Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Game 73: Canadiens 2, Bruins 1 (SO)

After being handed a win, or at least a very good opportunity to win, by the referees on Saturday night against the Leafs, the Canadiens stole a Halakian win against the Bruins on Monday night, beating them 2-1 in a hotly-contested game that ended in a four-round shootout.

Michel Therrien, who draws more than his fair share of critics, has on occasion taken some puzzling lineup decisions these past two seasons, and often he comes up smelling of roses.  More often than not, these fortunate calls regard his use of his goalies.  He has regularly used Peter Budaj in less-than-obvious circumstances, and has been rewarded.  In Mr. Budaj's recent weak spell in Carey Price's absence, Coach Therrien played a hunch and threw Dustin Tokarski out against the Sabres and was rewarded with a shutout win.

His call to start Peter Budaj in Boston wasn't as unconventional as it might seem.  With Carey Price freshly back from a lower body injury, it made sense to rest him on one of two back-to-back games, and since the backup has had success against the Gooins, the harder road contest was Peter's to deal with.  He made 28 saves, the only puck skittering past him caused by a tipped shot.

One decision which Coach Therrien can revisit is the toughness quotient in his lineup.  With Jarred Tinordi, Ryan White and George Parros scratched, and Brandon Prust injured, the only available First Responders to thwart Bruin thuggery were Douglas Murray and Travis Moen.  Travis did his job early in the first in trying to stick up for his linemate Dale Weise, who was cross-checked in the back into the boards by Bruin defenceman Kevan Miller.  Unfortunately, Travis caught one flush early in the bout, went down, but got back up and gamely continued the fight, until a second one on the button ended the tilt.  Travis got up with Bambi-legs and was escorted to the dressing room with the help of teammates.

I'm concerned about Travis' health, his career, and his ability to contribute to the Canadiens' success in the future.  Last season, he was often the target of pointed questions on l'Antichambre and on social media, with his near $2M cap hit not equivalent to his production.  The thing is, he'd suffered a serious concussion the previous season, and seemed unwilling to match up against heavyweights night in, night out.  This year, maybe feeling healthier and more confident, and maybe thinking he had more support with George Parros and Douglas Murray aboard, he took on more of a load in that aspect of the game.  

For this specific game, the Bruins took untold liberties, and it was hard not to think of the previous game, when the lineup was loaded with tough guys, and the Bruins meekly concentrated on hockey.  Which only confirms the fact that the Bruins aren't tough as much as they're bullies.  They're tough against Andrei Markov and Tom Pyatt, but don't push the issue against Brandon Prust and Douglas Murray.  

How will Travis feel about mixing it up in the future?  Like it or not, his value comes not only from his forechecking and ability to kill penalties, or from his veteranship.  A big part of his appeal is that he can bring a physical presence, and negate some of the pugilistic aspirations from opponents.  He's a big boy who inspires respect.  If he retrenches from that part of the game, he's markedly less valuable, less useful.

Speaking of valuable players, our first line of Pacioretty, Desharnais and Vanek were not first-rate.  They were rarely threatening, and when they were, they seemed to try to get too cute, attempting one too many passes instead of getting a shot off.  It's great that they seem to get along, but now they're almost too deferential to each other.  On one occasion, David tried to pass to Max through the crease past two checkers, when he had an open lane to the net.  I skipped back a few times and imagined him faking the pass and then dekeing Tuukka Rask, who was already expecting the pass to Max and cheating to his left.  From now on, I want Max and Thomas to be a little more selfish, and pull the trigger when they get the puck, not look for each other for a pretty pass.

Alexei Emelin continued his war with Milan Lucic, and as usual the Bruins were petulant and dangerous in the worst sense of the word.  Alex started the game with a great hip check in open ice on Mr. Lucic, and the Bruins' thug-in-chief Zdeno Chara immediately retaliated and drew a minor penalty.  Milan Lucic and Alexei hit each other through the rest of the game, until the Bruin decided he didn't like it anymore, and speared Alexei in the groin region.  

Of course, in the grand lying tradition of Chara, Ference, Julien et al., Mr. Lucic blithely stated to reporters after the game that "he didn't spear" Alexei.  Which is hogwash, and is clearly seen on video of the game.

NHL rules are also quite clear that he did in fact spear him.

Rule 62 - Spearing
62.1 Spearing - Spearing shall mean stabbing an opponent with the point of the stick blade, whether contact is made or not.
62.2 Double-minor Penalty - A double-minor penalty will be imposed on a player who spears an opponent and does not make contact.
62.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty shall be imposed on a player who spears an opponent (see 62.5).
62.4 Match Penalty - A match penalty shall be imposed on a player who injures an opponent as a result of a spear.
62.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - Whenever a major penalty is assessed for spearing, a game misconduct penalty must also be imposed.
62.6 Fines and Suspensions - There are no specified fines or suspensions for spearing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).

Of course, Mr. Lucic has a black and yellow 'Get Out of Jail Free' card that he can hand in to Daddy Campbell, and that's just par for the course for the NHL, run as it is by Mike Milbury and Don Cherry.

We saw an illustration of the lunacy of the NHL in how the refs, after handing out a number of penalties to the Bruins, needed to even things out in the third and called four straight minors on the Canadiens, while the Bruins kept running Canadiens seconds after they'd moved the puck.  Pierre Houde pointed out that the game ended with both team receiving seven minors each, and scoring a powerplay goal each.  Which is 'fairness' in the NHL, even though Boston commits three infractions for every one the average team makes.

P.K. had an uneven game, which is understandable considering what a marked man he is in Boston.  I'm going to hold him to a very high standard, but I wish he'd stop the mugging and appeals to the refs, and the attempts at instigation and retaliation, and just focused on the game, like Raymond Bourque and Chris Chelios used to.  Both were physical defencemen who were central to their team's success, who were targets for fourth-liners and cheap-shot artists, but they just kept their cool and played hard.  There's a tendency for histrionics in P.K.'s game that I wish he would phase out, though I'm not sure if that's ever going to happen.

So a big two points in the bank, on a night when Tampa only picked up a single, and the Buffalo Cream Puffs at the New Forum tonight.  That's another two points guaranteed, right?

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