Monday, 17 November 2014

Game 19: Canadiens 4, Red Wings 1

Thanks to Gary Bettman, RDS's broadcast was blacked out for me, so I thought I'd be forced to watch the game against the Red Wings on Sportsnet, but then realized I could try to sync Pierre Houde's and Marc Denis' call from a feed, and just get the image from Sportsnet.  This way I'd see the game, except for when the director cuts to a shot of Roger Millions itching a testicle, and when they splash a graphic on the screen selling me that I can play scratch’n’sniff along with the Sportsnet gang and have a chance to win a meelion dollars, or a toaster from the Try’n’Save, blocking my view of the initial faceoff kicking off a powerplay.

And it was so much better listening to Pierre Houde and Marc Denis, instead of Dave Randorff, as hard as the gentleman tries, I find his calls annoying.  The Sportsnet image and my feed were perfectly synched, I didn’t even need to finagle it.  Of course, I had to put up with all the screen splashes touting the quality programming available for viewing on other channels in the Ted Rogers family. All of them imports from American networks, but still…

All in all, it was an adequate response to the situation, and an enjoyable way to view the Canadiens 4-1 win.

Following along Mike Boone's Liveblog on Hockey Inside Out, I was amused by his witticism:
That's cool: the Joe (Louis Arena) has a Gordie Howe Entrance.  The Bell Centre should have a René Bourque Exit.
"Only if Tomas Kaberle and Scott Gomez get bigger, more luxurious exits dedicated to them," I posted in response.

Before the game, talk was still on the Sergei Gonchar for Travis Moen trade, and the current unwieldy 11 forwards and 7 defencemen lineup the Canadiens have been icing.  A lot of it fretted about the effect on P.K. Subban.

One big consideration is that we now don’t need to ‘save’ P.K. so he can play 100 seconds of PP. If the pairings concocted recently split the duties on the man-advantage, P.K. doesn’t get into an anaerobic state five or six times a game, and doesn’t need to recover for long stretches. A minute at a time, he can play every second shift and not break a sweat that kid, so hell yeah this can actually help him rather than hurt his development.

Hopefully things shake out, the pairings solidify, and P.K. settles down after an uneven start to the season, and starts eating minutes like a hungry hungry hippo.  Heck, he can now even kill penalties.

And sure enough, while killing a penalty, P.K. gets the assist on Brandon Prust's opening goal early in the second period.  This was aided in large part by confusion by the Red Wings during a line change as the penalty ended, and Danny DeKeyser had to rush to his bench and avoid playing a loose puck that went right by him.

Coming in on a two-on-one rush, the goal was a very nice snipe by Brandon. He faked the pass, or rather 'showed' pass for a whole second, like a quarterback looking off the safety, then went glove side. Almost a no-look shot. Amazing what a little confidence can do for a guy.

Michel Bergeron used to say on L’Antichambre that you can’t ask a guy like Brandon who’s the stereotypical ‘heart and soul’ player, who sacrifices and leads by example, to play eight minutes a night and square off against the other team’s tough guy. You have to reward a guy like that. His icetime, by playing on the third line, with talented player who aren’t just checkers, and by killing penalties, is more reflective of the service he provides the team.  It's also not over his head in terms of his ability and hockey sense, Brandon isn't John Scott or Colton Orr.

As far as salary cap considerations, one of the concerns is that you can’t pay a fourth-liner what he gets paid, the current 'model', the new way to go is to have young players on Entry Level Contracts, or cheap vets on short term deals to fill out your roster.  Maybe if he can continue to click with Lars Eller and Jiri Sekac, even if it’s off and on through the season, it goes partway to quell that concern. Even so, taking into account the impact he’s had on the roster and team chemistry, and factoring in the mandatory overpay for a high-tax, high-pressure destination like Montréal, and for a July 1 UFA signing, his compensation is completely reasonable.

