Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Game 29: Canadiens 2, Sabres 3 (OT)

Look, nobody said P.K. Subban was perfect.  I've been laudatory in light of his recent improvements, both in terms of his production and on-ice behaviour, but we still expect him to have hiccups, that his trajectory will not be an unblemished arrow pointing ever upward.  Some of the things that make P.K. who he is are high-risk, high-reward, you have to live with them, try to minimize them through constant coaching, and deal with them.

We saw one of these in the overtime period, when P.K. went for a big, crunching, spectacular crowd-pleaser of a bodycheck in open ice on Mark Pysyk of the Sabres and whiffed.  Now, that was bad enough, since the whiff would have led to a two-on-one, but it was compounded by the fact that the refs called the intrepid Mr. Subban for a high-sticking penalty.  Now, the stick was held high, but it never made contact with Mr. Pysyk, so it was a blown call, but it's cold comfort that the ensuing penalty was undeserved, and the goal scored by Steve Ott on the 4 on 3 was tainted.

P.K. has been doing well this season in large part by not trying to do too much, and by not attempting the spectacular play instead of the solid, safe option, most of the time.  He's rushed the puck once in a while, but he seems to better recognize when to choose to do so, let's say when the team is down a goal and time is winding down in the third.  He's gotten better at trusting his teammates, and they're increasingly starting to trust him.  So it was a little bit of a relapse for him to get out of position to try an open-ice check on an opposition rusher early in overtime.  The benefit to the team was probably minimal even if he had connected solidly.  We're not going to beat him up for it, Coach Michel Therrien was asked about it by the Montréal press corps after the game and he expressed that he thought it was a poor play selection and that he'd deal with it, so it's taken care of.

While the Canadiens picked up a point, it's disappointing for a few reasons that they didn't win this game.  They lost ground to the victorious Penguins, and failed to capitalize on a Bruins loss to the Jets.  This was a game that based on the standings should have resulted in two points for the Habs.  They were playing a team in turmoil, at home.

It was also one of these games that the Canadiens have found a way to win this year.  They have a never-say-die approach, and you had a sense in the third period as they stormed the ramparts that they would pull it off, that they wouldn't fall in the trap of the trap game after all.  When Colby Armstrong scored the tieing goal, you couldn't help but smile at Michel Therrien's crystal-ball-aided lineup divinations.

With René Bourque closer to a return, and Brandon Prust next in line, the lineup will be solidified, and the hope is that disappointing results such as these will be turned into victories instead.

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