Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pre-Season Game #2: Buffalo 3, Montreal 1

Another loss for the Canadiens after last night's shootout loss, this one ending in a closer score of 3-1. Given that the Sabres scored an empty-netter in the last minute, this was a more evenly contested game than Monday night's 6-3 result against the Dallas Stars, especially when considering the fact that the Sabres had 14 regular players in their lineup, compared to 9 for the Canadiens. The score isn't the important consideration, especially this early in the pre-season, when the team's intent is to allow young players an opportunity to showcase their talent instead of being as competitive as possible.

PK Subban caught everyone's eye with flashy skating and puck-handling, almost to excess in one viewer's opinion. He seemed to more often than not choose the difficult or fancy play over the simple one, and the expectation here was that he would soon commit a blunder of bench-stapling proportion. Instead, he scored the Canadiens lone goal on a beautiful setup by another promising youngster. I wondered if he was trying to take too much on his shoulders, with so many regulars missing from the lineup. Let's hope he's only trying some moves out during the exhibition season, and he'll tone it down during the regular season.

Nathan Beaulieu put in an impressive performance, tallying an assist on the lone goal. He played the most minutes of any defenceman, five-on-five, on the power-play and the penalty kill. He showed remarkable poise for an 18 year old, rushing the puck and supporting the attack in the offensive zone, as well as making a couple of sweet long outlet passes that led directly to scoring chances. The Antichambre denizens were discussing the possibility of keeping him with the big club instead of sending him down to his junior team this season.

Among the forwards, Max Pacioretty played a good game, getting good shots on goals. His centreman David Desharnais provided a lot of excitement, constantly being around the puck despite his reputation of not being a fast skater.

The star of the night for this viewer was Brendan Gallagher. Another small player, Mr. Gallagher was reported to be creative and productive with the puck, but afflicted with the dreaded 'small and slow' tag when he was drafted. A strength and conditioning coach's son, he has worked assiduously this last year and is now a quick and strong skater, as evidenced by his performance tonight. Whereas some of the other young Canadiens forwards showed heart but seemed a step behind the play (Philip DeSimone, Aaron Palushaj, Gabriel Dumont), Mr. Gallagher was a step ahead, creating room and opportunities with his stickhandling and mobility. It is obvious that he would benefit from another season in Junior, during which he could mature physically and hopefully play high-caliber competitive hockey during the World Junior tournament over Christmas, but it is tempting to think about keeping him in Montreal for at least the start of the season.

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