Saturday, 17 December 2011

Game 33: Montréal 3, New Jersey 5

I'm perplexed about tonight's game. Should we be patient with the team now that Jacques Martin was terminated? Does this reset the populace's goodwill again, wipe the slate clean like the Perry Pearn termination, and like the Tomas Kaberle acquisition was supposed to do? Or, oppositely, should expectations be ratcheted up now that the Fire Everyone Brigade got one of their two most sought-after head on a pike? Should we have expected a re-energized, inspired group to storm the Brodeur fortress? Was it too much to hope for at least a dead-cat bounce?

I was tempted to blame the officiating for the loss, seeing as the perfidious Chris Lee was one of the henchmen delegated by the League to rob the Good Guys of a win in another creative manner. I did see some whoppers, like the interference call on Mr. Cole in the second period, for having been in the path of a blind Devil who ran into the 7 on the back of Erik's jersey. I saw Mike Blunden deliver a good, clean hit behind the Devils' net, and be rewarded for his efforts with two solid crosschecks to the back of his helmet, in full view of an indulgent referee, who nevertheless looked on with bemused interest, like a phrenologist encountering Tie Domi for the first time. The Devils scored on the counter-rush. They also scored when Dainius Zubrus held Chris Campoli and made him fall down and lose the puck, albeit on a ill-advised rush up the middle in the defensive zone. Mr. Zubrus even held up his arms on the play and failed to attack the net, occupied as he was looking at the referee, looking as guilty as a young pajamaed P.K. caught by Mother Subban with his hand in the cookie jar.

Ultimately, the change was not a strong enough stimulus to transport the Canadiens above their station. They are not a powerful team, any injury leaves them shorthanded with the Hamilton team denuded of talent. They are currently playing with two NHL lines. The third line has a Mathieu Darche who should be a relief pitcher, shuttling between the pressbox and fourth line, and Louis Leblanc, who should be in Hamilton eating up minutes. Lars Eller, the center, shows flashes of brilliance interspersed with long stretches of youthful ineffectiveness. Our fourth line is a talent-free zone, currently being stocked with any warm body we can find: a Swiss puck-moving defenceman, a warranty-return from and to Philadelphia, career AHL'ers, the corpse of David Maley...

To add to our woes, one of our two lines is hibernating right now. Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri have no chemistry with Andrei Kostitsyn, who for most of the game activated his cloaking device. This means our four-banger is actually misfiring on three cylinders, no wonder the ride ain't smooth.

The Canadiens defence has many candidates but few contenders, lots of candidates for a #5 or 6 role but none able to claim the #1 spot. P.K. and Josh should be a second pairing, not a first, and poor Hal Gill should be seeing spot duty and more of a specialist rather than a generalist role. Tomas Kaberle and Chris Campoli ably demonstrated tonight that they are not The Answer.

We need to embrace these facts. We can't refuse to accept our situation.

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