the domain of Andrei and P.K. and Nathan.

It is interesting how Andrei, with All-World skill, with all his experience, often makes the simple play, and keeps the puck moving that way.  Tonight, while skating towards his net to retrieve a puck at his own blue line, he was pressured by a Tampa forechecker bearing down on him.  Andrei calmly faked going backhand to clear the puck against the boards, to which the forechecker reacted to and started skating that way to intercept.  Andrei then calmly went forehand to his partner Jarred, who was wide open and facing the right way.  Lots of skill used to make the simple play.  It all took less than a second, but Andrei chose the safe option, only with a bit of panache by steering the defender in a different direction first.

It reminded me of an interview with Jim Kelly, the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback, in which he was asked in what situations did he ever 'force' the ball, rather than just finding the open receiver.  Mr. Kelly was perplexed for a moment, then explained that he always passed to the open man, and only in 'Hail Mary' situations did he ever force the ball.

But what about all those times when he squeezed the ball into those tight windows, over a linebacker and between two defensive backs, insisted the interviewer?  Jim Kelly laughed, and explained that on the field, unless he missed seeing a lurking defensive player, every player he ever threw to was open.

It's only later, viewing film of his games, that he realized that his standard of 'wide open' evolved as he gained experience, that what he might have felt was a covered receiver in college, with a defensive back half-a-step behind him, became an open receiver in the pros, and at the height of his powers all he needed was a quarter-step.  But he wasn't thinking to himself, "Whoa, that cornerback is all over Andre Reed", just "Open."

Jarred needs to make simple passes to open teammates, quickly and without overthinking, and not giving time to defenders to adjust.  See a good guy in the right colour jersey who's open?  Give him the puck.  Automatically.  And as he gains in experience and confidence, as he puts in the minutes and the reps, he'll unconsciously need his teammate to be less and less open, imperceptibly.  He'll notice two or three players who are open at the same time, or one who if he takes an extra stride he'll have an open lane for.

I teach snowboarding, and one of the principles I hold to is that a beginner who is just learning how to turn should never try to make a turn unless she's completely confident she can achieve it.  You can't accomplish a sliding turn on a snowboard unless you're loose, relaxed.  Being tense with knees locked up is a guarantee for failure, and a rider pitching over and falling, and maybe getting hurt a little bit, and having to waste precious energy struggling back to her feet.

So I repeat to them, again and again, don't challenge yourself, there's no benefit to it.  If it's too steep, too icy, too slushy, too crowded, too close to the trees, to the ditch, if that rocky outcrop looks like it has your name on it, just sideslip away from there.  When you reach an area with a gentle enough slope, with good conditions, and there's not a herd of skiers and riders rocketing by you stressing you out, then, and only then, perform a turn, and another, and another, until it gets wonky again, and then we'll sideslip some more to find more appropriate terrain.

After a few runs, inevitably, the rider brightens and says: "Hey, I just turned down that entire slope!  My first time I sideslipped down that whole thing on my heelside edge!"  And that's what happens.  As you gain confidence and coordination, your comfort level increases, and what seemed too steep and icy at first now is easy terrain.

I bring up the example of golf to my students, that you can't force a golf swing, you have to be smooth and relaxed.  If you tense up, or really try to muscle it, your ball and/or divot will land in the trees.  But if you just relax and take a nice, easy swing, the ball leaps off your club, down the fairway.

Jarred has to work through this stage, where everything looks fast and congested, acclimatize to it, by at first making the simple pass to his partner, or to the winger up the boards, until the game slows down for him, and he finds he has many more options.

By comparison, we saw that Nathan's mobility and confidence is more developed than Jarred's.  On a powerplay, Tom Gilbert tried to pass him the puck but it was cut off and J.T. Brown raced after it, trying to turn it into a breakaway.  Nathan calmly raced back, pivoted, and effortlessly while skating backwards fronted the Lightning forward and prevented him from getting by, and gained control of the puck.  A nice display of skating and awareness from Nathan.

More than the Dustin Tokarski experiment or the Jiri Sekac trial period, the Jarred-Nathan indoctrination must succeed.  Those two fellows will have the largest say on how our season goes.

Second period thoughts:

-Steven Stamkos is pretty good.  Is he the best in the league, even with Sidney?  Just about?  Better?

