Thursday, 1 December 2011

Game 26: Montreal 3, San Jose 4 (SO)

Before the game started, RDS was cycling through the NHL news and back-to-back mentioned that Mike Grier had announced his retirement, and that the Bruins were sending Jordan Caron down to the AHL. I immediately thought how either or both of these players would make our team instantly stronger, mitigating the lack of depth and plugging giant holes on our fourth line, and even nowadays on our third line.

The Canadiens played a second game in two nights, on the road and jet-lagged, yet showed more spring in their step, more fight along the boards, and more creativity offensively. We saw Alexei Emelin flatten Joe Pavelski with a thundering hit in the middle of the ice. Erik Cole suffered the same fate against Jason Demers, and showed determination in getting up, readjusting his cup and his grasp on his personal identity and consciousness, chasing down his pinwheeling stick, to then grab the puck in the defensive zone and rush it into the Sharks zone. We saw David Desharnais produce offensively, after being relatively quiet on the score sheet over the last few games, and win a puck battle against gigantic Joe Thornton that led to Erik Cole's goal. To achieve this, Mr. Desharnais had to show resolve despite the foregone conclusion that he was wasting his time, since it is dogma that he is too small to be an effective NHL centre.

Benoit Brunet attributed the higher energy level displayed by the Glorieux on the Price-Budaj Effect, whereby they play with more confidence and enthusiasm with Carey in nets. He argued that the Canadiens should have gone for the 'sure' two points in Anaheim by playing their #1 goalie, and then taking their chances at two much more elusive points with Mr. Budaj against a stronger Sharks team, and in hindsight it's hard to disagree with his logic.

When the Canadiens went into overtime, we saw how their brisk skating pace and crisp passing is an advantage when playing four-on-four. The action was relentless, up and down the ice, and the Canadiens weren't outclassed by the big bad Sharks. It led the dreamier Canadiens fan to wonder how much better hockey would be if the skilled players had a bigger ice surface to work with. This fan then wonders how much more exciting the game would be if all the half-slashes and full-crosschecks were called by the refs. He fantasizes about how the team might have fared if it had opted to draft Jarome Iginla rather than Terry Ryan. He then wonders how much better a job he would have done had he produced and directed the reincarnated 'Charlie's Angels', given Minka Kelly and a casting couch. The fan then snaps back to reality, and just in time, as Mathieu Darche is about to join the rush.

The shootout again proved to be Carey Price's kryptonite. The Sharks' pro scouts apparently had done their job, as their shooters seemed to have a very definite plan, going low stick-side on repeated successful attempts. Evidently Mr. Price and Pierre Groulx have yet more work to do. It was gratifying to see the Canadiens shooters succeed, wince-inducing to hear Mike Cammalleri's shot ping off the post, and puzzling to see PK Subban taking the last attempt while Tomas Plekanec was still available on the bench.

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