Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Game 74: Canadiens 2, Predators 3 (OT)

Some thoughts on the Canadiens 3-2 overtime loss to the Predators in Nashville.

1)  I watched on Canadiens Express, and it’s hard to get a sense of the flow when you do that, but the impression I got was of a game that can be decided by bounces, a bad goal.  Head Coach Michel Therrien acknowledged as much during his post-game interview.

2)  One tipoff as to the final outcome of the game on RDS' "Canadiens Express" is that they edit it to fit into a very tight 60 minutes, including commercials. So when you get to the third period, and see a lot of time left in your hour-long recording to fit it in, you start to suspect that there will be some overtime and shootout. Last night, I sensed right.

3)  I was a little miffed at P.K. a tiny bit, when he went on his stickhandling odyssey in O.T., and failed to shoot or pass at a very open Max in the slot, but took it in context and quickly let it go. I was glad to see the boys on L’Antichambre did the same, mentioned that and the fumble at the blue line which turned into a penalty, but they shrugged it off, explicitly excusing it as some of the stuff you accept, that comes with all the great stuff P.K. brings to the table.

I feel he had a lot of opportunities to get a quality shot on net, or pass to Max, but hesitated, kept wheeling around, and the play he made later was a lower-quality opportunity.

Again, not a capital sin, it’s not like he made a high-risk, low-probability play to give up the lead late in the game. He was trying to create to get us an extra point in OT, possibly made a sub-optimal decision, but overall in the context of the play he’s delivered since the All-Star game, not a wart I’ll pick at.

4)  If P.K. gets fined and publicly shamed for embellishment, I want Carrie Underwood’s husband to get the same treatment for that B.S. pratfall on Carey. The overhead shot of him throwing himself backwards was especially damning.

Those ineffectual GM meeting in Del Boca Vista Phase II are such a waste of time, focusing on puck-over-glass or handpass minutiae, and trying to rid the game of the horrors of the shootout (horrors!), instead of rectifying what’s truly wrong with the game.

After Milan Lucic on Ryan Miller, Chris Kreider on human decency, the NHL should have dealt with this, decisively. Come out very clearly against any attempt to make contact with a goalie, to ‘get him off his game’, ‘make him less comfortable’. Make it a strict liability offence, if a player makes contact with an opposition goalie in any manner while he’s in his crease, he gets a penalty. No grey areas.

Anything cravenly deliberate, any Nick Kypreos dive onto Grant Fuhr to blow out his ACL, it’s an ‘attempt to injure’ penalty, with all that entails. Don’t wuss out of calling those.

If a defensive player steers-pushes him into the goalie, he gets an offsetting penalty, but these will drop off dramatically, since the opposition forwards will be trying to skate away from the crease, there won’t be a need to joust with them, like P.K. on Logan Couture.

Protect the goalies like the NFL protects its QB’s. If you want to generate offence, get rid of the trap, the officious offside penalties, the hooking, the slashing. Lord, the slashing.

5)  P.A. Parenteau picked up another point, a nice assist on David Desharnais' goal.  The Montreal Gazette's Mike Boone said he played a terrific game.

I didn’t see a “terrific” game in the edited “Canadiens Express” version, but I support the idea of playing him a lot on the top line now, to invest that icetime in him, and hope that it pays off later.

In an interview in La Presse, he explained that recovering from the concussion symptoms was an ordeal. Not only was he not practicing, he couldn’t even do cardio while he recovered. So now, he says he’s trying to catch up, get his fitness, his conditioning back, AND trying to get his timing and chemistry back with his linemates, playing on the #1 line. We should be patient with him.

6)  I also preached patience with respect to Devante Smith-Pelly, thought he could bring more to the table in terms of production. I was mildly surprised that we obtained him so cheap in fact, and started wondering if Jiri Sekac was better than I thought, or if DSP had regressed since he played in Anaheim very early in his career.

After being shut out for so long, and seeing him kind of trip over himself with the puck all alone in front of the net, which would be mirthful if it hadn’t been a fumbled chance to win late in the game, I’m starting to sidle over to the camp of critics who think he needs to be bumped down from the fourth line, maybe even sit a game or two.

I applaud his effort and his affinity for finishing his checks, that may be more valuable in the playoffs, but it’s hard to overlook the ‘0’ (zero) in the ‘G’ column.

I agree with other posters that he will benefit from an off-season of more intensive, focused dryland training, and that he is a young player who will improve, but taking everything in consideration, if the coaches decide he’s had a significant enough chance and hasn’t done enough with it, I’ll support their decision.

7)  Richard Labbé of La Presse pointing out what we kind of know, that Manny Malhotra won’t be back next year.

I was fairly certain that he’d be an improvement over Ryan White and Daniel Brière as the fourth-line centre, that his size and skating and defensive ability would be a great benefit. He caught our eye early with great faceoff numbers, a spillover effect on those of the other centres, and his penalty killing which relieved some of the pressure on Tomas Plekanec.

As the games piled on though, it became tougher to overlook his non-existent offensive contribution, how he actually made his wingers worse.

Torrey Mitchell is smaller, but does bring the experience and leadership angle, the skating. He doesn’t really bring more offensive skill, but his speed and forechecking can precipitate offence.

He’s been doing almost as well as Manny in the faceoff circle, and he’s a rightie, so he’s a better complement to our other centres, lefties everyone of them, even the part-timers like Jacob de la Rose and Alex Galchenyuk.

So yeah, I’d expect the Canadiens to thank Manny and let him walk this July, unless he experiences a rebirth during the playoffs. I envision the Canadiens making a pitch for Torrey instead, or checking to see what’s available on the UFA market.

8)  Also from La Presse, an article discusses Sergei Gonchar’s use lately, and the defencemen in general.

I don’t have a problem with giving Sergei more time off if he wasn’t out of the concussion fog yet, since we do have options.

Personally, I liked the pairings yesterday, they’re my ideal pairings as a fan. Loved, loved Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu together, how they click, complement each other. Their time together in the AHL really shows, they’re not feeling each other out. They know each other and work well with each other.

It’s kind of the ideal pairing that you discuss in the theoretical sphere. A slick puck mover, a defensively-oriented guy with size who hits. But both have some elements of the other’s game, they’re not both unidimensional, stereotypical effete puck-mover paired with the plodding slow-footed brute. Nathan can play in the physical games, has shown he can drop the gloves. And Greg can skate, can pass the puck well, can shoot the puck.

I don’t want to tell the coaches what to do. I swear I don’t. But I’ll be happy if we see more of Nathan and Greg together, and if their minutes creep up, and if they get more and more difficult assignments, and they show they can handle it.

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