Ah heck, it's Gary Bettman's fault, what with his labyrinthine hockey deal he cooked up for Canadiens fans. Thank you Gary, feeling very well-served as a hockey fan, and I can't wait for your lockouts to have their effect so that ticket prices start coming down.
And I trust you when you say that you'll watch the ticket campaign in Las Vegas closely, with an open mind, and as you strenuously, repetitively point out, no decision has been made yet. Of course not.
This is my first time giving these TVA clowns a shot, but I've been assured they're actually quite good, comparable to RDS' work, which is surprising to hear. Félix Séguin is the play-by-play caller, and former Senators goalie Patrick Lalime handles the colour work. They do sound different than Pierre Houde and Marc Denis, but approaching it with a bettmanesque open mind, I do admit that they're very well-spoken, and don't fall prey to benoitbrunetisms where they mangle their pronunciation, or mariotremblaytry by bludgeoning the language.
An off-putting note happens when anthem singer Cherylyn Toca appears, with a new blonde coiffe. It's not trashy or anything, it's well executed, but jarring compared to her previous appearance. Despite the change in appearance, she acquits herself of her duties quite well.
There really is no business like show-business.
Noticed in the first period:
- Jaromir Jagr swooping around in the offensive zone on the Mike Cammalleri goal. I'm not in favour of acquiring him, I think the mercenary would cost too much, but he would help the Canadiens in their Top 9, they're thin now with René Bourque gone and P.A. Parenteau out with a concussion.
- Devils centre Scott Gomez streaking in with the puck into the Habs' zone, then hitting the brakes along the sidewall and looking to pass the puck. Where/when have I seen that move before?
- David Desharnais carrying the puck into the Devils zone, with three opponents converging upon him like a moth to a flame. Maybe there's a good reason he passes all the time...
- Jacob de la Rose looking big and rangy out there, finishing his check. I'm favourably biased in his case, want the big kid to succeed, we need a player like him in our lineup.
- Gabriel Dumont throwing a good hit on Tuomo Ruutu.
- David Desharnais taking a shot on net while Max Pacioretty rushed and screened the goalie(!)
- Dale Weise confounding his critics by accepting and delivering passes and generally belonging on that line.
- P.K. Subban on the ice whenever Jaromir Jagr was used, and both trying to control the puck behind Carey Price's net. P.K. playing well, strong, authoritative with the puck.
First intermission show is okay. I generally like Michel Bergeron, but he's relatively unclear in trying to convey his frustration with P.K.'s routine during the warmup. The second panel does well, I'm pro-Patrice Brisebois, wish he'd stayed with the Canadiens' organization instead of making the move to broadcasting. A pleasant surprise is Paul Houde, who I liked back in the day, was very funny and had a multitude of impersonations and impressions. Good to see him again. Quick interview with Gabriel Dumont, good to see the kid in the NHL, hope he can contribute as a right-handed defensive centreman, something we're lacking currently.
Noticed in the second period:
- Félix Séguin begins with a quick video segment of a miked-up Lars Eller acting as the veteran on his line with Christian Thomas and Jacob de la Rose, at practice earlier in the day and during the first period. He's praised for the leadership and mentorship he provides the rooks.
- P.K. is in the game. Early on, he's well-positioned in his zone, in the slot area, facing out, while the Devils have the puck. The puck squirts loose and he corrals it with one hand, on his backhand, and quickly feeds Tomas Plekanec with a short pass, and the Canadiens are off on a 3-on-2. He and Andrei are having a good game breaking out of their zone.
- P.K. at the left faceoff circle and two guys (Max and Brendan Gallagher) crowding the net makes for an effective powerplay, and a goal by Andrei Markov.
- Failed Leaf, failed Oiler Mark Fraser fails to clear his zone with a weak backhand while killing a penalty. P.K. intercepts it with his torso like a third baseman blocking a bouncing ground ball, and uses a strong backhand to feed Lars Eller. One timer, back of the net.
- Maybe using Lars on the wing with Tomas is formative, it limits his options, curtails his propensity to overthink and overhandle the puck. Use your size and shoot Lars, we need you.
- Alexei Emelin and Tom Gilbert are an effective if somewhat spendy third-pairing, a vast upgrade on a Douglas Murray-Raphaël Diaz pairing. Tom Gilbert still overreacts too often though, icing the puck and giving it away in his zone when under pressure. We expect more from a guy who was brought in because of his reputed ability with the puck and at making the first pass.
- Brendan misses two golden opportunities to pot a goal. He's going through a cold stretch, but a lack of effort is obviously not the issue.
Second intermission is hit and miss. Panel discussion discusses Lars Eller's goal. Paul Houde with a recitation of the career accomplishments of Jaromir Jagr.
Noticed in the third period:
- On the Jacob Josefson goal, Tom Gilbert gets caught, first trying to 'close the gap' on a Devil about to receive a lobbed clearing pass. He stumbles and falls, which allows the Devil to streak in and deke out Carey.
- Gabriel Dumont out killing the Alexei Emelin penalty, a good mark of confidence by the coaching staff.
- P.K. is having quite a game, can-openers the Devils defence by dancing along the blue line, which leads to Tomas Plekanec's second goal.
- Max Pacioretty has made fun of his own slapshot in the past, but he is covering for a pinching Alexei Emelin when he inherits the puck at the offensive blue line. He goes for a waist-high backswing, almost half-hearted slapshot, but New Jersey goalie Keith Kincaid bobbles it and Dale Weise, who was lurking in front of the net, taps it in.
- Dale Weise pots another goal on a slick pass from Max, from the corner to in front of the net for a bang-bang goal.
- The Canadiens have millions of fans, and millions of critics and wannabe coaches. The coaching staff, trying to come up with a way to get the offence going, experimented with Dale Weise on the right with Max on the first line. They were pilloried for it on social media, but for now the experiment is bearing fruit.
- And again, I've made light of Dale's ability to convert chances, he was known as a Canuck as a player whose high-energy style created lots of chances, but was perpetually snake-bitten and liable to miss wide-open nets. Maybe he's finding his range, gaining confidence. Certainly playing with better linemates helps, he'll get more and better opportunities, and looser coverage from opponents. Kudos Dale.
Mildly disappointing for me as a viewer is that the entire game didn't quite fit in the allotted time scheduled, so I missed the last couple of minutes, and the Three Stars. Too bad, apparently P.K. did well in the on-ice interview portion (surprise, surprise...) I assumed that TVA Sports would adjust the content to fit the entire game in, but got burned, should have extended the recording time.
Overall, a good job of broadcasting the game by TVA Sports, to my mild astonishment. The camera work and technical aspects were airtight, I didn't notice any blunders like with Sportsnet's hack jobs. And, Louis Jean didn't breathlessly interrupt the program with breaking news that Larry Carrière had been arrested for DUI at the wheel of a rented Porsche in Ottawa. Aside from a few too intrusive banner ads during play, it was a solid effort.
And the Canadiens, after a couple of hiccups against the Coyotes and Sabres, get back on track and take care of a team they should beat easily. Next up, the Evil Empire.