Monday, 17 March 2014

Game 69: Canadiens 2, Sabres 0

Not a game that will be remembered, as opposed to the NHL-record comeback win against the Senators, but two points is two points, and we'll take them, on a night that the Leafs lost to the Capitals and tightened up the standings even more.  The Canadiens went up against the depleted roster of the Sabres, scored two scrambly semi-lucky goals, and won 2-0.

Dale Weise scored his first goal as a Canadien, a few minutes after being set up in the high slot on a pass by Travis Moen and missing the net.  I commented to myself  at the time that good old Dale hasn't changed from his Vancouver days, he's always buzzing around the net, bringing the fans out of their seats, but still failing to finish.  So maybe I'll just keep quiet about him for the time being, and good on him for playing hard again tonight and being dangerous, and finally potting one.

Lars is still struggling though.  In the first period, he snagged a puck in the corner, started to stickhandle toward the slot, then kept going toward the blue line while checked by Drew Stafford, bobbled the puck, and lost the footrace back into his zone chasing the puck, giving the latter a scoring chance on Dustin Tokarski.  Lars needs to understand that when he's stickhandling and he finds open space, it's most often because he's being allowed to go there, the defenders are plugging up the middle and steering him to the periphery.  Much like a defensive tackle making good progress upfield against an offensive guard, he needs to stop and ask himself whether he's willingly going exactly where his coverage wants him to go.

I imagined the Canadiens coaching staff sitting Lars down in the video room, showing him this error, along with a few others where he tries to stickhandle his way over the blue line and into the offensive zone, and then showing him some strong, safe plays, of putting the puck in deep and then using his size and speed to retrieve it.  And lots of video of Brendan Gallagher taking the puck from the corner and making a beeline to the net, defencemen be damned.  

As some have pointed out, maybe it's not a bad thing overall that Lars regressed a bit this year, he may come cheaper when it's time to negotiate his new deal.  It would be hard for him and his agent to make a case for a Tyler Bozak or Sam Gagner-type deal.

As mentioned, Dustin Tokarski got the nod from Coach Therrien, which was a bit of a surprise, everyone expecting Peter Budaj to start the game.  Various reasons were discussed on RDS to explain the decision, but again it was a gutsy call, one which was rewarded with a shutout win.  

Michel Therrien has many detractors, especially on English social media.  He's not warm and fuzzy, he's inelegant in his speaking style, has some mannerisms that grate, but we're forced to admit that he's doing a good job overall.  Coaching is at base a results-based occupation.  As much as some complain that his system doesn't work, he can't make coaching adjustments, he doesn't motivate his troops and have them ready to play, among other grievances, we're still forced to recognize that he took a last-place team two seasons ago to second place in the Conference, and this season has again battled to remain at the top of the standings, with a thin roster, little offence and lately the loss of his franchise goalie.  Whereas we remember Scotty Bowman, Jacques Demers and Pat Burns, and look longingly towards Colorado and fiery, inspiring Patrick Roy, we have to give Michel Therrien his due.  He's doing a good job with a team that most didn't give much of a chance to succeed at the start of the season.

Two steps forward, one step back for P.K., in that tonight he played a lot of minutes, but the lowlight was the knee-on-knee collision with Matt D'Agostini.  P.K. knew he was beat and stuck out his knee, he could have caused a serious injury, possibly even on himself.  The NHL has to crack down on these plays, there is no justification for knee-on-knees, no matter how many talking heads explain that they're a reflex, a reaction, that the player didn't intend to injure his opponents, etc.  If the League automatically suspended players who did this, the 'reflex' would disappear, much like the 15-yard penalty for horse-collar tackles in the NFL has eliminated injuries that used to be caused by them.  Horse collars are now much milder in nature, accidental, and players release their hold when they realize they're going to be called for it, same as with facemask penalties.

Again, knee-on-knees occur when players are facing each other, and the checker realizes he'll whiff on his check and sticks out his leg.  It's not accidental, it's voluntary, it's realizing you're going to be beat, and thinking that the consequences to a knee-on-knee are mild compared to the wrath of your coach.  Stiff automatic suspensions would change everybody's mind about this.  

Good thing I'm not a gambling man, because before the game I would have bet money that Thomas Vanek would score at least one goal in Buffalo.  It didn't happen, but he got off what seemed like ten shots on net, and seems to be developing a rapport with David and Max.  So the dam bursts on Tuesday against the Avalanche.  I'd bet.

No comments:

Post a Comment