Saturday, 21 September 2013

Pre-Season Game 3: Canadiens 6, Hurricanes 0

This game was a palate cleanser, after a sour shootout loss against the Sabres, and a bitter drubbing against the Bruins, whose rookies and AHL'ers were much better than our AHL'ers.  On this night, the Canadiens came out flying, took advantage of a struggling Cam Ward to fill the net in the first, and cruised to a 6-0 win.  It could/should have been 10-0.

Now, I come here to bury Mike Komisarek, not praise him.  Poor guy.  On paper, he's everything that we slavered for over the last couple of seasons, a 6'4" 240 lbs defensively-oriented blueliner, one who shoots right to boot.  The reports out of Toronto from educated observers were that he just plain can't play no more, but I'd ignore these and rely on the tale of the tape, envision how he'd fit into our roster of slick undersized puck-movers.  He'd plug some giant holes and bring a skillset we didn't have, I thought, and after adding a splash of career-rejuvenation derived partly from no longer being subjected to the suffocating english media in Toronto, and partly from the steadying presence of Andrei Markov, we'd have a perfectly serviceable d-man to play on our third pairing and kill penalties, and maybe crosscheck a Wayne Simmonds or Chris Neil in the teeth occasionally.  I militated for a swap of buyout candidates, that we'd take Mr. Komisarek off their hands if the Leafs would accept the dried husk of what used to be Tomas Kaberle, who admittedly was never much good to begin with.  

After watching replay after replay of his gaffes and ineffectual efforts on RDS's broadcast of the game, with the announcers doing their best to be diplomatic but unable to avoid the reality of the situation, I now believe those who say that he, almost inexplicably, has cratered in terms of having a useful role as an NHL defenceman.  The change of scenery in Carolina isn't going to be a magic career elixir, apparently.  A couple of times, I'd see a player like Christian Thomas or Patrick Holland, fringe prospects who I'd like to do well, and they'd show some speed or skill, a flash, and I'd get excited, only to realize it was poor old Mike who was making them look so good, looking comparatively slow and unsteady.

This was the Hurricanes third game in three nights, and we have to assume that the travel was partly to blame for them coming out flat, but they can't rely on that as an excuse, in that their roster has quite a few eager rookies who should be fighting for an NHL salary, and you can't claim fatigue this early in training camp.  They seemed dispirited, disjointed, and I felt bad for Kirk Muller behind the bench.  I wondered if the Hurricanes should be the dark horse for finishing last this year, kind of like I'd called the Calgary Flames last year, but any team with Eric and Jordan Staal and Cam Ward has to be better than that, right?  Even while dragging around the anchor known as Alex Semin, who didn't exactly give all out effort in this particular game?

The star of the night was P.K. Subban, who paradoxically had a startling giveaway from behind his net to a Carolina forward in the slot (Wayne Gretzky couldn't have fed Jarri Kurri any better) as his most memorable play, but was overall a force.  He skates hard, he's fast and powerful, he's a beast at both ends of the rink, and tonight finished with a goal and two assists.  Some outside observers think his Norris Trophy is only due to his impressive point production, and it's hard to argue that those who vote on awards are on the ball after they voted Alex Ovechkin on the All-Star team as a left and right winger, but I would wager that P.K. will have a monster season and convert a lot of doubters.  They'll see a complete defenceman, a guy who dominates games and eats minutes that other teams won't have an answer for.  Strategically, the Canadiens will have to ensure that other teams don't try to goon him out of the game, because that might be the only tactic they can resort to to slow him down.

Michaël Bournival added another goal and an assist to his two goals against the Sabres, while Mike McCarron hit a post on a good scoring opportunity.  This is a results-driven business.  Two seasons ago, Brendan Gallagher was the talk of the camp, with his now familiar combination of all-out effort, courage and skill drawing the attention of the Canadiens' brass.  He buzzed all over the opposition in pre-season action, but never managed to pot a goal, and he was eventually sent back to his junior team.  Had he driven home a couple, would he have stuck?  And now, with Mr. Bournival flying all over the ice but also cashing in his opportunities, can the Canadiens send him back down to Hamilton?  Not that he and Mike McCarron were on an equal footing to possibly earn a spot on the team out of camp, but because the former is burying his chances, it's him we're talking about, not Mr. McCarron or Christian Thomas or Patrick Holland.

One factor we need to consider is that while Michaël Bournival is not eligible for waivers for another two seasons, Gabriel Dumont will have to go through them to be sent down to Hamilton.  While Mr. Dumont hasn't had any tangible results offensively, he's shown the effort and generated chances with linemates of dubious talent for the most part.  I suspect the team will not risk losing him on a waiver claim, his playing style and the results he's shown as a Bulldog and during his cups of coffee with the Canadiens make him a coach's favourite.  If anyone stays, it will be Gabriel Dumont I believe.  Mr. Bournival will be asked to show that he can keep up this pace in the AHL until injuries strike.

Among the few veterans in the lineup, it was good to see David Desharnais and Max buzzing around in the opposition zone all night.  We need a bounce-back season from David, if we're going to contend.  It's early yet, but we saw glimpses of the David from two seasons ago, with quickness and agility, who competes for the puck with his smarts and anticipation, and somehow beats much bigger opponents along the boards with his mobility and cleverness.

On the blue line, we saw encouraging play from prospects Greg Pateryn, Darren Dietz and Magnus Nygren.  Again, it's important to take into account how poorly the Hurricanes played, and their lack of spirit and effort, but it was good to see our trio of young defencemen be competent and show that the NHL isn't out of the question for any of them.

It will be interesting to see how the Hurricanes react in the second game of the back-to-back, whether they'll put up more resistance.  Certainly, it would be helpful if only to give our goalies some practice, as Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski combined for one of the easier shutouts they'll ever earn.

No comments:

Post a Comment