Thursday, 17 November 2011

Game 18: Montreal 4, Carolina 0

I got my jollies watching the Canadiens rack up on easy win against the Hurricanes last night. Jacques Martin, harried on all sides by a bloodthirsty, Stanley-deprived Commentariat, has been forced all year to ice what he feels is his absolute best lineup with no regard for the development of this franchise's future. As a result, he has relied on his veteran defencemen at the expense of rookie defencemen, and especially of Alexei Emelin who has had to watch eight games from the pressbox.

Against the Hurricanes, Mr. Martin didn't have a choice, with Mr. Gill and Mr. Spacek unavailable to play. He had to play his rookies, and they responded, especially Mr. Emelin, who logged 18 minutes and made numerous good plays on defence, notably a solid bodycheck on Jiri Tlusty and another on Jeff Skinner near Carey Price's net. I'll state again that Mr. Emelin brings a different skillset to the Canadiens that is needed, he is the only big defenceman with the mobility and strength to hit, so he must be in the lineup. Always. Add in another goal on the powerplay and generally solid game by Yannick Weber, as well as the mostly glitch-free NHL debut of Frédéric St-Denis, and you have a young group of defencemen who are showing promise and deserve the icetime to continue to improve.

PK Subban is almost, by necessity, being treated as a veteran, and he is responding well. He had a couple more of his shrug/appeals-to-the-referee, which drive me up the wall, but overall he is making more safe, solid plays rather than the spectacular and difficult plays on a regular basis.

Mike Cammalleri scored a nice goal on a blistering slap shot, one he delivered after a pause to allow the Carolina defender to properly get in the way and screen Cam Ward. There have been grumblings this season that Mike is not delivering and is a reason the Canadiens are off to a slow start, but he gets the benefit of a couple dozen doubts in my eyes. He is a leader in the room and on the ice, speaks eloquently and with restraint and humour when interviewed, shows dignity and acts like he's done it before when he scores, and has battled through some unfortunate injuries but come through in a big way in both playoffs he has been in with us. Add in that he's a dedicated athlete with respect to his off-ice, off-season conditioning, and I'm glad he's our on team and would take a few more like him.

I observed Tomas Plekanec make a play that I've criticized Andrei Kostitsyn for making. He has on a couple occasions taken the puck from the corner and skated along the board toward the blue line while in the offensive zone. Both times though, he ended making a solid play with the puck, once passing cross-ice to the slot, and once clearing the puck back to the corner to his waiting winger, in stark contrast to Mr. Kostitsyn, who had twice lost possession at the blue line and created a breakout opportunity for the other team. I hope Andrei is watching and learning, or even better that the coaches are on it and breaking this down on video for him.

All in all, a good win, in that a weaker, dispirited team was put away instead of being allowed to hang around all game and stealing a point or two. Once more tonight in Uniondale would be very welcome.

As far as the Eric Staal and Bryan Allen for Scott Gomez and Jaroslav Spacek and a sixth-rounder trade rumour, I hope they are founded but I don't think this is realistic, it would take at least a fifth or even a fourth-rounder to clinch that deal.

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