Sunday, 23 March 2014

Game 72: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3

Well, this is a win that we can feel was stolen, and not by Carey Price.  I kind of have to say that the refs handed us this one.  That goalie interference call on James van Riemsdyk was questionable at least, seeing as he was pushed from behind by Andrei Markov.  His trajectory indicates that he might have contacted Carey in the crease even without the push, but it's hard to make the case either way.  Usually the refs swallow their whistles in the third period in a tied game unless a decapitation occurs.  Let's give Carey an Oscar, and move on before too many Senators fans congregate and point and scream blue murder, and insist on a recount of their last loss at the New Forum.

Carey was actually solid in goal, back to his usual reliable self.  He made the saves he needed to make, his posts and crossbar pitched in, and he skates off with another win.  It's interesting to note that he saved 33 out of 36 shots.  This is the same number of shots faced by Toronto goalie James Reimer, who made exactly one fewer save.  Apparently one of Pierre Maguire's witticisms is that the game shouldn't be called hockey but 'goalie'.

The Canadiens stormed out to a 2-0 lead thanks to some poor efforts from Mr. Reimer.  He was teetering on the edge, all wobbly, one more softie would have had him yanked, but he made a couple of stops soon after and got back in stride and regained his confidence.  Again, too bad for the Canadiens that they had a goalie on the ropes but they couldn't finish him.  But then again, maybe we should look at it as if they spared him, left him there as a Trojan horse who would come in handy when the time was right.

The game served as a streak buster for a couple of Canadiens.  René Bourque, after sitting out a few games, was reinserted in the lineup, on a line with Daniel Brière at centre and Brian Gionta.  The three veterans were effective, and both wingers tallied a goal and an assist.  René Bourque played like he can, if he's focused and motivated, skating hard, and got off six shots even if he didn't quite take a regular shift.  It's reassuring that he showed he can still play, still get results.  At his cap hit, a big body who can skate like him is actually a bargain, if he just performs as expected, he doesn't even need to overachieve.

Tomas Plekanec had a bit of a rough game.  He took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone that the Leafs converted into a goal.  Late in the third period with the Canadiens protecting a slim lead, frantically defending in their own zone, he somehow was running around jawing at the refs, protesting a non-call on what he thought should have been a penalty at one point, then a close play at the blue line which he felt should have been an offside.  It was puzzling behaviour from a veteran leader of the team, as play was going on.

Tomas has been in a long slump, as I'm painfully aware from his deleterious effect on my fantasy teams lately.  He hopefully took a big step in breaking this unproductive streak by scoring the go-ahead goal in the third on the powerplay, on a bank shot off James Reimer, who gosh darn it tried hard on the play, although we'll have to wait to see how his coach will characterize his effort and performance.

Maybe Tomas' uneven performance can be attributed to his new linemates Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.  Do we still expect Tomas to the be the shutdown center if he plays with the two youths?  At one point, with Nazem Kadri lazily skating up ice with the puck, considering his options, Alex retreated, to assume a defensive posture.  And kept retreating.  I had time to yell out: "Close the gap, Alex!" before Morgan Rielly got off his shot that hit the crossbar.  

Alex didn't seem his usual affable self when interviewed by Pierre Houde during the pregame show, and I don't know if I'm reading too much into it.  By the questions Mr. Houde asked, I guess Alex knew by then that he wouldn't be centering René Bourque and Brian Gionta during the game, as he had done in the previous practice.  I have to believe that the Canadiens coaching staff learned that Dave Bolland was going to play as the Leafs third-line centre, and they decided that this wouldn't be the most propitious time to let Alex have a go at playing centre.  Maybe not a bad call, Dave Bolland is a handful, as Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler can testify, but it seemed to affect Alex based on his demeanor.

Lars Eller left the game with a lower-body injury, which seemed to come on an innocuous play.  RDS showed footage of a faceoff he took in the offensive zone, after which he immediately skated to the bench for a change.  I suspect he suffered a strain earlier, and either aggravated it on the faceoff, or tested it and realized it wasn't going to allow him to continue.

In response, or maybe rather as a stroke of fortuitous timing, Michaël Bournival is done his conditioning stint in Hamilton and will rejoin the team in Boston.  While a healthy Lars is an asset to the team, having Ryan White or Michaël ready to sub in is not a bad spot to be in, especially if René Bourque is also ready to contribute.

A final observation might be on how tame the proceedings were, in terms of toughness and penalties.  While Colton Orr and Troy Bodie were dressed for the game, they played little, and had no effect on the game.  We may have feared that the Leafs might make use of the absence of George Parros and Brandon Prust in the lineup as a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card, but they actually just concentrated on hockey, and tried to beat the Canadiens with their Lupuls and Kessels instead of their fists.  Good on you, putrid blue, save that for your first-round matchup against the Bruins.

1 comment:

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