Michel Therrien has tinkered with his lineup during the great start to the season, stating that he didn't want to wait for things to go wrong before he made adjustments. It's hard to argue this general point, tuneups are necessary to prevent complete breakdowns. So on the first game back at home after a three-game road trip which saw the team gather three points out of a possible six, and the team score only three goals, he jumbled up his lines to try to spark the offence.
So Dale Weise jumped up to the first line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk moved to centre with René Bourque and Brendan Gallagher on his wings, and Tomas Plekanec continued with P.A. Parenteau, but inherited dispossessed centreman Lars Eller on his left wing. To finish off, Jarred Tinordi sat out in favour of Nathan Beaulieu on the third defence pair.
We've talked about how Michel Therrien very often during the last two seasons took what were at first glance debatable decisions, but which almost invariably would turn in his favour. The obvious example was his surprising use of Peter Budaj, starting him against tough opponents, against the Bruins, and getting wins out of it. Tonight though, his bold line shuffling produced nothing, aside from a listless, asynchronous lineup, and a 6-2 defeat at the hand of the little-engine-that-could Flames.
Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie was signed to a five-year contract last month worth $4.65M annually, which raised some eyebrows. He showed Canadiens fans tonight that he is very much deserving of such treatment, that he is a rising star who doesn't get much press playing in Calgary, but would be hyped like a Michael del Zotto or more if he played in a large media centre like New York. He had three assists and was named the game's third star, but in my book was the first.
Meanwhile, P.K. Subban is not nearly playing to the level of his $9M/year deal. He's certainly not the goat of the loss tonight, but he needs to be the best Canadien night in night out. Instead, he's the most mercurial player, capable of brilliant and boneheaded play from one period to the next. And that's unacceptable at his pay grade. He needs to be Larry Robinson, the guy who when he's on the ice, the other team doesn't have a chance.
Instead, the boys on L'Antichambre discussed how P.K. is the most penalized player in the league in terms of two-minute minors. If he accumulated these by crunching guys with bodychecks, I wouldn't mind, but the embellishment penalties, the lazy trippings, the inopportune slashing penalty he got tonight are an indication of a player who's not fully into the game, who's not giving everything he has to win.
I'll say it again: I want P.K. to stop worrying about the refs while play is underway. Stop looking at the ref after every hook and every hit you dish out. Play the game until the whistle blows. Every time you look at the ref, you're giving the impression that you're guilty of something, that you should be penalized. Conversely, when someone hooks or trips you, stop gesturing at the refs hoping for a call. The other team hasn't stopped playing, they're still trying to score on you. Ignore the hook you're victim of, fight through it.
Play hard. You've got a couple years of playing hard ahead of you, and of not diving ahead of you, before the refs lose the bad impression they have of you. Might as well start now.
Alex Galchenyuk got hit in the mouth with a high stick early in the game, and got a fat lip out of it. He seemed stunned on the bench afterwards, like he wasn't having a great day, and in hindsight that moment might have been a snapshot of what the whole team was about to go through.
On the first goal scored by the Flames, we saw Max and Nathan zero in on Johnny Gaudreau in the corner, eager to deliver a hit, and I thought that maybe they thought he was an inviting target, or a player who should be checked hard to counter his speed, but also that they might be trying to avenge Alex's cut lip. In any case, the kid was dangerous all night, picked up two assists and was named the second star.
Dale Weise did quite well on the first line, but the other line changes weren't as fruitful. If anything, the boys seemed confused, and this may have been the reason for the too-many-men penalty, that they didn't know which line, or which incarnation of which line, was supposed to be on the ice.
So not a great night for the boys, after a difficult road trip, and they're still not finding the net. I don't know if Michel Therrien will continue with the lines he tried tonight, or if he'll go back to a more conventional lineup, but we have to wonder when Jiri Sekac and Michaël Bournival will find their way onto the lineup. If we're not scoring, it would seem that such an injection of speed could only help right?