Monday, 13 February 2012

Game 57: Montréal 3, Carolina 5

Some fans described tonight's game as a roller coaster, and I was on it. As soon as the Canadiens were down 2-0, I started thinking I should review Craig Button's list of the top draft prospects for this June. Then as the Canadiens stormed back in the second, I was jumping off my couch, arms in the air, loving life, my disdain for Tomas Kaberle almost mollified by his contribution to the power play. Then when he reverted back to abysmal, playing like the Tin Man he used to impersonate back in Toronto and allowing Eric Staal to waltz around him for a shorthanded goal, I went back to mentally reviewing the expiring contracts we can liquidate at the deadline and formulating a lineup for the 2012-13 Hamilton Bulldogs.

There are still a lot of positives, incredibly, in this loss to the cellar-dwelling team in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens do not need to be blown up this summer, just tweaked. Among the positives, the powerplay clicked and looked dangerous, René Bourque was flying and hitting everything that moved, the Desharnais line continued to produce and be dangerous. Raphaël Diaz and Alexei Emelin are picking up valuable minutes and improving every game. This team has heart and spirit, fights hard during most games, has excellent goaltending and a lot of solid veterans and promising youngsters.

There are some headscratchers as well. Chris Campoli and Tomas Kaberle, two players who will not figure in the Glorieux' future, log way too many minutes. Scott Gomez keeps popping on the powerplay, as welcome by fans as a cockroach on the dinner table. Andrei Kostitsyn is relegated to the fourth line and plays minimally, while Mathieu Darche gets a regular shift. Coach Cunneyworth is holding Andrei accountable for his many mental mistakes and lack of effort, but when the team is looking for a goal it takes stones to send on Mathieu instead.

The biggest puzzle for me was the Canadiens decision to call up Ian Schultz, a player who at least until recently had been a major disappointment in Hamilton, reputedly for being out of shape. His being brought up made me wonder why, if we were in need of his skillset, Pierre Gauthier hadn't put in a waiver claim for Anthony Stewart, a big winger for Carolina who didn't look out of place in an NHL game tonight. I thought that there really must be some skeletons in his closet for the Canadiens, along with 28 other teams, to pass on the opportunity to claim his very reasonable contract, yet feel the need to call up Mr. Schultz. Until that is, they decided to send him down after the game, right back to Hamilton. Maybe this means that Travis Moen is healthy enough to play on Wednesday, but since it is against the Bruins, and on Friday the Sabres, with Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta slashing, uh, leading the way, wouldn't it have made sense to keep him up for a couple of games and play him as the 12th forward instead of Mr. Campoli?

Tonight's game will not please TSN's 'TradeCentre' panel, as it only prolongs the indecision by a lot of teams as to whether they need reinforcements for this spring or assets for next season and beyond. Those guys are getting pretty anxious, they're been hyping what may turn out to be a whole lot of nothing.

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