Canadiens Montréal – Sorry everyone, YouTube has blocked the feed because of in-arena music copyrights. Check out HabsTV for highlights after the scrimmage.Which brings up a lot of valid questions, such as if you're going to use YouTube, which was optional, who didn't do their homework and figure out the music rights issue? Indeed why use YouTube at all? And once you're caught with your pants down, why not webcast on 'mute', to get around the pesky starving Rhiannas and Limp Bizkits with their grimy hands out. I'd feel a whole lot more sympathetic to the latters' plight if it wasn't for the TV show "MTV Cribs".
The team did get the whole scrimmage online afterwards, so I did get to watch it while having dinner, but overall it was a frustrating mini-ordeal, bringing to mind the old saying that it's better to underpromise and overdeliver, rather than the reverse.
The scrimmage itself was like the first few gulps of fresh cold water at the end of a long bike ride from which you arrive home with your CamelBack and bottle empty. Aaaaaaah, refreshing...
There was no play-by-play or colour commentary, just the sound of puck on stick or board, and of an energetic crowd. This is exactly the kind of game which cried out for a voiceover though, since it was hard to make sense of who was on the ice, I constantly had to refer to a lineup to see who that was wearing number 72 (Nick Tarnasky), or number 46 (Matt Lashoff), and so on. And you'd get carried away and roster-check compulsively, for numbers like 61, 53, and 55, and feel silly when finding out that those guys were actually Raphaël Diaz, Ryan White and Francis Bouillon.
In 1980 the NFL and NBC experimented by doing a game without any play-by-play, to test out the hypothesis that announcers talk too much and crowd out the game, detract from it instead of enhancing it (hello to you, Pierre McGuire). The results were mixed, and most of us agree now that an understated, capable broadcast team (or also Gus Johnson) adds to the show. That is, if you have a René Lecavalier, a Jim Hughson or Pierre Houde on hand, rather than a Jim Randorff or Bob Cole (post Walkman era). I wish RDS had been tasked with this scrimmage, and Mr. Houde and his sidekick Marc Denis had helped us keep track of all these new kids.
The scrimmage itself was fast-paced, with limited contact even though there were quite a few young turks trying to claw their way onto the lineup or even to earn a contract, who must have been tempted at times to plaster someone on the boards to draw some attention. The most serious hit might have come from Max Pacioretty, who said in a media scrum this week that he'd try to appease his Twitter followers who badger him to drive the net more. This afternoon, he ran into Zach Fucale twice, earning an interference penalty on one incident. The young Mr. Fucale stayed calm and stayed in the game.
It was good seeing Jarred Tinordi wearing Chris Chelios' old number 24, I hope he does that jersey proud. Not sure however if Michael McCarron looks right wearing number 25. That’s Jacques Lemaire’s old number, I expect an offensive centre wearing that jersey. 27 would be better, for Lucien Deblois and Perry Turnbull and Shayne Corson, all bruising wingers he could emulate, but that number's not going to happen for him, some uppity kid snagged it last season and may not give it up for a while. Maybe 22, and channel the ghost of John Ferguson? 20 might be okay, Mark Hunter’s old number, but maybe not, I'd be more likely to think of Peter Mahovlich. Maybe by the time he’s ready for the NHL Chris Nilan’s old number 30 jersey will have been vacated by Peter Budaj.
Or maybe he can use Sergio Momesso’s old #36, there was a guy who was huge and tough and could pot goals, but wrecked his knee and was never the same. I loved Sergio, he looked scary in junior, a man among boys, I often think of what could have been if it wasn’t for that injury, he was much less agile after that. If Michael McCarron can come in and be as effective as Sergio was his rookie season, I'd be very pleased.
I noticed P.K. wheeling with the puck with one hand on the stick and one arm fending off a forechecker, and this may become his signature move, like Guy's slapper while flying up the right wing, or Larry's thunderous checks. P.K. also committed a gaffe or two, but I'll chalk that up to him trying to put on a show for the fans. He'll tone that stuff down once the season starts. Right?
Tomas Plekanec was, as should be expected, possibly the best player on the ice, he took a few point blank shots, scored a goal, looked comfortable with René Bourque, and made Christian Thomas look good.
After the scrimmage, it was announced that Zachary Fucale was signed to an Entry Level Contract, which is modest good news. It's not a coup or anything, the kid was sewn up the moment he was drafted, but it's a step in the right direction, it shows that the team has seen enough and feels comfortable inking the kid and moving on to other things.
In less joyous news, certainly for the players involved, Tim Bozon, Connor Crisp and Jérémy Grégoire were sent back to their junior team, before getting a chance to play in a pre-season game. At least Jérémy Grégoire got to participate in the scrimmage, and as a 2013 6th-round draftee, he can't fret or be shocked at the news. For Connor Crisp however, being a 19 year old and having been picked in the third round this summer, this may be disappointing, since an opportunity to compete against NHL'ers in a pre-season game might have been a good test of mettle, and indicator of what areas of his game he needs to improve.
Even more worrisome is Tim Bozon's lackluster showing at the rookie camp, if various reports are to be believed. As a 2012 third-rounder, he may have expected that his stay at camp would last longer, but like fellow 2012 draftee Brady Vail, he doesn't get a chance to play a preseason game. I'm not sure what the parting message was, whether it was a pat on the back or a crack of the whip, but we'll see how he responds with the Blazers early this season.
Overall though, this is probably good form, to cull the herd quickly. Two seasons ago, to ensure there were enough players on hand to deal with a tight pre-season schedule, Jacques Martin kept a lot of bodies deep into training camp, and the start to the season was halting. At the time, many fans shouted that this should never occur again, that training camp shouldn't be a daycare centre, but rather an exercise to get the Canadiens synchronized and ready for the season. Michel Therrien has already stated that the major cutdown would occur on Monday, after the games against the Sabres and the Bruins. So it seems that that lesson has not been lost.
A final word on Martin Reway, who is drawing a lot of attention with his skillful, effective play so far at camp. He's scored a few goals and wowed observers, and today picked the top corner gloveside on Peter Budaj from in close, on his backhand mind you. This turned out to be the winning goal. Not bad for a diminutively-proportioned fourth-round pick this June. Of course, his problematic size and underwhelming numbers prompted a few know-it-alls to harrumph that this was a wasted pick. There was a lot of second-guessing by armchair GM's who think that they know better than Canadiens Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins. While some of these analysts might be keen hockey observers whose unconventional and passionately-expressed views ruffle a few feathers but contribute to a healthy discourse, in this specific instance there may come a time where they need to walk back their opinion a smidge. It may serve everyone well if Mr. Reway is allowed a season or two to prove himself, based on the available data obtained so far at camp. Possibly.