Brandon's linemates also got some positive feedback, with RDS' Vincent Damphousse showing Jiri Sekac the love with the following observation between periods:
“On a enlevé un boulet à Eller en envoyant Bourque à Hamilton et en ajoutant Sekac.”
Translated: We removed Lars Eller’s ball and chain by sending René Bourque to Hamilton and playing Jiri Sekac.

I don’t know who likes that kid more, Mario Tremblay or Vinny.  Mario touted this kid so much at the start of the season, it was sounding like a fisherman's story, he had the kid at 6'3" and 220 lbs at one point.

Soon after Brandon, P.K. scored a goal off a seeing-eye slapper that bounced off Kyle Quincey's groinal area.  Ouch.  Big ups to the man for not flopping around like a soccer player, but rather wincing and limping his way to his bench.

In the third, it was the Brendan Gallagher show.  He picked up an assist by passing on a 2-on-1 to Tomas Plekanec, and then a goal to put the game away after the Wings had made it 3-1 on a mildly controversial score.

First, to deal with the Red Wings goal on a powerplay by Riley Sheahan, the problem is that on a shot that occurred earlier in the sequence, Dustin Tokarski was hit in the mask and it unsnapped one of the straps on his mask.  He could be seen motioning twice to the refs, and we can assume he was yelling at them at the same time to get their attention and a stoppage in play, to no avail.

Interestingly, in a similar situation earlier this season, Carey Price shook off his own mask with a vigorous shake of his head to get a whistle, since once a goalie's mask comes completely off the play is immediately blown dead.  Maybe Carey can show Tikker that trick.

Never fear though, Brendan then scored to ice the win, after battling behind the net with the much bigger Joakim Andersson and falling to the ice.  Alex Galchenyuk, also down low and battling for the puck along the boards, pushed the puck back to him, and Brendan, on his knees and behind the goal line, made a bank shot off Jimmy Howard, who didn't have a great night all in all.

There's been some worry about Brendan Gallagher and the punishment he takes, whether he can sustainably play the game this way and still have a long career. Some suggest he should play more like a sniper, and rely on his point totals in the WHL to support this.

I only saw him play live a couple of times in Junior, but Brendan played the same way for the Vancouver Giants as he does now, always digging for pucks, taking it to the net, getting crosschecked and abused in the process. While he did snipe pucks often, it may have been more due to the lower talent level of the players he was competing with. He doesn’t have a lethal shot from the slot, he’s more of an average shooter that way. So to think he can play more like Mike Bossy or Mike Cammalleri is not realistic, he’s not that type of player.

What will prolong his career will be having a tougher player on his line, in the mold of a Connor Crisp or Michael McCarron, who will be able to tamp down the regular assaults he faces after whistles, to the powerless, speechless, whistle-less, sentience-less gaze of the referees. If they can’t teach other players that Brendan is allowed to stand near the net, that his being there doesn’t mean they’re allowed, or even necessitated, to put him in a headlock, maybe a snarling Jack Nevins can perform this function.

At 4-1, a lot of Wings fans called it a night, leaving the rink to a significant number of fans in bleu-blanc-rouge.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear the very loud “Olé” song in Detroit’s own rink.

Now to pull that in Boston this week…

The rest of the way, there was only one fly in the ointment, and it was this: Are the Canadiens the team with the worst shooting-percentage when facing an empty net?  The Wings pulled their goalie with something like five minutes remaining, but the Habs couldn't manage to nail down the coffin's lid.  Instead, they kept icing the puck and facing defensive zone faceoffs.

What's it going to take to score some empty-netters?  Andrei Markov can sharpshoot the crossbar from his defensive zone, but no one can put it in the frigging empty net for five minutes straight?

Again, minor foibles, having to criticize the lack of empty-net scoring prowess shows how well things are rolling for the Habs, with a 6th straight win in the bank, acquired on the road on the back half of a back-to-back.  Not too shabby.

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