Sunday, 8 February 2015

Game 52: Canadiens 3, Bruins 1

Almost an anti-climactic 3-1 win by the good guys over the Gooins, a tight game on the scoreboard, but it didn't feel like it.  Sure I was tense and trepidatious-like, but it seemed apparent that the Bruins finish-your-check style wouldn't compensate for their lack of skill and speed.  The Canadiens were literally skating out of trouble all night, headmanning the puck and breaking out of their zone with ease.

RDS' André Savard on L’Antichambre commented on how slow Zdeno Chara is: “Il s’est fait dépasser par Brandon Prust…”, meaning, Brandon Prust outskated him on a specific play.  The whole panel agreed that their whole team is too slow, top to bottom, even young franchise-defenceman-to-be Dougie Hamilton couldn’t keep up.

They conceded that injuries to Zdeno Chara and David Krejci played a big part in their slow start to the season, but I was afraid things were starting to pick up for them.  Boston had a good streak of success going the last fifteen games or so. Let’s hope this speed bump throws them in another funk.

And it was still a very tasty win, as succulent as the duck Poppy prepared for Jerry and Elaine.  The degree of schadenfreudulty was multiplied by the two points that Dale Weise picked up, the opening goal and a great assist on Max Pacioretty's goal to make it 2-0.  I was hoping he'd tune up Greg 'Sonny Boy' Campbell again, to finish off the Gordie Howe hat-trick.

Most analysts criticized the use of Dale Weise on the Canadiens first line, arguing that his skillset makes him a fourth or third-liner at best.  I understood that it was a bit of a desperation gambit by the coaches to jumpstart their offence.  Michel Therrien explained that with his size and speed Dale could be a good complement on Max's opposite wing.

In fact, Dale has been exceeding expectations.  He's playing smart, throwing hits but not taking penalties, going to the net, trying to deflect pucks and pick up rebounds.  As a pleasant bonus, he's showing chemistry with Max, and has made quite a few deft passes, touch passes that belie his grinder rep.

When he was traded from Vancouver, I did my best to caution the overexcited optimists, the guys who think we should look into trading for Wayne Simmonds and use Magnus Nygren as a trade chip, that Dale was a great guy with heart and would be useful on the fourth line, but the supposition that he could help out in the Top 6 was risible.

I patiently reasoned that the Canucks have been searching high and low for a big scoring winger to plop on the Sedins' right for years now, so if Dale was any good on the Top 6 they'd have used him there.  I also tried to describe how Dale's reputation, his M.O., is that he causes lots of loose pucks and breakdowns in the offensive zone but can't cash them in, he misses the net or flubs his shot routinely.  Because he has no hands, see?

So I'll own up with a passage from what I posted at the time:
Dale Weise is like a half of a Travis Moen, we shouldn't expect too much from him.  He has decent size and a big heart, but little vision or dexterity.  He'll chip in some hits and fights, but few points.  He barely hung on to a roster spot with the 'Nucks, and their third and fourth lines are arid wastelands devoid of talent.  Best-case scenario is that he fits in better in our roster, but that's a remote chance, since the Canucks have the same profile we do (low-scoring, undersized).
Ouch.  Step right up, folks, I'll be predicting the winning lottery numbers now.

So yeah, he's making his naysayers look bad right now.  Sure he may be playing over his head, André Savard was saying that it's easy for him since there's no pressure yet, but when he starts being counted on to score, and other teams check him more closely, he may fall back to Earth.

In any case, let’s enjoy the ride, this hot streak should be fun.

Maybe if he cools off we can flip him back to the Canucks for Alex Edler and Zack Kassian?

As the Bruins felt the game slipping away, they reverted back to thuggery, notably by punching or crosschecking Brendan Gallagher in the face after whistles, and a notable hit by Daniel Paillé who left his feet to try to crush Sergei Gonchar.

I began to think of a David Letterman-style list: "Top Ten reasons the referees aren't handing out penalties to the Bruins."
10.  He’s a big bad Bruin is all.

9.  He was forechecking.

8.  The Bruins are behind in the score.

7.  They’re playing at home.

6.  Jeremy Jacobs signs the cheques.
And son on.  So disheartening.

Later in the game, when the result was still in doubt, Max chipped the puck past Bruin 'defenceman' (quotation marks intentional) Adam McQuaid and was set to go off on another breakaway.  I'll emphasize the fact that Max didn't have the puck, yet Mr. McQuaid stuck out an interfery sticky-out knee, and luckily didn't catch Max flush knee-on-knee.

That, a slower dumber badder player trying to make up for it with a flagrant foul, and the subsequent indulgence of the refs, is everything that’s wrong with the NHL.

Trusty vet Manny Malhotra was a healthy scratch due to his shortcomings on offence.  The coaches went with a fourth line of Hamilton Bulldog callup Jacob de la Rose between Michaël Bournival and Christian Thomas.  Gabriel Dumont, another AHL callup, was also scratched.  The combination seemed to work, they didn't look out of place, their speed creating difficulty for the Bruins.

Generally, we need to get Michaël Bournival going. Enough of this sitting him out. Let’s have him go on a streak like he had at the start of last season.  And I think it’s kind of counterproductive to call up Christian Thomas and Gabriel Dumont if it’s going to send Bourni in the press box. Let Bourni play, and let these guys play big minutes in Hamilton and make something of themselves.

The third line of Sekac-Eller-Prust had its moments, but Lars would lose focus on occasion.  Again, Lars needs to stop lurking in the O-zone like he's a sniper waiting for his setup, and just go to the net.  I'll guarantee him more goals by potting rebounds and getting deflections than by trying to be Brett Hull out there.

Carey Price didn't have to be miraculous for us to win, he merely excelled and that was enough.  There was a spectacular reaching-behind-with-the-stick save that made it look like he was trying to out-carterhutton Carter Hutton.

P.K. and Andrei had another dominant performance.  Andrei intercepted/broke up a pass in the neutral zone at the end of the game with Tuukka Rask on the bench for an extra attacker, and for once we were lucky in scoring an empty-netter.

Usually we hit posts, or barely miss, but this time his flailing poke at the puck caused it to deflect high in the air, then drop to the ice right near the crease and roll in.  I thought that field goal by Andrei should have been worth three, but maybe the refs were using CFL rules, and called it a rouge.

Milan Lucic was left to mutter to himself as he slinked off to the showers.  He didn't cover himself in glory on this night.  He got off a couple of dangerous shots, made a couple of plays, but he wasn't able to be the difference, which he seemed to be on the verge of, a couple seasons ago, that he might become the pre-eminent big forward in the league.

Instead, he gradually lost discipline during the game and became more interested in his feud with Alexei Emelin than playing hockey, and when T-74 caught him with a hit, he retaliated with a crosscheck.  We were treated to his trademark sneer of disbelief that the refs would single him out for the penalty box.

We should buy low on Milan Lucic now, get him from the Bruins in a trade, and solve our lack of depth on the wing problems.

Of course, to follow the 'Dale Weise' salvage/reboot model, we'd need an undersized, under-producing defenceman to use as a trade piece.  Maybe we can re-acquire Frédéric St-Denis from the Blue Jackets?...

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