Watched the Canadiens 3-1 win on Sportsnet-City, and thank you for that Gary Bettman. It was awesome being subjected to that amateurish direction during the anthems, going to a camera panning crazily from a closeup of a baby to the floor, to the stairs, to the whoops, that's not the shot we want...
Also great to be forced to deal with Paul Romanuk as he learns, or re-learns on the job. Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk were two particular problems for him, with jerseys number 67 and 27 respectively, similar frames and the same position. He misspoke, misidentified them a couple of times early, then decided to delay his call until he was sure, so in that regard, he reminded me of Bob Cole, peering over his tri-focals, trying to remember if #6 in red is Jim Roberts or that new Mondou kid. Wait, he's wearing a beard... No, it must be #8, that George Parrust guy.
We joined the game in progress, in time for the second faceoff fifteen seconds in, after the synchronized anthems. Again, thank you Mr. Bettman. The game didn't have much spark to it, despite the rivalries and enmities developed during last spring's playoffs. At times, the rink felt as quiet as mine does on Monday morning drop-in sessions. Or the Leafs barn on a Saturday night.
One aspect which Messrs. Romanuk and Johnson didn't comment on was how many players tripped or fell, for no apparent reason, all through the game. I wondered if the ice was a problem, of poor quality, if there had been an event the day before and it was affecting the playing surface. It sure seemed that way.
Things picked up midway through though when Tomas Plekanec on the penalty kill poked a puck past Ryan McDonagh at the blue line and streaked off on a breakaway. Trouble for the Rangers was, Max Pacioretty also broke out, so it turned into a 2 on 0 break. Tomas passed to Max, who passed back to Tomas, who passed it back to Max, who, I kid you not, passed it back to Tomas, who tucked it home past a discombobulated Henrik Lundqvist, who spent the next few minutes getting back into his jockstrap.
Also in the first, we saw a incident that possibly illustrated Andrei's hesitation when he was asked about the putative growing chemistry between him and his new partner Tom Gilbert. Off a faceoff, Andrei was in the offensive zone with his back to the blue line, near the boards, when he faked one way and then fed the puck to a streaking Tom Gilbert who had a clear lane to the net. The thing is, the pass ended up being behind Tom, and he couldn't gather it in. It seemed like he wanted to take it right to the net, whereas Andrei had fed him a pass he could one-time.
The Rangers tied up the game late in the first, and local boy Anthony Duclair got an assist in his first game at the New Forum. Much was made of the former Rempart during the broadcast, and of his parents being in the stands, it was good that he could get on the scoreboard.
Good also that Lars got a goal in the second period to break out of a slump, and we hope it's instructive that he scored by digging and causing havoc in front of the Ranger net, not by datsyiuking around the periphery. Dale Weise got an assist on the play, and proved his coach right in his decision to start him and sit out Jiri Sekac.
Not that Mr. Sekac has been playing badly, this isn't really a benching as much as Head Coach Michel Therrien needing to find minutes for everyone. Michaël Bournival has been sent to Hamilton a couple of times to play some games. Jiri will get in lots of games this year, he's done very well so far.
Dale had been singled out by his coach as having an average start to the season, and needing to play with more commitment, and to be more physical. He certainly delivered tonight, and his infectious, dog-in-a-bowling-alley style rubbed off on his linemates. We saw René Bourque deal out a couple of hits, and when the dogpiles happened he was drawn in and pitched in.
The Canadiens didn't exactly sit on their lead, but it was touch-and-go for the next while, with pessimistic fans dreading a squib lucky goal from the visitors to tie things up, but Max put the game away early in the third with a shot right from the crease. It came on a dandy pass from Johnny-on-the-spot Dale Weise, who was subbing in on the Desharnais line for a shaken up Brendan Gallagher. Gally had earlier run into Tanner Glass and highsticked himself, with his own stick. I bet the sound of the crowd roaring and the goal horn sounding helped him recover as he shook it off in the tunnel.
Carey made a lot of effortless stops, smooth as silk, the defencemen kept things under control, an almost uneventful two points then for les boys. No fireworks, Chris Kreider escaped unscathed, and the Dale Weise-John Moore antagonism didn't boil over. In fact, the refs may have kept things under wraps with a quick whistle and marginal call against Dale for interference against Mr. Moore early in the first, sending a message that they wanted things to run by the book, no funny business, capisce?
And at the start of l'Antichambre, Chantal Machabée went to the NHL points standings early, and sure enough the Canadiens are tied for first with their 7-1 record. Funny thing is, I can't remember the last time I checked the standings to see where we were in reference to the top spot. As a kid, to see how far ahead of the Flyers or Bruins or Islanders we were, sure, but not for decades it seemed. Irregularly nowadays, I'll go see what our playoff seeding is at the moment, but that's about it.
But tonight, sheepishly, I admit I'd decided I should check the standings before Chantal beat me to it. I know, I know, it's very early in the season...