Thursday, 24 January 2013

Game 1: Montréal 1, Toronto 2

I was all set to write my Game 1 recap before the game even began, and I was going to ramble on about how the Canadiens' convincing win against a less-than-mediocre roster shouldn't inflate our expectations for Nos Glorieux this season.  I was wrestling with my pre-season prediction post, and was working through the concept that our modest lineup would have much the same results as it did last season, but surely they'd blow through that collection of no-names in blue and white for a resounding opening win.  Right?

As underwhelming and nauseous a squad as the Maple Leafs appeared to be prior to puck drop, our heroes looked worse during the actual game.  Much worse.

Despite the 'No Excuses' motto that Head Coach Michel Therrien wants the organization to espouse, I found myself blaming the long pre-game torch ceremony.  As nice as it was to see Henri Richard and Yvan Cournoyer, among others, I'm of the opinion that these long proceedings tend not to favour the home team.  Instead of giving the boys a spiritual lift, they seem to sap the strength out of them, while the visiting team hangs out in their dressing room and waits for the signal for puck drop, and starts the game in a more routine fashion.

The player who caught my eye was Nazem Kadri, who finally played in a fashion that could justify his being picked 7th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft.  Which is sad.  I enjoyed chortling over the trials and tribulations of this young man the last couple of seasons, a schadenfreude based entirely on the colour of his jersey and the Toronto-centric national media spotlight directed at him.  If he pans out, there will be a little less levity in my life.

The Leafs scored both their goals on the powerplay, one on a penalty to Tomas Plekanec for administering a snow shower to Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens at a play stoppage.  We were pretty hard on P.K. Subban last season for having the same brain cramp, so Tomas shouldn't escape criticism for this.

It was noteworthy that the much-ballyhooed second line of Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Gionta didn't last the entire game.  In the third period, René Bourque replaced the rookie on the line, in apparent recognition of his effort and effectiveness.  While the short patience Coach Therrien showed for the lines he used during the previous week's camp was puzzling, it's encouraging that Mr. Bourque seems to have recovered from the abdominal injury which he says hampered him last season, and that he seems poised to contribute to the team's success in proportion to his talent and physical gifts.

Overall, a disappointing start to the season, one that will sharpen the cries from P.K. Subban's supporters for the team to sign him for what he thinks he's worth.

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