Monday, 14 November 2011

Game 17: Montreal 2, Buffalo 3 (SO)

A bitter loss in the Shootout for the Good Guys tonight, who unfortunately snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The fight in the boys was not enough to overcome the poor lineup they had to ice due to injuries, a situation which was aggravated by more dings and dents suffered in-game. With players like Mr. Palooshaj, Engqvist and Nokelainen being relied on, and players like Tomas Plekanec spending time in the dressing room with the team trainers, the Canadiens are down to having not quite 3 NHL-caliber forward lines.

Another point to focus on is the defence corps, which is, incredibly, getting thinner still. The flu-ridden Hall Gill stayed home tonight, and the Antichambre crew now ruefully admitted that, as slow as he is, he would have come in handy and the game might have been won in the third instead of lost in the shootout.

I’m on record as saying that Jaro Spacek should be benched in favour of Alexei Emelin, even at the cost of a few losses, and now I may have to face that reality. Mr. Spacek was crunched in the corner and effectively demolished, in flagrant disregard of our historic ruins preservation bylaws. Tonight Mr. Emelin dished out a few hits but was on the ice for the Sabres’ tying goal. He was lowlighted by the RDS boys, and much was made of his poor positioning, but I think these are things which can be corrected with lots of coaching and encouragement. With the way our defencemen are being run by the opposition, we need his skillset on the team.

The game opened auspiciously, with a near breakaway by Erik Cole who drew a penalty. At the start of the play, I thought to myself how unfortunate that the Canadiens player didn’t have a stride or two closer to the blue line, since he might have won the loose puck, which the two Sabres defencemen seemed much better positioned to take control of, but then as it developed I saw Erik outhustle and outskate the Sabres. As he grabbed the puck, split the defence and swooped in on goal, Jordan Leopold gave him a hard slash to prevent the scoring chance.

I wondered about that slash, and whether Mr. Leopold thought to himself: “Instead of just hooking him, I might as well slash him on the hands/wrists, it’s the same two-minute penalty anyway.” I wondered whether he took a cold, Machiavellian, Lucic-ian decision, knowing there was no Canadiens who could make his life difficult later on in the game to exact justice, something which the zebras and now apparently Mr. Shanahan are unable and/or unwilling to do.

Also in the first period, we saw Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta be very brave against the (whoever as long as Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara are not on the ice) line. They were absolutely shameful in their comportment, and behaved like outright cowards. Paul Gaustad gave a simultaneous elbowing and knee-on-knee check in the back to Andreas Engqvist, which caused him to miss the rest of the game. Mr. Gaustad was whistled for three minor penalties, and demonstrated again that fighting in hockey is not about tough guys duking it out to police each other, but rather about bullies picking their spots. It’s rarely about a Lyle Odelein or Shayne Corson or Donald Dufresne or Rick Rypien who will play tough and aggressive, and damn the torpedoes, they’ll take on all comers if need be. In fact, it’s about Milan Lucic crashing into Ryan Miller and cross-checking Dominic Moore in the head, but running away from Georges Laraque and retreating behind the linesmen when Colton Orr biffs him a couple right in the kisser.

Carey Price is slowly elevating his puck-handling skills to an art form. He must be a joy to play defence with. So many times he cleared the puck to the right corner, or made the initial pass to the right man, or outright cleared the zone himself during penalties, and these were not soft dribblers, but rather solid clears that made it all the way to the other goal line. My goaltending heroes Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy were spectacular goaltenders, and even more spectacular puckhandlers, with every sojourn out of the net a potential hair-raising adventure. It’s refreshing to look upon our current goaltender with confidence in this area.

We saw Mathieu Darche have a shot to score unopposed against Mr. Enroth, and bullseye the puck right in his chest. In his next clear scoring opportunity, our very own ‘Manos de Piedra’, understandably decided to pass the puck to Petteri Nokelainen, a poor decision since he is also not a sniper, and because the puck sailed by him and no shot on net resulted. Mr. Darche seemed to be frustrated as the game wore on, he may be putting too much pressure on himself and gripping the stick too tight, trying to justify his powerplay time.

I had to chuckle also at the sight of Scott Gomez bursting in on goal during the overtime 4-on-3 powerplay, beelining from the bench right to the blue paint, with the puck on his stick… only to veer off to the corner. I imagined the over/under for the resultant minor aneurysms among Canadiens fans might be around 5.

The shootout also showed the Canadiens’ lack of depth, as our roster is short of pure scorers. Brian Gionta, our third shooter, would do in a pinch, but a more stacked team would not have had to send him out while he is still trying to work out of a slump.

All in all an unfortunate result, since we could have come away with a 2 point gain on the Sabres, and instead fall a point behind.

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