If tonight's game was an example of the Canadiens' team toughness concept, can we go back to the speedy skillful Canadiens of two seasons ago please? We saw a Canadiens team that tried to goon it up against a bigger, meaner Senators team and come up short. Ryan White is a gamer, I love the kid, but his bout against Jared Cowen reminded me of his fight against Erik Gudbranson which ended his season last year. Good on him for hanging on, but he was getting ragdolled there, while Zach Kassian took pity on Colby Armstrong, and Francis Bouillon again showed lots of heart in a long, long fight against Zach Smith.
If Travis Moen won't use his 225 lbs. to knock other guys senseless with his fists, I'm okay with that, but he at least has to use them to 'finish his checks'. Tonight was a perfect opportunity for him to throw his weight around, the refs were letting the Senators take two strides to crash into a Canadien who had already moved the puck to someone else, so he could have had the same latitude. If he was this playoff season's John Druce, we'd allow him to operate under his apparently self-declared Non-Aggression Pact, but since he's not filling the net, he needs to contribute in the manner that was envisioned when he was signed last summer. We thought that he, Brandon Prust and Ryan White would provide the grit and toughness while also playing a regular shift, but too often Brandon has been alone out there, and it should embarrass Travis. Last season, we saw Ryan White spell off Brad Staubitz, notably when he was playing against his ex-teammates from Minnesota, we wish that Travis would do the same for Brandon.
If René Bourque wants to continue to play a tough, physical but clean game and contribute offensively with shots on goal and some points, I'm fine with that, but if he's going to be dealing out elbows and crosschecks, he better be ready to drop the gloves. He's big and strong and we saw him do well last season against Matt Hendriks when called to account by the Capitals for a prior incident. So we know he can go. Of course, he may not want to fight, due to his recent concussion, which we're fine with, but then cut out the crap. You can be Michael Ryder or Max Pacioretty, or you can be Wayne Simmonds or Steve Ott, but you can't be both types of player at once.
If P.K. Subban has come a long, long way since early last season, he's not fully-formed and perfect yet. The pressure and frustration got to him tonight, and we're not just talking about his verbal altercation with Max on the bench, but also of how he took himself out of the game with his meaningless fight with Kyle Turris. If not quite a size mismatch, certainly we had a stronger player taking on another who doesn't usually fight and was not expecting to have to fight. Again, as has been pointed out in the past, P.K. dropped the gloves very quickly and went for the knockout punch right away, conduct which verged on sucker-punch territory. After getting in a few good licks, P.K. ended up on top of Mr. Turris, who was clearly overmatched, the fight was over since both players were down, yet P.K. kept trying to punch his defenseless opponent. Not cool. Only the linesman trying to separate the two prevented what could have been something more regrettable. For his troubles, P.K. was tossed from the game, for instigating while wearing a visor. The gutsy, character thing for P.K. to do at that juncture would have been to stay in the game and help out his undermanned teammates, not go for an early shower. Or, at least, get tossed for picking on someone his own size.
If Michel Therrien is going to harp on "class" and worry about one team or coach "humiliating" another, his conduct should be above reproach. There was already a lot of tension in the air, and after the Sens put the game away with their fourth goal, with lots of anger still bubbling due to the Eric Gryba assault on Lars Eller, Mr. Therrien put a match to the powder keg, putting his fourth line on the ice. They started the free-for-all. It was humiliating, it was embarrassing, and it was self-inflicted. The way players like Josh Gorges and Brendan Gallagher, who we like to think of as the good guys, acted like cheap thugs by, respectively, firing a puck intentionally at Kyle Turris, and assaulting Corey Conacher with a near sucker-punch, it made me feel shame, as if I was sitting in the penalty box with Denis Lemieux. If we're going to act like that, why do we hate the Bruins and now the Leafs again?
If after the second period I formulated the thought that Carey Price was again performing at peak efficiency, I was justified because he was making key saves, looking confident and acting like a third defenceman back there, the anti-thesis of Jonathan Quick, effortlessly, artfully moving the puck around and helping his teammates clear the zone. Instead of feeling trepidatious, I was glad that we had him in goal, in charge, a strength and asset for the team. Then Jean-Gabriel Pageau fired a puck past him a minute into the third period, a shot which wasn't easy, but also not difficult. At his payscale, and at the level he's now expected to play due to his pedigree and experience, he has to make that save. Craig Anderson is making tough saves at the other end, Carey has to keep pace, at least. I'm not too concerned about the .800 save percentage, the end of the game queered that stat, but I am that Carey again guessed wrong and dropped to his knees, and got beat up high, when he should have been a fortress. These are big games, he needs to come up big, we shouldn't be allowing that yeah, Jarred Tinordi was kind of in the way, and it was a precise wrister, blah blah blah.
If the refs can't catch the clear crosscheck by Erik Condra to the face of P.K. Subban while they have the puck between them, they might as well get out of the business entirely and let's just roll with video judges.
If the refs won't call that clear crosscheck because it's the playoffs, we, as we kind of suspected, were never going to get very far anyway.