Saturday, 12 November 2011

Game 16: Montreal 2, Nashville 1 (OT)

We are starting to get the measure of the Canadiens. They are a spirited team who will work and skate hard every game. They'll scratch and claw for wins. They can eke out wins on the road against lower-tier teams. They can when inspired beat the league's powerhouses. They will fight to earn a spot in the playoffs.

After an overtime win against the Coyotes, again they earn a close one in OT against the Predators. It was a relatively pedestrian win, with the good guys not being able to finish chances around Pekka Rinne's net.

Our fingers can back off the panic button and assume a not-so-hair-trigger hover position when it comes to the backup goaltender. After having looked awful in pre-season, Peter Budaj put in a solid effort in this start, his second quality appearance out of two.

David Desharnais caught my eye early in the first period with his skillful work along the boards. A lot of fans think he doesn't belong because he isn't built like Joe Thorton or Bobby Smith, but he is effective and uses his size (or lack thereof) to his advantage. I saw him duck under flailing checking or cross-checking attempts, and while he can't bullrush someone off the puck, he is skillful with his stick and seems to more often than not win puck battles with his surgical accuracy and timing. While a bigger opponent tries to whale at the puck, he times it just right and finesses it out of the corner. I saw him also use his skate to grab the puck, something which a taller, lumbering defenceman will have difficulty doing. He was rewarded for his efforts tonight by a goal set up by a lovely pass from Erik Cole, who is generous almost to a fault these days.

PK Subban seems to be settling down, and received some love on RDS tonight. Some posited that Randy Ladouceur may have a calming effect on him and may be imparting wisdom that is actually sinking in. Meanwhile, Hal Gill surprised me again tonight, as he chose to leave his position and go for a skate with the puck or to lay a hit on someone. If PK pays attention, he'll notice that Mr. Gill is effective in these instances, since the opposition is completely caught off guard when he does anything aside from the safe, conservative, easy play. PK is slowly learning that throwing 9 left jabs for every overhand right is the right way to go, as opposed to always going for the knockout punch.

It was also amusing to see Jacques Martin unable to help himself and using Scott Gomez on the powerplay, even though he is not fully healthy. Maybe the goal by Shea Weber will cause him to reconsider, since Mr. Gomez was largely at fault on the play. I believe that the skillset Mr. Gomez brings to the table is not one which is sorely needed on the team, and we would be better served having kept Mike Blunden in the lineup instead.

Which brings me to Alexei Yemelin. I'm disheartened, again, that he is being left off the roster, while Jaroslav Spacek is given free rein. His penalty tonight was brutal, and resulted from his lack of mobility and strength. Mr. Emelin would have had the physical tools to deal with the same situation, and if not would at least have had a learning opportunity to profit from. Again, Mr. Emelin needs to play. Every minute invested in him will benefit us in future seasons, while Mr. Spacek is a lame duck and any investments in him are wasted, as he will be gone this summer.

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