The rope-a-dope Canadiens, who hang around and depend mostly on six or eight miracles by Carey Price to keep them in it and win late, and who were on hiatus Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, were back this morning to face off against the Capitals as part of the traditional back-to-back matinées on Super Bowl weekend.
They were up to their old tricks, getting outshot 9-7 and 17-6 in the second, before turning it on and winning the shot battle 15-10 in the third and 2-0 in overtime. Max Pacioretty scored on a two-on-two rush with Tomas Plekanec, tipping in crossing pass from his centre, giving the Habs the 1-0 win.
Max was full value again today, playing 22 minutes, being a constant menace with his breakaways, especially while killing penalties, and unleashing seven shots at Braden Holtby. His growth, the full expression of his potential and physical gifts, is a treat for Canadiens fans.
Carey Price had the Capitals shaking their heads at times, especially in the third period. He made some amazing, Capital-deflating saves, and pulled a Patrick Roy by letting his posts bail him out three times. After the game, as usual, he skated around looking for children to flip a souvenir puck to, in his role as the first star of the game.
The Galchenyuk-Desharnais-Gallagher line has been too quiet lately, and Lars Eller was marked for another beating on L'Antichambre. Like me, the panel members were crestfallen at his non-event of a three-on-one shorthanded break, in which he didn't find a way to pass off to Tomas Plekanec or Andrei Markov, waited for an opening, an option, and ran out of room, flipping a puck weakly at Braden Holtby when he was right on top of him and no longer had any angles.
The panel members were suggesting that he should move to the wing, where he could still use his skating and size but with more limited options and decisions to take. They believe that with his tools, he can be a very effective left winger, one who'll charge the net and shoot more, instead of hesitate with the puck on his stick, hemming and hawing until an opponent takes the puck away from him.
I think, with the struggling Coyotes coming into town tomorrow after a game in Ottawa today, that this might be a good time to shuffle things up, and try to jump start Lars by putting him at centre with the kids. I don't necessarily think this is a long-term solution, but it might give all these guys a boost, putting them in a new situation, but one that they've had success with in the past.
I noticed Nathan Beaulieu again today using his mobility, his agility to good advantage. He was standing in front of his net when a puck directed at the net got deflected off to the side board. Nate spotted it and took off after it instantly, and easily corralled it and cleared it. This is an area that a Josh Gorges excelled at, and where Hal Gill or a Bryan Allen or Douglas Murray struggled. It's a truism that Nathan is an offensively-oriented defenceman, and will struggle on defence, but that's usually said when we mean banging in the corners or mucking in front of the net. Clearly, Nate, along with P.K. and Tom Gilbert, other 'puck-movers', doesn't struggle at puck retrieval.
Finally, I tried to avoid pointing out the obvious flaws in Sportsnet’s coverage of the NHL, since these are already well established, but since it’s topical on social media, I noticed a couple of failings again today.
On a strictly technical point, they screwed up again during the Habs’ game. I’ll repeat, I’m not an broadcast TV expert or sophisticate. I only notice all these errors and goof-ups because they stand out, compared to the HNIC and “La Soirée du Hockey” and the RDS broadcasts. It’s kind of like dinner at the restaurant, you don’t really notice the chef(s) or waitstaff unless something goes wrong.
This afternoon, the rink sounds they had from their ice-level microphones weren’t synched with the image. I didn’t quite understand why the action seemed off, until the first post hit by Alex Ovechkin, I think. As he prepared to one-time the puck, you heard the ‘ping!’ off the post clearly, a clear beat before the puck actually got to the post. So much so that I knew the shot had gone off the post before it had been shot.
“That’s odd,” I thought, and hit rewind on the PVR, and I wasn’t dreaming. They flubbed it. Every shot that hit the post today was pre-announced as such. You’d hear the ping before the shot.
And that’s why the game seemed off, like I was watching the game on a poor stream, because Tom Gilbert would race off to a loose puck, battling to get to it before Brooks Laich, and you’d hear their sticks clashing before they got there.
I don’t know if Sportsnet is just needing a season or two to figure things out, or they’re running with a skeleton crew loaded with interns who’ll work cheap, but their broadcasts are larded with dead mikes, errant camera shots, highlights being run in reverse or fast-forward or in some comical instances both. The camera will purport to follow the puck carrier in an iso-shot, but the bottom half of the player is cut out, giving us no insight on his puckhandling. They’ll run a highlight, with a scrawl and banner with a misspelled headline blocking out the action they’re trying to show us.
Today, one of their teasers on the scrawl was that the “Leafs Look End Losing Streak”. No, I didn’t forget a word, that’s what it said.
And it didn’t get caught after a while, it ran for hours like that. No editor caught it before it went up, and no one saw it while it played on their screens over and over and over.
Thank you Gary Bettman, that twelve-year monopoly will serve me very well as a fan, and it may just reduce ticket prices to games while no decision has been made on a franchise in Vegas.
Another much more obvious problem was the in-between post-game show with Jeff Marek and John Shannon, who are good broadcasters, and P.J. Stock, who as expected wrested the controls of the ship from them and divebombed it into the ground.
He simply has nothing to bring to the proceedings, trades on his meager credentials for cheap laughs, goes into unfunny skits such as when he pretended to be talking on the phone to Dr. Phil, setting up an appointment for a colleague.
At one point, Jeff Marek, trying to bring things back on track, asked him about the best goal he’d ever seen scored, and after trying to veer off-topic, P.J. was forced to provide a Mario Lemieux anecdote. The very next question, the host asked him about the hardest he’d ever been hit, and you know that he was leading to something, trying to segue into another subject, but trusty P.J. brought the show to a screeching halt by blurting out: “My mother!”
Needle scratch off the record. P.J. beams to the camera. Ain’t he a card?
John Shannon, repeatedly throughout the show would look down, trying to quell a smirk, weary of the non-sequiturs and interruptions and absurdity coming from his left.
In “La Ligue Nationale de l’Impro”, the Quebec-born precursor to the much-reviled improv theatre genre, players wore hockey jerseys, had to play as a team, and cooperate with adversaries. Failure to do so would bring the very arch Yvan Ponton, acting as the referee, to blow on his kazoo and subtract points for the very grave infraction of ‘cabotinage’. Strictly translated, it means ‘goofing around’ or ‘acting like a jerk’, but it has a very negative meaning in French, not that of just regular people occasionally letting off steam. In the LNI, it meant that you weren’t working with the others to move the scene along, you weren’t playing well with others, to the detriment of everyone.
Anyway, if the scene was set in a kitchen, and you joined in and said “No actually, this is a spaceship and I’m the captain!”, you’d get kazooed quickly, that nonsense would get annulled, erased, and the previous scene which was building was thereby allowed to resume, oblivious to the previous interruption.
Today, while watching Sportsnet NoonDaySportsnetHockeySportsNewsCentral, I kept expecting Yvan Ponton to march into the frame and kazoo P.J. Stock back to the Stone Age.