Saturday, 13 December 2014

Game 31: Canadiens 6, Kings 2

"Canadiens Express" thoughts on the Canadiens' 6-2 loss to the Kings.  Uh, I mean win.  This result was unexpected, really went against script, for a few reasons, not the least of which is our inferiority complex against big teams, or Stanley Cup winning teams, or Western Conference teams, or...

-You'd have thought that the Kings were the fresh team and the Canadiens were the ones with the dead legs and had played and traveled the previous night.  Shots: 46-20 for the Kings.

-The Canadiens Express didn't give you a real sense of the flow of the game, they have to snip out some minutes here and there.  Tonight, they chose some sequences when the Canadiens were bottled up in their zone for a while and probably had to ice the puck.  There'd be the flash-forward effect, a couple of minutes or so would disappear off the clock, and Pierre Houde would comment on how the five players on the ice were exhausted as they lined up for a faceoff.  

So watching the game, with all the scoring and all the Canadiens highlights, I didn't get that the Kings were that dominant.  

Thank you Gary Bettman.

-Why did the Canadiens win?  Opportunistic offence, sure.  More saliently, Carey Price kept the Canadiens in it and finished with a .957 save percentage.  L.A. King goalie Martin Jones?  .700.  Yikes.

-We often say that a goalie can't be blamed for this or that goal, but over a long season, these things average out.  Eventually, a goalie has to make difficult saves.  There were a few occasions where Carey was borderline miraculous, got a huge gasp and cheer out of the New Forum crowd.  They chanted his name a few times.

-Conversely, it's hard to point the finger on any one goal on Martin Jones.  Well, this one was on a powerplay, and so was this one, and this one ticked off a stick, this one was one a 2-on-1, this one Jiri was alone in front point blank, ...  Eventually, a goalie has to make saves.

-I'll speak for the detractors and castigate Michel "Clueless" Therrien, who really needs to start heeding the peanut gallery, to heed our advice.  He couldn't resist his line-shuffling impulses tonight, mixing in Brandon Prust with David Desharnais and P.A. Parenteau.  What possible benefit can be derived from using a trusted, beloved, responsible, heart and soul veteran player on the third rather than the fourth line?  He never gave our 'Fringe Line' a chance to get off the ground.

-That David and P.A. responded with two points each is really beside the point I'm making.  It's actually inconvenient when your mention it, quite frankly.

-David got the monkey off his back by scoring his first 5-on-5 goal in half a season.  It came on a 2-on-1 with Pierre-Alexandre giving him a beautiful feed he could one-time into the net, that built the cushion back up to three goals after the Kings, who were trailing 3-0 at the start of the third, had scored to make it a little closer.  

Let's hope that the change benefits David, that it forces him to play a little bit differently, and not just look for Max or Thomas Vanek or Erik Cole for his seeing-eye passes.  Your shot isn't very hard Davey, but it's quick, accurate, you can surprise goalies when you're darting around in the slot.  Especially when opponents by now all expect you to pass.  Unleash that slingshot of yours.  It was enough to slay that 6'4" goliath in the L.A. net.

-Let's give P.K. a mumps scare four or five times a year, or maybe just on an 'as needed' dosage.  After being away for a day for flu-like symptoms, he got a goal and an assist tonight.  Heck, do that every night P.K., and we won't lose many games, and I'll allow you a couple of penalty minutes per.  He played just under 25 minutes, at +2, on top of his powerplay assist.  

-Sven Andrighetto muddied the waters further by scoring another goal, his second, and his third point in three career NHL games.  Hey kid, can you quit it with that, how we ever gonna send you down if you keep doin' that?

I'll stick up for my boy Davey here.  On that sequence, Manny Malhotra had gone to the bench for a change after he, Michaël Bournival and Sven had forechecked the Kings for a while in their zone.  David had hopped onto the ice and coming up behind the defencemen he probably let them know he was there, so Alexei Emelin could make the decision to stay on the blue line instead of falling back, and he broke up a zone exit by the Kings with a pokecheck.  

Michaël gathered in the loose puck, made a sweet pass to Sven who buried it on a one-timer.  But it all started with David providing cover for his defenceman, who could be aggressive on the opposing blue line.  

-Michaël Bournival must have let out a sigh of relief.  He's back in the lineup playing, had a great assist, it must feel great for him after a difficult start to the season for various reasons.

-Same with Manny Malhotra.  He finally racks up a point, his first in a Canadiens uniform.  When a guy can expect if everything falls into place to score 15-20 points, if he doesn't get the bounces, the dry spell will seem enormous, compared to a Phil Kessel or Max Pacioretty, who can't be denied more than a handful of games at a time.

On this assist, he got the puck in the zone by giving it Dale Weise, then headed for the net.  P.K.'s shot beat Martin Jones cleanly, but Manny did all the right things, and got rewarded with a bit of puck luck, finally.

-Obvious point coming up: it's easier to win games when you have scorers in your lineup, who can snipe goals.  Hear me out.  A month ago we were giving René Bourque and Travis Moen every opportunity as veterans, and Jiri was in the pressbox, and Sven was in Hamilton.  So you can't make a direct subtraction, it's not that direct a transaction, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway: without these two kids in the lineup, three of those goals don't happen.  

They won't score three every game, they'll cool off, they'll make defensive mistakes, but that's the bed we're in right now.  And it's a bit of a refreshing change.  Especially since Erik Cole and Mike Cammalleri left, we've bemoaned the lack of scoring ability on our team, and our farm system as well.  If we have guys who can skate, ingest the coaches' system and be positionally sound, and can be dangerous, productive at the other end, I'll take the loss of thumpitude we endured with the loss of Travis and René.

-Maybe that's an aspect that ended up on the cutting-room floor at "Canadiens Express" studio, but the Kings, for all their ballyhooed size and toughness and reputation for wearing down other teams, they played it straight.  We didn't see much cross-checking or slashing or facewashing and headlocky defencemen when Brendan Gallagher was nearby after a whistle.  

Same situation when we played the Blues a while back, for all their size and grit, no spearings or mayhem, just straight ahead hockey, with bodychecking and puck battles.

So the Bruins, it's not so much that they're big and tough, it's just that they cheat, they intimidate as a tactic, and the refs let them get away with it, bashful to incur the attention of Don Cherry.  

Same goes for the Leafs and the Senators, they've been sucked down that drain into the cesspool as well.  

-That slapper from Drew Doughty from the faceoff dot?  Whew!  Carey was cannon fodder on that one.  I'm glad it got by him, it might have broken his hand or clavicle or brain pan if it hadn't missed him.  That was such a free shot, it reminded me of James Gandolfini on Patricia Arquette in "True Romance".

-Aside from shots, the numbers looked better for the Habs.  2/3 on the powerplay, but they shut out the Kings in five attempts.  They blocked 32 shots, and won 40 of 63 faceoffs.

-Mario Tremblay was so enamoured of Jiri Sekac's performance, I thought he was going to say he's 7'4" and 540 lbs, and start calling him Jiri the Giant.

-The RDS boys have been preaching patiency with Jiri, that while he's rolling along we shouldn't put too much pressure, load too much responsibility on his shoulders despite a good start to the season.  They'll explain that players new to the NHL start to fade later into the season, so we shouldn't kill our golden goose so early, let him ease into the pressure cooker.  But the more he plays like this, the harder it will be to resist the temptation.

-Now we get three days off and an easy two-pointer on Tuesday against the 'Canes.  Right?

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