Saturday, 5 November 2011

Game 13: Montreal 3, New York Rangers 5

A moral victory for the Canadiens tonight, instead of the genuine article. They lost due to their own lack of discipline, and the sharp-eyed referees made every call except the first one, which should have gone against the Rangers.

Early in the game, Mike Blunden stepped off the Canadiens' bench and laid a solid hit on Brandon Dubinsky, who was carrying the puck at the time. Play continued into the Canadiens' zone, where Ryan Callaghan caught up to Mr. Blunden and started to fight with him. A scrum ensued, with other players grabbing each other, notably Hal Gill with Brandon Dubinsky, and Petteri Nokelainen with Michael Sauer. When it was all sorted out, the penalties evened out, except for the Canadiens receiving a minor for too many men on the ice, and another minor for obstruction. This was a clearly blown call by the referees. We can't really argue the too many men penalty, but the obstruction call is questionable. If Mr. Blunden can't throw a clean bodycheck on the puck carrier, he will have a short career in the NHL, since he won't stick strictly on his pugilistic skills, as can be seen on YouTube and as he demonstrated again tonight.

The fact that there was no instigator penalty called on Ryan Callaghan is a travesty. He skated from the neutral zone to deep in Canadiens territory to catch up to Mr. Blunden, dropped his gloves first, and went after him in obvious retaliation for his clean (I want to stress this) check on Mr. Dubinsky. If anything, Mr. Shanahan could use this sequence to illustrate Rule 46.11 in one of his training videos. Obviously, based on tonight's game as well as any game the Canadiens play against the Bruins, the consequences of this infraction are so severe, namely an instigating minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting and a ten-minute misconduct, that referees are loath to call it. This non-call was pivotal in the game, since it provided the Rangers with a 5 on 3 powerplay, whereas it probably should have only been coincidental minors. The Rangers used this two-player advantage to gain the lead that they would never relinquish.

The Braying Asses on Hockey Night in Canada are perennially prophesying the end of the NHL, the end of hockey, the end of Western Civilization if the instigator rule is not repealed. If only they removed their heads from each other's colon, they could observe that it is effectively a technicality on the books not to be enforced, like insider-trading or false-advertising statutes.

The good side of the story, which provides the moral victory, is that the Canadiens never quit, and this game could have gone either way. They were creative and dangerous around the Rangers' net, hit two posts, and threatened all night. Erik Cole and Mike Cammalleri pinged the posts, and seem to be getting the hang of each other. All summer we predicted they would play together, only we thought it would be with Plekanec at centre, and the two do seem to be a good combination.

I paid attention to Jaro Spacek and Andrei Kostitsyn, since they've been a bit of a hobby-horse for me, and I wanted to observe their positive contributions. Andrei made it easy by scoring a nice goal, and by seeming to be hungry for the puck. Mr. Spacek also played well, and I was impressed to see him absorb a few bodychecks yet remain standing, as opposed to imploding or suffering a controlled collapse or spontaneously combusting, as he did last season and during the Winnipeg game earlier this season. I admit that he is effective, but I still advocate that Alexei Emelin should be given his icetime.

Maybe the icetime should be subtracted from another player though, and I'm thinking of PK Subban. He has been up and down this year, sometimes getting caught being too aggressive and/or trying to do too much, but tonight was another hiccup. I was mildly impressed that he made simple plays, and on the powerplay also kept it simple and effective, choosing to make easy passes and blasting a few shots at net. Just as I was formulating this thought, he skated up to Henrik Lunddqvist and braked hard, giving him a snow shower. He earned two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, thwarting the Canadiens' comeback attempt.

I know PK is a work in progress, and is still young and has time to mature. I want the coaches and veteran D-men to work with him and get him to understand that he doesn't need to be an 'agitator', that he has too much talent to waste his energies that way. I want him to play hard and tough, to hit opponents cleanly, and to use his creativity as a break in between the majority of the time when he makes the simple, easy, effective play. I want him to stop needling opponents and jawing at them, to stop the little hooks and slashes, followed by his head-swivel-to-the-referee-with-a-full-shrug-palms-up-plee, to stop embellishing when he gets (often) deservedly pushed or shoved or popped in the mouth. Is it too early in the season for his Jacques Martin-approved "Cure de Jouvence sur la Galerie de la Presse"™ ?

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