Friday, 10 April 2015

Game 81: Canadiens 4, Red Wings 3 (OT)

Here are my thoughts on the Canadiens' 4-3 OT win over the Red Wings, derived from the RDS "Canadiens Express" broadcast.  It's the last game of the season for Pierre Houde and Marc Denis, from now on it's your choice of the shlockfest at TVA or Sportsnet.  Pick one.

Thank you Gary Bettman.

1)  Seeing Jimmy Howard in front of the Detroit net, I think of teams who are kind of stuck between two chairs, with an Anti Niemi or Dan Cloutier in goal.  A player who is adequate, but short of the elite.  One not able to sustain a team on his own when necessary, not able to excel on a consistent basis.  Should you play this hand, or fold and wait to see what else the dealer has for you?

And how do you know when to cut ties and look elsewhere?  Are you walking away from a Chris Osgood, or are you selling early on a Ben Bishop, a Devan Dubnyk, a Miikka Kiprusoff?

2)  Pleasantly surprised to see Greg Pateryn get a game in place of Tom Gilbert.  Not that the latter deserves to be sat, he's been improving steadily all season, but it's good to give Greg some icetime, he fully merits it, and needs to stay sharp in case he's called on in the playoffs.

3)  Good first period by P.K. Subban.  He picked up an assist on the first Canadiens goal by dishing off to Andrei Markov for a one-timer.

More saliently in my opinion, in the last minute, Alexei Emelin had been stuck in no-man's land with the puck while the Canadiens made a player change, and the breakout sputtered and died.  P.K. picked up the puck and chose that moment to rush the puck up and see what he could create.

I'm hard on P.K. when he makes a mental lapse, when he costs the team by being too adventuresome at the wrong time.  This however was the perfect opportunity.  His teammates were jumbled up after a brief puck battle, they were caught halfway between a backcheck and a breakout, at a standstill.  There was no teammate speeding up ice to feed the puck to.

Further, the score was tied 1-1, so it wasn't a bad time to take a gamble.  There was a good chance to establish the attack in the Red Wings zone, and drain off the last minute that way.  The team wasn't protecting a lead late in the game, it wasn't a situation where being conservative is the wise choice.

Good job P.K.  And closing in on 60 points too.  Maybe I should focus on what you do well, instead of what you don't chelios, what I wish you'd lapointe.

4)  When Danny DeKeyser interfered with Dale Weise in the second period, I was already grumbling to myself on my couch about Gary Bettman and Daddy Campbell and the abysmal refereeing, how they allow players to cheat in the name of 'letting them play', but that's really what it is, 'let them cheat', 'let them hook', 'let them slash', 'let the Bruins prosper with their big thuggish teams and not pay the price in being called for a correspondingly higher number of penalties and not suffer for not being able to skate with the fleeter teams'.

And then the whistle blew, and I realized that it was just a case of a delayed penalty call.  The ref had seen it and made the call.

Uh..., good job ref.  Good call.  Sorry for kind of jumping the gun there, kind of.

5)  Forget what I said.  Brendan Smith just brought down David Desharnais with a slash and a crosscheck expertly administered in quick succession.  The Canadiens were already on the powerplay, so the Wings have a Get Out of Jail Free card for anything short of an amputation.  Or an illegally-curved stick, can't have those.  That's zero tolerance.

6)  Early on in the Devante Smith-Pelly reign, when the scuttlebutt filtered out about him needing to work on his conditioning, I posted that the six weeks he had until the start of the playoffs was enough time to show significant improvement in that regard.  He could maybe shed a kilo or two, improve his anaerobic performance, develop a little more power in his legs.

Sure enough, while he was relatively invisible in the first few games, lately he's been able to carry the puck and drive to the net, to be in the right place at the right time for a deflection or a one-timer.

Nice job Devo, looks like your hard work is paying off.

7)  It's hard to tell in the condensed, edited version of the game I'm watching, but is Brendan Gallagher having a bad game?  On both Red Wing goals so far, he's been unable to control/clear a puck in the defensive zone, and Pavel Datsyuk pounced.

8)  Start of the third, we see a graphic stating that Mike Babcock has amassed 526 wins so far in the NHL, most likely because he doesn't speak French.

9)  P.K. had an uneven third, and Andrei committed a rare boner with a giveaway that Darren Helm took on a shorthanded breakaway to give the Red Wings a 3-2 lead, but again, let's accentuate the positive.  They both had an assist on Tomas Plekanec's powerplay goal, and played a strong game overall, as they did for most of the season.

10)  Is Lars Eller revving up the playoff runaway train?  He scores in OT, his seventh game-winner of the season, and reaches 15 for the season, after a very difficult campaign.

11)  Les Boys keep Carey Price humble after a huge ovation and post-game interview with Marc Denis, and get him with the ol' pie-in-the-face gag as he turns away from the mike.

Nothing really decided though, the Bruins are still in it even though they're in ninth, the Lightning are still pushing to take over the division lead, playoff opponents are still not determined for the most part.  The good thing is that the Habs can clinch it on Saturday with one point against the Leafs, they don't need help from other teams.

So off to Toronto we go for a Saturday night classic, and a dignified sendoff for pivotal ex-Leaf Colton Orr.  Should be grand.

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