The Canadiens had sent Michaël Bournival down to the farm team prior to the weekend to get him some action, not having had a chance to work him into the lineup so far this season. At the time they said he'd play two games and be back on Monday, and so it came to pass.
The question now is where and how does he fit in on the team? Michel Therrien is very complimentary of the young player, that he plays hard, that he's a part of the depth of the team, and the fact that there are no injuries right now makes it harder for everyone to get a chance to play. So we wonder now who has to sit out for Michaël to get into a game?
I think the players on the Top 6 are immune to pressbox duty right now, so Michaël must be worked into the lineup ‘by committee’, everyone has to take a turn. Travis Moen certainly, but maybe also Brandon Prust needs a therapy day against a less pugnaciously-inclined opponent, Manny takes an occasional night off, Jiri Sekac since he’s a rook, and yes, of course, René Bourque if he doesn’t sharpen up.
During Thursday's game, I noted four separate instances when he did a ‘fly by’ instead of finishing his check against a Bruin. With the proviso that I hate the whole ‘finish your check’ mentality, the latitude that is offered by refs to slow players who are a step or two behind chasing the puck, it still was glaring that René passed up those easy opportunities, almost as if he’d skated by a puck lying in the crease, waiting for a tap in, with the goalie out of position. It was a situation where you expected the forechecker to apply some kind of hit on the Boston defenceman, certainly in that type of game and rivalry, and when it didn’t happen it was surprising, greatly against expectations.
René is a big body, a useful player who can certainly be cost-effective. I don’t think he voluntarily takes a night off, he just sometimes loses his focus. I posted a couple of years ago that his coaches should hold him to a simple standard: ask that every game, he get two hits on the scoresheet, and two shots on net. That’s it. Don’t worry about goals or assists, those will come and go, but every game, focus on giving the team two shots on goal, and two hits, and things will fall into place. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll get there.
On Thursday, René wasn’t playing with 100% commitment, for whatever reason. You still keep trusting him, keep playing him, keep coaching him. Have Scott Mellanby speak with him some more, apparently during the playoffs they talked and it triggered something (did it ever) in René. I still think you give him some powerplay time, to change things up, make it unpredictable and harder to defend, harness his big shot and big body, maybe give him a spark of motivation.
But also, based on results, and based on the need to play Michaël Bournival, you sit him a game or two here and there, until he makes it impossible to do so based on what he delivers.