Notes on the Canadiens' 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, their second on this California road trip.
--Did I get this right, the Ducks have a player called Rackelle Rackelle? Did his KHL journey take him from Milan to Minsk?
--I don't know that I ever bought in to the Disney Mighty Ducks name for the Anaheim team, but the Ducks current logo and colours are not too inspiring either.
--In the eighties, teams game-planned around Raymond Bourque and Chris Chelios when they had to face them. Both those players had to play close to thirty minutes a game, and be a big part of their team's success, spark their breakout and offence, and limit their mistakes for their team to win. The Canadiens would send Claude Lemieux and Dave Maley and Steve Rooney after the Bruin defenceman, to thump him any chance they got, and the common wisdom was that he wore down as a seven-game series played out, he'd get banged up and exhausted.
P.K. has to expect these tactics and learn how to deal with it. A couple of times, one of which resulted in an Anaheim goal, he went into the corner and lost the puck battle, a Ducks player came out with it and it ended up in his net. P.K tried to protect himself, which he has to do, I can't fault him for that, but when he does so he still has to make a play on the puck. Maybe instead of trying to be shifty, to deke his way out of there, he just needs to make the proverbial strong play, fire it around the boards to gain time and space, as opposed to trying to fend off two guys with one arm, stickhandling with the other, mentally going over his taxes, etc...
Just simplify, P.K. When you're pressed for time, fire it around the boards behind your net, or backhand it up off the glass to your winger, keep your shoulders socketed and your brain firing normally. When there's a lot of room, when you have time to scan around behind you on puck retrieval, and see in the glass that there isn't a burly forechecker bearing down on you, that's when you can corral the puck and head up-ice with it, see what you can do.
--I've thought a few times this season, notably when we played against the Blues and the Islanders, that these putative league powerhouses weren't that intimidating, that we could handle them no problem. I haven't thought that against the Sharks or tonight against the Ducks. There's a skittishness to our team, our defencemen hurrying to get rid of the puck, our forwards not quite able to get to it, either half a step slow or not able to fight through a hold or jersey tug. Carey Price looking mortal. Horrors.
--The three judges scored the Jiri Sekac vs Devante Smith-Pelly bout 120-96 in favour of the Ducks forward.
--It's hard to see positives, at times the Canadiens didn't seem to be in it, but if they could have snuck one past John Gibson the game may have had a different flow. The Ducks' goalie wasn't miraculous though, it's not as if he was stemming back the Mongol hordes. It was more of a case that when the Canadiens did manage to mount a charge, they'd flub a shot or miss a pass.
--Having said that, the Canadiens got 38 shots on net, compared to 32 for the Ducks. And they threw 29 hits as opposed to 27 for the Ducks, althought that stat is hard to believe. Maybe there should be an advanced stat for 'effectiveness of hitting', measured by the amount of panic in the defenceman's eyes as he's about to get crushed by Nate Thompson or brushed upon by Lars Eller.
--The Canadiens seemed to benefit when Michel Therrien fired up his blender and came up with some new lines. Alex Galchenyuk on the right with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais had a little bit more jump, for example, than when Brendan Gallagher was on the right side.
With his two new forwards giving him the option to play them at centre or on the wing, and the same being true for Jacob de la Rose, Michel Therrien will be able to experiment even more than before.
--I think the Lars Eller experiment on the wing has to end. Either by sulking or being completely lost, he seems completely ineffective. He has shown no affinity for playing on the wing, and he's not improving, he seems to be getting worse. We're reduced to seeing one or two instances of competence and taking solace from them, "Good, he received the pass, skated the puck into the zone and got a wrist shot on net. Nice going Lars!"
I think Lars needs to go back at centre, we've led him to water but he just plain won't drink. So give him back third-line centre, but he has to perform or find himself on the fourth line or the pressbox, while the ex-Sabres and Jacob de la Rose also fight it out. We need to get Darwinian in his case.
--Sportsnet... During the first intermission, while showing video of the Dustin Byfuglien injury, Nick Kypreos barked at me that "Face value, you just don't see anything out of the ordinary..."
Face value? Did you mean 'at first glance'? 'On first perusal'? 'Upon casual inspection'? 'On the first take'?
So Nick, instead of using cutesy phrases you don't understand, why not just use plain language?
He barked some more though that "...something happened, that triggered, uh, that effect."
His clowny sidekick Doug MacLean, tasked with discussing the Dave Clarkson injury, was also stumped, saying that "you think, talk about Byfuglien, strange one, this is in a scrum, where there's no body contact, other than pushing and shoving, ..."
Eleven and a half more years of this. And the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Thank you Gary Bettman.