Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Game 49: Montréal 7, Detroit 2

This big convincing win against Detroit is enough for a lot of Canadiens fans to remove their tank commander helmets and do a triple-gainer back onto the bandwagon. I know I may have tripped into the lifeboat in my haste to abandon ship, but now, unlike Captain Schettino, I'm contemplating getting back on board the good ship Glorieux.

This was an enjoyable game to watch for another reason than its final score. It was refreshing to see a game played at a high pace and without all the meaningless scrums and facewashes and crosschecking after the play was over. When the goalie froze the puck, both teams would stop, separate, and skate to the faceoff circle for the puck drop. I imagined how the Bruins or the Chris Neils would have reacted to a 5-0 deficit. They would have busted out the brass knuckles and taped on some foil, reanimated the corpse of Lyndon Byers, cried "Lucic" and let slip the McQuaids of war.

I loved the way the Canadiens were sedate and classy in their goal celebrations once the game was getting out of hand for the Wings. The guys congratulated each other but there were no histrionics and no mugging for the cameras. Good stuff. This is the kind of team I want to root for.

Early in the game I observed that when Scott Gomez grabs the puck in the defensive zone, he's one of the few Canadiens who seems like he wants it and knows what to do with it, namely to skate it into the opposite zone. Say what we will, he compares favourably to the putative Canadiens powerplay quarterbacks who appear as if they'd rather not have the puck on their blade, and skate listlessly into the neutral zone already convinced that their efforts will lead to naught. His decisiveness and relative competence may be how he seduces his coaches to allot him seemingly more icetime than you would think he was entitled to. As I was formulating this thought, he whisked his cross-ice pass to René Bourque for the opening goal. The Canadiens, frustratingly, are a better team with him in the lineup than they are without him. That speaks volumes to the lack of depth on the team, but that's the boat we're in.

We also observed a strong game from Tomas Plekanec and René Bourque. Both scored and we can hope that these two can build on this and develop some chemistry. Tomas especially seemed more confident, effective and dangerous on offence. The effort was there in previous games, but he seemed to be flailing and erratic. As much as it was seductive to think that he and Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta could skate circles around the opposition, they never seemed to jell. Let's hope Tomas' new linemate will be a better complement.

Poor undersized overmatched David Desharnais had all he could handle against the powerhouse Wings, all he could muster was two goals and an assist. Evidently a hat trick or even a Gordie Howe hat trick is beyond him. To think we have this guy under contract for another year at almost a million per, what are we going to do with him?

In all seriousness, there was an interesting graphic on RDS a few games back comparing him with Martin St. Louis, an obvious point of reference due to their diminutive size and tortuous route to the NHL. It showed that both first made the NHL at 23 years of age, and that after the same number of games David's scoring pace was twice that of Mr. St. Louis. We can only dream. I'll start the collection for David to attend Martin's summertime conditioning sessions.

P.K. Subban just can't stay out of the headlines. Tonight, again, he demonstrated his consistent boneheadedness and indiscipline. I'd be more incensed if the coaches hadn't reacted well and stapled him to the bench, an effective and just reaction to P.K.'s self-indulgent loss of self-control, which was again, unerringly, followed by a palms up "Who, me?!!?" gesture for the refs. P.K. won't get the benefit of the doubt from any referee for a long, long time now. We can only hope that he can develop a single-minded focus on taking the puck to the opposition net, kind of like Raymond Bourque or Chris Chelios used to do. When they had the puck on their stick, they knew where they were headed, and would fend off the occasional hook or slash on their way to the net. It was almost as if they took them for granted and didn't notice them anymore, it was background noise, extraneous to the task at hand. P.K. needs to improve his concentration and understanding of the game and the situation, and react appropriately to game conditions. Tonight was another flat tire for him on the road to maturity.

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