Saturday, 3 December 2011

Game 27: Montreal 2, Los Angeles 1

As a taxpayer and thus an owner of the CBC, can I add my voice to the clamour concerning the eroding skills of hockey play-by-play man Bob Cole? I haven't been part of the campaign against this gentleman before, so I would consider myself relatively unbiased, but right at the outset of the game he drew my attention, by bungling and mangling the call repeatedly. These accumulated until I was paying attention more to his syntax than to the actual game. I think a play-by-play man should be judged like a referee, which means he usually excels when he isn't noticed, aside from the occasional Al Michaels "Do you believe in miracles?!" moments. Mr. Cole, among other misses, said that "Carey Price stopped it with a bullet!" (?), mistook Raphaël Diaz for David Desharnais, and frequently would refer to someone as 'the player' or 'the goalie' when he couldn't come up with their names.

There is great unrest and misery in the land. Unemployed peasants are storming capitals around the world. There is such a shortage of gainful employment that a multitude of completely unqualified or morally disqualified people are applying to the presidency of the USA. In such a climate, isn't time now, or at least at the end of the season, for Mr. Cole to step aside and allow a sprightly fifty-year-old go-getter to embark on a new career? There must be at least twenty qualified aspirants who could take over this role, which would dispense us from having to watch Mr. Cole desiccate into oblivion.

Another jarring moment in the Hockey Night telecast was having to hear hulking Matt Greene, skilled practitioner of the forearm shiver delivered to the back of the head of Frédéric St-Denis in the first period, speak during the intermission on the need to reduce dangerous hits in the NHL.

As far as the game itself, the win provides some relief to the undermanned, snakebitten, affirmation-seeking Canadiens. The Good Guys scored a couple of nifty goals, and missed and bungled on a few more opportunities, notably by Erik Cole and Mike Cammalleri, who both work hard and are creative but need to finish a little more than they are doing now. Mathieu Darche has no confidence and on a good opportunity he set up, waited for Jonathan Bernier to be good and ready, at which point he wristed the puck right into his chest pad. I've called for 'intervention' coaching recently for players such as Andrei Kostitsyn and P.K. Subban, where video is used to delve with the players on some of their decision-making. Mathieu needs to review this scoring chance with a coach and think about three other better options he could have explored rather than giving Mr. Bernier a straightforward shot.

The last three minutes of the game made me question the Canadiens' strategy. It is fashionable for fans to lay the blame on the head coach for instances such as these, but I'm inclined to believe that the Canadiens' lack of finish and poor results on the power play make them skittish when protecting the lead, and more intent in killing the clock than on scoring an insurance goal. We saw during the last two minutes, when the Glorieux were on the powerplay, how they weren't grabbing the puck and rushing up the ice to give the Kings the coup de grâce and pad their individual stats, but instead scrambling and shambling and glancing up at the clock. We saw P.K. ice the puck while on the powerplay, and with a Kings empty net. This play occurred because they were lax in retrieving a Kings clearing attempt, which led to a good deal of buzzing in the Canadiens zone.

Maybe the big news of the day, which is that Andrei Markov's knee will be scoped to clean out scar tissue and debris, requiring him to sit out at least another three weeks (a great decision by all, and good news, since it explains the swelling and soreness he has been experiencing) will point the Canadiens towards self-empowerment and self-reliance, instead of looking over their shoulders and waiting for reinforcements.

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