Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Game 13: Canadiens 2, Stars 1

Surprising how invisible Erik Cole was tonight for the Dallas Stars, who took a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Canadiens relatively peaceably.

I thought Erik might want to put on a show, streak up and down the ice and distribute a few hits at least.  I don't think I saw him more than once or twice, and he was standing still at the time.  The boys on RDS said there's a rumoured injury hampering his play, and harped on his notorious slow starts, but for a player coming into a game with a chance to haunt his old team, it was a listless effort.

I've been ruing the Erik Cole trade since the signing of Daniel Brière.  Although I applauded the trade at the time, and thought we were getting out of an onerous contract with more than two years left on it for a player with waning ability, the way the dominoes fell and we ended up with Daniel Brière for two years with a No Trade Clause, I wasn't sure we'd won out in the end.  I thought Erik was younger and more able to play a physical style, therefore a better fit for our smallish forwards.  I was 75% convinced of that, but after tonight, I'm 60% convinced.  The surge of production I thought could happen for Erik with a good off-season of conditioning is looking more and more unlikely.

Let's just go ahead and measure Michaël Bournival for the Calder Trophy, why don't we.  Not only is he playing great, but he's reinvigorated Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.  That duo looked moribund the first few games, but are now reclaiming their 1A line status, pushing the kids back to 1B.  Chalk up another goal for Mr. Bournival, who played on the first wave of the powerplay, no less.  

Two assists for Raphaël Diaz will also be very welcome.  He's had a couple of difficult games defensively to start the season, and he'll never be confused for Brian Engblom, but he can pitch in by doing what he did tonight: be first on the puck in the defensive zone and clear it out quickly, and create some goals on offence.  He doesn't have the rocket that Yannick Weber has, but he's a headier, more dependable player, and he'll get some pucks on net with a quick wrister rather than trying to blast it through shot-blockers.  I'm keen to see Raphaël paired with Douglas Murray or Alexei Emelin, I insist that with the right partner he can help the team.

René Bourque continues his quiet campaign.  He's also taken flak by fans lately, for not being Rick Tocchet mostly, but we knew that going in.  René is a big, strong, fast winger who can snipe goals.  He's relatively streaky, but he's not dogging it, he still works hard on defence, he's getting shots on net.  His fourth goal has him on pace for 25 for the season.  That's exactly what we were projecting/hoping for him this year.  Again, when Max comes back, I'd be eager to see what those two can do with David Desharnais, maybe they can recreate the magic the 2 1/2 Men line had.

Carey Price racked up another win, but lost the shutout on a shot some may think he flubbed.  I think he was more surprised by it than anything, Cody Eakins timed his wrist shot perfectly so that Carey couldn't pick it out from behind P.K.'s skates and legs until it went by him.  In any case, we're not expecting him to bat a thousand, as we've discussed before, he just need to stop 19 out of 20 shots.  That's all we ask.  Sure enough, tonight he finished with a .963 save percentage, slightly above that mark.  He raised his season percentage to .939, which is fifth-best in the league, and roughly where it needs to be for the team to be successful and for him to amply justify the contract he was awarded last season.

The crash back to earth that a lot of us were expecting with the team's numerous injured players and tougher schedule isn't materializing.  It's three wins out of four starting since the game against the Oilers, and while there was a clear gap between our team and the Sharks, the boys kept it close.  With Max potentially back this Friday, and George Parros, Travis Moen and Brandon Prust poised to add depth and size soon enough, enabling us to return Patrick Holland and Mike Blunden back to Hamilton where they belong, I may have to temper my natural cautiousness/pessimism, and expect even more from Nos Glorieux.

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