Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Game 80: Montréal 5, Tampa Bay 2

The Canadiens' first line had cooled off somewhat in the last few games, with their production dampened if not their effort and their enthusiasm, but exploded back into form with an eight point night, keying the win against an admittedly defensively-poor Lightning lineup.

The Canadiens knew they couldn't rely on Carey Price and probably thought they needed to create chances and score more than a couple to have a chance to win. And this was before the trusty backup Peter Budaj gift-wrapped a goal for Vincent Lecavalier. As usual though, the only dangerous combo was the Desharnais line, with some flashes from Tomas Plekanec and Louis Leblanc.

Alexei Emelin scored a nice goal on a sneak in from the blueline, and on a nice feed from David Desharnais. It was nice to see him celebrate with his teammates and give props to David. He is not as spectacular with his open-ice hits as he was in the middle of the season, some speculate that he may be tired in his first 80 game season, but this goal and his overall performance augur well for next season. His increased familiarity with the league and his new city and teammates should lead to an improvement in play, especially if he is paired with a healthy Andrei Markov. We can count on Alexei as a solution to one of the Canadiens problems next season, as opposed to being a question mark.

We saw less of Ryan Malone in the game than we have this season, and it could be happenstance, but some will nod sagely that it is the result of the Brad Staubitz effect, which incited Mr. Malone to take a moment or two of sober reflection before trying to decapitate another Canadien. It's detrimental to the NHL that it allows itself to be steered in that direction by the Brian Burkes of the world and the Boston Bruins, resulting in a situation where the worst player on the Canadiens becomes one of its more valuable members.

I noticed after Max Pacioretty's second goal, on the subsequent shift, that both Tomas Plekanec and René Bourque had an opportunity to go after a loose puck to create at least an odd-man rush if not a breakaway, but they both kind of looked at each other and hesitated as to who would go for the puck along the boards and who would streak to the net, in a situation reminiscent of a second baseman and a first baseman on the diamond waiting for a pop fly to come down and each deferring to each other, only to see it drop to the turf between them. The result of our play is that both veered toward the puck, then away from the puck, in unison, before Tomas went for it and René headed for the net, for what ultimately turned into a broken play. So not too much to make of this, except for the obvious observation that these two players may have a future together, but as of now have very little chemistry and on-ice communication. Again, I hope that over the summer René gets more settled in Montréal, as well as with his teammates, and that on top of all the training he'll do, he'll have time to get his head on straight and get over the trade and the suspension and rebound next season. We need him to be the big tough winger who pots goals and dishes out hits and who is hard to play against, as Mario Tremblay remembers him from the days when he coached at Minnesota and Mr. Bourque played in Chicago.

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