Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Game 40: Montréal 7, Winnipeg 3

What a game for the Great Dane! That's the Lars Eller I've wanted to see since we first got him. I understand that he's young and will improve, but the price we paid for him was pretty steep, namely a Jaroslav Halak at the height of his powers. If this can be the game in which the dam breaks, and Lars finally becomes an offensively effective centre, then I won't worry too much about what Jaro's Save Percentage is or even about Ian Schultz languishing in the minors.

In a game reminiscent of a hack screenwriter's cheesy offering, a young dauphin, aspirant to the #1 centre position of a glorious team which has been searching for years for its 'gros joueur de centre', has a breakthrough game with a Youngblood-esque finish. He starts off with a real goal-scorer's goal, a wrist shot from the slot for which he found the time and space necessary to get it off instead of being blocked or stripped of the puck. He adds a second then a third, and they are sniper goals, kind of like Steve Shutt used to pot home. The fourth is pure Hollywood, a penalty shot he buries with artistry and flair. Credits roll as he receives an ovation comparable to Saku's or Guy's.

In a 7-3 win, there are lots of positives to note. On Lars' first goal, we saw strong forechecking by Andrei Kostitsyn and good support at the blueline from Alexei Emelin. Andrei was a force all night, forechecking effectively, hitting defencemen, making good passes. His assist on Lars' third goal was a beauty, it was great to see him skate with the puck and to do it with authority and a plan. Travis Moen also clicked tonight, fighting off two Jets to set up Tomas Kaberle's goal, and completing Lars and Andrei well with solid hits and timely passes. I know it's axiomatic that Montreal coaches must monkey with the forward trios, but maybe we leave these guys alone for a while, they seem to work well together whenever they've had the chance.

Carey Price had a good game, and luckily for once he didn't have to be miraculous. I noticed many occasions where his mobility around the net and his puck movement skills almost provides the Canadiens with an extra defenceman in their zone. Some other goalies come out of their net and stop the puck or clear it forward and I question the utility of that move. It seems that Carey always makes the right decision and finds the open man, and that the Canadiens are playing in such a way that they expect his passes and position themselves accordingly. Jet coach Charlie Huddy mentioned during a between-period interview that they needed to take Carey into account when they dumped the puck in, because if they just blindly threw it in there he would corral it and clear it out just as quick.

The David Desharnais line and the Tomas Plekanec line both chipped in a goal, and it's good that on this night it didn't sink the Canadiens that they weren't more productive. Mr. Desharnais fed the puck to Josh Gorges for his first goal since signing his new contract, from which I hope we all reap the rewards.

Erik Cole was all over the ice tonight as well, playing his entertaining, exciting brand of physical, skilled hockey. I dearly wish that we find a sniper to play with him, since while he's a one-man wrecking crew, he's not really a finisher. If only Mike Cammalleri and he could develop a rapport, Mike could become the pilot fish on this great shark, feasting on the remainders and garbage around the net. The centreman would become extraneous to this equation: Erik speeds around the defencemen and crashes the net, causing mayhem, and Mike darts in and roofs the puck skittering just outside the crease.

Evander Kane is a beast. He blew by Raphaël Diaz and left him spinning on the ice on the Jets' first goal. I think a good policy for Trevor Timmins might be to draft any eligible Vancouver Giant. Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Evander Kane, now Brendan Gallagher, that's a good pipeline they have going there, you can't miss. Unless you pick Gilbert Brulé....

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