Saturday, 4 February 2012

Game 52: Montréal 0, Washington 3

What a way to waste a Saturday in Whistler. The sun is shining, there's snow on the mountain, it's warm, people are tanning and skiing. Meanwhile I'm indoors watching the Canadiens trudging onward in their Bataan Death March to April ignominy.

When the Canadiens stumbled out of the gate early on, I thought I was prescient as I had predicted that they would battle to get into the playoffs. I was wrong on both counts. They're not in the playoff race, and they're not battling. The supremely motivated crew that fought tooth and nail for Jaroslav Halak and under Jacques Martin is now unrecognizable. It's hard to believe that Brian Gionta's injury and the loss of some pieces from that team has transformed them to such a degree.

The players seem to be resigned to their fate, and so am I. Again, the loss didn't sting, I was more interested in the fact that Alexander Semin got me a goal and an assist for my HIO Memorial league fantasy team, and that we're incrementally improving our draft position and status as a seller for the trade deadline.

Randy Cunneyworth, when asked during the post-game press conference if he imagined being in this position when he was offered the job by Pierre Gauthier, kind of shrugged and stated that every team has to go through this. It seems that he is also playing out the string, since I fully expected him to say that he was convinced the team was going to make the playoffs when he took over, and that there's still a chance.

Lots of talk about Andrei Kostitsyn on RDS, how he should get more icetime, and certainly should be on the power play ahead of Scott Gomez. Even though he disappears for games on end, and I have been critical of his lack of passion and effort, I agree that he should get more minutes. With Mr. Gionta, Moen and White absent, and since we have to call up Aaron Palushaj to be our 11th forward, there's no excuse or reason not to, let's work Andrei like a draft horse, maybe he'll pot a few and we can increase his trade value.

P.K. Subban had a good game, during which he worked hard, skated well, battled, didn't take a penalty, showed creativity and effort on offence, and kept his mouth in neutral. While this isn't the magic P.K. that we cheered late last season, and nowhere near the future Norris Trophy candidate some project him to be, it's a breath of fresh air that he won't be on TSN's highlight reel for the wrong reasons today.

Did I hear a smattering of boos for Roman Hamrlik when he handled the puck? If so, these are completely misdirected, as he served the team honourably during his stay here, and wanted to stay after his contract expired, but this off-season couldn't convince Mr. Gauthier to offer him a two year contract. It was time for Roman to go, I'm glad that we're playing the youngsters instead of he and Jaro Spacek, but he should receive nothing but respect and affection from Montreal fans.

Which brings us to the putrid Tomas Kaberle. I've kept my peace since he's been here, at least after bemoaning the trade in a lengthy post. I figure complaining about the ex-Leaf and ex-Bruin was crying over spilled milk, but his presence in the lineup is creating a positive feedback loop of apathy. I can't stand to see him, red-cheeked and emotionless on the bench, and I detest him even more on the ice. After his end-of-game gaffe against the Devils, when he iced the puck while we had an extra attacker on the ice, he was almost caught again doing so twice today, once on the power play, and only the leniency of the refs prevented the whistle. He was impotent on offence and while 'quarterbacking' the power play, and was awful on defence. He finished -2, and will make all the lowlight reels with his poor play that led to the Alex Semin penalty shot.

Pierre Gauthier explained the trade at the time as an attempt to help the team, and that he felt he needed to when seeing the players returning to the bench despondent at their lack of success on the power play. This may have been a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation, he would have been pilloried for not making a move, but in my book if there's one thing he needs to answer for it's this trade. The loss of cap space and flexibility and the grafting of another small, soft puck-moving defenceman to a team already replete with them is a whopper of a bad decision.

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