-Jason Garrison has had a nice array of teams he played for, from Florida to Vancouver to Tampa.  Does he end up in Phoenix or with the California teams in the future?  He's a useful player who didn't quite fit in Vancouver, big, some toughness, dependable.  His left shot didn't click on the powerplay, the Canucks' is set up with the Sedins so that the right shot of Kevin Bieksa and formerly Sami Salo is key.

His cap hit now seems more reasonable than when he was signed by the Canucks in 2012, $4.6M a season.  Maybe important for the Lightning, the Canucks paid him six of his $9M signing bonus in 2012 and 2013, and his salary will decrease to a mere $2.5M in 2017-18.

-With the powerplay flatlining, it's about time that René Bourque got some of those minutes.  He's a big body with a good shot, he might be a better option that Brendan Gallagher right now, as hard as it is to fault Gally on anything.

While it may have been anathema to the coaches to give René PP time last year, to 'reward' him when he did nothing to merit that, this season he's coming off a great post-season.  It might be a good move to acknowledge him for that, to put him in a position to succeed, to feed his confidence and keep him rolling.

It's a chicken and the egg thing, he's got confidence because he's been scoring, and if he scores he'll gain more confidence.  He's come close a few times this year, worked hard, let's harness this boy up.

Third period throughts:

- It's unfortunate that P.K Subban is a villain in the eyes of other fans, a player who is routinely booed in other rinks.  P.K. should be a player who is feared, respected, grudgingly admired, hated for being a reason the home team loses, but never booed.

I hate when we boo Erik Karlsson and Sidney Crosby at the New Forum.  Eric Gryba, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, sure, boo those guys mercilessly, every time they touch the puck, but not the opponent's star player, just because, for no real reason.

-It's harder to win when Tomas doesn't chip in his customary two goals.  WTF, Tomas?  Get in the game.

- Nathan Beaulieu ran into the Gary Roberts-trained Steven Stamkos and probably realized he has some work to do in the gym still over the next few summers.  He made up for landing on his keister in that collision by timing a nice hit on Brian Boyle, where his great mobility compensated for the Lightning forward's greater size.

- Not a great ending to the road trip, getting three wins out of four was nice, but to collapse this way in the last game, with a complete loss of competitiveness and cohesion, will leave a sour taste as they head home.  The Habs played the role of the Washington Generals at the end, and the Lightning lifted off the accelerator, sending out their fourth line for a game-ending powerplay.

Ideally they'd come home with a win in their last game, or at least a moral victory, not this debacle.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Should the Canadiens trade away Tomas Plekanec, 'Take 2'.

Here's a confession-mea culpa-explanation in this Age of "Pas d'excuses":

I was one of the people who thought we would/should trade Tomas Plekanec this off-season, or whenever the time was right. 

There.  I said it.

Now, allow me to squirm out of the icy grip of your contempt.

I wasn't advocating we 'get rid' of him, Stéphane Langdeau-style.  I actually thought he was the most valuable conceivable trade piece we had, a veteran centre in a time when every team is seeking depth at centre.  He also was a player playing a position we had a bit of a surplus at, and could be flipped for another at a position of penury (Top 6 winger).

One important reason also was my perception that Alex Galchenyuk needed to play at centre.  Now I would tut-tut those who said that he was being 'ruined' by playing on left wing, I thought he was still learning lots just playing a regular shift in the NHL at twenty years old, but you hear the concern about him not taking faceoffs so many times in our social media echo chamber that you start to believe it a little bit.

Once Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien made the rounds of the talk shows however, and proactively stated that Alex was a centre and would play that position in camp, and Marc Bergevin went further and explained that he wouldn't necessarily trade a centre away if Alex was felt to be ready to play there, since having depth at centre is a preferable situation to be in than to need one and be held hostage in trade talks, I was fully on board.  It's not that, like some of us claimed, that the brain trust didn't see Alex at centre, were blind to it, but rather that they saw him as being in a progression, probably still playing at wing, but getting more icetime at centre depending on the situations.

I really like our situation at centre now.  We have David, Tomas, Lars and Manny Malhotra as the regulars right now, with Alex literally in the wings, ready to pitch in when necessary.  Obviously, Michel Therrien feels the same way too, trusting Manny much more than he did Ryan White or Daniel Brière, and the fourth line resultantly being deployed much more frequently, upwards of ten minutes a game so far.

