In a game which accented some broad organizational patterns, practices and trends, the Hamilton Bulldogs played hard but came up short, losing 4-1 against the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs' AHL farm team.
There were so many similarities between the baby Canadiens and the parent team. They dominated in the shots department, sending 34 shots against the Marlies keeper, and allowing just 24. The 'Dogs also looked slick on the powerplay, controlling the puck and passing it around with ease in the offensive zone, but couldn't finish. The Hamilton forwards looked small and skillful, skating circles around the defenders, but got mugged a few times and were at a disadvantage due to the sight-impaired referees.
Meanwhile the Marlies are a carbon copy of their parent club. They have lots of big burly defencemen and, ahem, 'players', who can't really skate but are really 'tough', whatever that means. Korbinian Holzer, an overhyped dud in the grand Leafs tradition of Luke Schenn, Mike Kostka and Carlo Colaiacovo, sure covered himself in glory going after Sven Andrighetto, who's half a foot shorter and a rookie to the league.
Jerry D'Amigo did a lot of jawing, at one point messing with Gabriel Dumont, a player who's listed as 30 pounds lighter than he is. Gabriel didn't think twice, and made a clear show of inviting his adversary to a dance, but D'Amigo meekly returned to the safety of his bench, although he did keep chin-wagging, and had this real snide expression on his face, so he had that going for him. Later, during an extended scrum, the Marlie was on the ice and was kind of shamed into backing up his previous tough talk, and finally received his beating at the hands of Gabriel that he'd been angling for. Daddy D'Amigo must be proud.
It was good to see Morgan Ellis in uniform, actually playing, he's often been hurt or a healthy scratch when I catch a Hamilton game on TV, and this afternoon he made a few nice plays with the puck, and defended well generally. He didn't take to the AHL as quickly as we might have liked after his strong Memorial Cup season, but the reports lately have been encouraging, let's hope he keeps developing.
The other defencemen I had an eye on were obviously Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn. While they were obviously the stronger of the Bulldog defenceman, they didn't look dominant or like they didn't belong in the AHL. While we pine for these guys to flip a switch and suddenly be ready to take a regular shift on the Canadiens blue line, we should remember how we all swore a couple of seasons ago that we would give the kids time to develop in the minors, we wouldn't rush them to the bigs before they're ready we said. We'd let them marinate and grow the skills and confidence at a lower level until they were ready, at which point only they would progress to a bigger challenge. Well this is where we need to keep our promise, despite the presence of Mike Weaver on our blue line currently.
Also, Davis Drewiske played a lot of minutes, and it's hard to make an assessment of his game since he's basically in his own version of training camp, and he's not flashy like Nathan, the camera doesn't follow him around, but he did seem sure-handed and dependable, which we'd expect for a player who spent a few seasons in the NHL, albeit as a #7 d-man.
Louis Leblanc skated well and played hard, but given his pedigree and his level of experience, we'd expect him to be the leader of this team, to be head and shoulder above the competition at this stage. Instead, he was generally outplayed by Sven Andrighetto, who was quick, agile and dangerous with the puck, and Gabriel Dumont, who is showing signs that he's mastering the AHL, being the most dangerous Bulldog forward despite being projected as a checking third or fourth-line player in the NHL, if he makes it.
It will be interesting to see what the Canadiens brass does with Louis in the summer, his entry level contract is up, and he will be eligible for waivers. My guess is that they'll sign him to another two-way deal, and let him work on his strength in the offseason and his game in Hamilton next season. If he's swiped by another team on waivers coming out of camp next September, so be it.
Finally, a word about the Sportsnet broadcast team of R.J. Broadhead and Sam Consentino. They generally do good work, they've grown on me since I've started watching the games they cover, but Mr. Broadhead made the unfortunate error of calling Drew Schiestel "Shystel", to sound as 'shyster'. The Hamilton blueliner was clear when he signed his contract that his name is pronounced so as to rhyme with 'pistol', it was in the press release by the team. Yet Mr. Broadhead didn't get the memo.
I understand these two cover the AHL and the CHL for Sportsnet, that's a heck of a lot of teams so they're busy and can't know everything, but it's also emblematic of a practice by some play-by-play teams to make the best effort they can of pronouncing an unfamiliar name, instead of going to the source, of finding out what the name actually is, and allowing the player that small courtesy. So many foreign players names are anglicized for convenience, Mario Lemieux became 'Le-mioo', and David Desharnais becomes 'Day-har-nay'.
René Lecavalier, the impeccable broadcaster who worked "La Soirée du Hockey" for decades, was rigourous with his pronunciation, he'd go right to the player and ask how his name was properly pronounced, and explain this to his viewers. So that Mats Naslund was called on Radio-Canada 'Ness-loond', as he should be, while Bob Cole was unshakable in his errant 'Naz-luhnd'.
Pierre Houde continues this tradition to this day, of respecting the pronunciation of players' names, and I wish more play-by-play teams did their homework and followed suit.