And as we supposed, Tomas has been energized by his modified duties, shedding a significant chunk of his defensive minutes to Manny, and being able to focus on offence.  Further, being partnered with Alex and having jettisoned an increasingly ineffective Brian Gionta has meant we've seen a more spectacular Tomas, an imaginative version who we only saw in flashes lately, out of breath on a penalty kill breakaway, or passing the puck to the black hole on his left wing, be it Mathieu Darche or Travis Moen.

So, uh, kudos for not acting on my injunctions to trade Tomas Mr. Bergevin.  I'll stop trying to play Jerry Jones, I'll let you helm the ship.

For now.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Game 3: Canadiens 4, Flyers 3 (SO)

Your 2014-15 Montréal Canadiens are a runaway train of in extremis comeback wins.  And emotion.

Tonight, they spotted three goals by the second period to the ignoble Philadelphia Flyers, an amoral enterprise composed of characters such as Zach Rinaldo and Vincent Lecavalier and helmed by Charles Manson protégé Ron Hextall, before roaring back to life in the third and shelling goalie Ray Emery with 19 shots.  They outskated and bewildered the ponderous, slow-witted Flyers defencemen, notably Nick Schultz and failed-Leaf Luke Schenn, the once future-face of that other sorry franchise.  The gallant Habs righted the wrong and evened the score, before winning the game 4-3 in the shootout.

As they did in Washington, the Canadiens had a torpid start to the game, but found their legs as the game advanced.  It seemed unfortunate that they were three goals down, as opposed to a mere single goal in D.C., but at least the game grew more entertaining, one was moved to optimize.

Among others, P.K. Subban had a really difficult start to the game, epitomized by a muffed bodycheck along the boards against Nick Schultz early in the first, his fabled 'bee sting' hip check.  In another of many instances, P.K. didn't get the timing just right, possibly because Mr. Schultz anticipated it, but anyway the Flyer squirted past it and managed to create a scoring chance.

One of the clichés of sports is that certain players need to have a short memory, be it a goalie, a cornerback in football, a closer in baseball.  The concept is that this position places great pressure on the incumbent, and mistakes often result in a spectacular failure, a goal against, even a loss.  These are inevitable, no player being perfect, and when they do occur, the player has to forget about it, and move on to the next play, the next game, with the same cocky confidence as ever.  If he starts to doubt himself, second-guess himself, he won't play on instinct, he'll hesitate, and won't be as effective.

So we'll say that a defenceman has to have this same mindset, he needs to have this ability, this short memory, so that when he gets beat and the puck ends up in his own net, he can put it behind him and move on to the next shift, the next game.

This model, this analogy works, but only to a certain extent.  Yes a young defenceman has to be able to rise above his mistakes, forget about them, and play with confidence, but in another way we want him to also learn a valuable lesson from them, and seldom if ever repeat them.  In that regard, we'd rather that a player had a 'long memory', that he vows "never again!", and that this is largely the case.

In P.K.'s case, he's had spectacular success in the past with the bee sting when everything falls just right, as can be seen on YouTube and as Brad Marchand can attest.  Unfortunately for him, the league has learned this too, and has adapted.  Most players now see him coming and take evasive action.  Often, this is when P.K. is on the tracks, on final approach, and can't really deviate course anymore.  So he's been whiffing on quite a few of these bee stings, as he did tonight.  And it's about time he figured it out.

P.K. can be very frustrating sometimes, when he makes the same mistake over and over again, the same play that leads nowhere.  It took him two or three seasons to rein in his golf swing slapshot, that he scored with a few times early, but which became imprecise and would more often than not end up in the glass rather than on net.  After a lot of angst from Habs fans and forwards who had to stand in front of the net with pucks whizzing by their ears, he cut down on the backswing, took a little off the shot but made sure it hit the net, and his point totals jumped.

He needs to understand that the bee sting is the same sort of situation, a high risk-high reward play that you don't necessarily rely on as your go-to move.  It's a club you take out of your bag only in specific circumstances.  Most times, you need to drive your shoulder into the chest of your opponent until you garydornhoefer him through the boards.  That's your go-to move.  Make use of your strength and overpower your opponents, prevent them from evading you and having a clear run to the net.

Same with the stickhandling through the neutral zone and not utilizing his forwards.  How many times does he have to do that, force them to brake at the blue line, and be stranded there with no momentum, while he tries to knit his way through a forest of defenders and coughs up the puck?  When does it sink in for him that the right play is to pass the puck to a speeding forward, or to at least take or put the puck in deep, but not to scottgomez it along the sideboards, a metre up the blue line?  How many times does he have to make that mistake, before he learns from that mistake?

And I don't want to hear that he's still young, he's still learning, that he's improving all the time.  That went out the window when he signed that $72M contract.  It was okay for him to be the frisky colt his first couple of seasons, and the nervy thoroughbred for a couple more, but now that he's taking that gigantic bite out of the team's salary cap, he has to be the best, smartest player on the ice, all the time.  He can't be uneven, have ups and downs.  I'm not taking the good with the bad.  At 9 mill per, he needs to be as much of a blemish-free game-changer as Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

With great lucre comes great responsibility.  I didn't have much sympathy for Roberto Luongo when he said that his contract sucked.  He didn't need to sign in Vancouver.  He knew they were overpaying him to make him stay, he could have been truthful and said his heart wasn't in it.  Instead, he took the overpay, and when Corey Schneider outplayed him, demanded a trade.  When he knew he was supposed to be the face of the franchise with the Sedin brothers.  He needed to be a huge pillar everyone relied on.

P.K.'s been told a thousand times by his coaches, teammates, the media, the fans, he needs to understand it.  Make the right play, the safe play.  Develop your pieces on the board, control the centre, don't go for the checkmate right away.  Move the runner by making contact with the pitch instead of going for the home run all the time.  Make the quick pass and trust your teammates instead of trying to do it all yourself in a highlight reel move, even though you did it once and it worked.  Remember all those other times that it didn't.

You are getting paid too much to be making rookie mistakes, we have Nathan and Jarred for that.  They need to see you being the smartest, best player on the ice, not the most spectacular player.

Because early on there needed to be that example.  Our defencemen made error after goof after flub.  In a short span in the second, Nathan Beaulieu whiffed while making a pass as he approached his blue line, and Sean Couturier gathered the puck and went right after Carey Price with a deke, hitting the post.  Five minutes later, Mike Weaver, trusty dependable veteran that he is, skated out of the corner to the right of Carey Price and, faced with two forecheckers, coughed up the puck to them, again on a whiff, giving Brayden Schenn a clear shot at the net.  If they were watching, Greg Pateryn and Magnus Nygren and Darren Dietz must have thought that they're not that far away from the NHL after all.

After Head Druide Michel Therrien fed his boys their potion magique in the second intermission and they stampeded onto the ice, they at times seemed to be on a 5-on-5 powerplay.  The Flyers rope-a-doped, and the Canadiens won every battle, cycling the puck along the boards, passing it with ease, Andrei Markov sometimes double and triple-clutching on passes or shots, so little pressure being exerted by the Flyers.  Andrei started les boys off with a shot through traffic after lots of pressure in the Philly zone, and lots of scrambling and bumbling by the guys in orange.

Tomas Plekanec, rejuvenated by the support from Manny Malhotra for defensive duty at centre, has transformered into a snipering goalbot.  He potted his fourth of the season shortly after Andrei's.  His goal was an archetypal Steve Shutt goal, in that he was standing on the far side of the net, just minding his own business, when the puck bounced his way and he tucked it under the crossbar before Ray Emery could grab a taxi and make his way back.  Magmatically hot, Tomas also took the shot that Alex Galchenyuk tipped in to tie the game five minutes later.

The Flyers had a couple of opportunities the rest of the way, but they were the dead-cat bounce, the death rattle rather than any show of spirit and character from these guttersnipes.  They couldn't cash in a powerplay during the overtime period.  Instead, the best chance came on a breakaway by Alex Galchenyuk, who was a little too close to Ray Emery when he gathered the puck to set up properly.  He tried a forehand-backhand move but it went straight into the goalie's glove.

During the shootout Alex tried that move again, probably wanting to prove a point, with time to execute the manoeuvre, but again Mr. Emery plucked the puck with his mitt.  Four shooters a side were needed, with no one scoring except the last, P.A. Parenteau with a nifty shot glove side.

So the Canadiens head to Tampa with three wins to open the season, and a day to rest tomorrow and catch their breath.  Maybe the sun will get them a boost, and they can come out charging and put the game away in the first this time.  Especially if Anders Lindback is in nets.  Or the current reasonable facsimile.