Saturday, 11 April 2015

Game 82: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (SO)

Thoughts on the Canadiens' 4-3 shootout win against the Leafs tonight.

-- I set my PVR to the game without really thinking about it, and when I fired it up, found out that Bob Cole would be dithering the plays, instead of Jim Hughson.  D'oh!  I would have tried the TVA offering had I had been forewarned.

-- It's an odd feel to the game.  The Leafs are probably just trying to get it over with, and the Canadiens look like they're playing at 95, 96%, but not quite the proverbial 110%.  I get the feeling that they'd also just as soon it be over, but they have something to play for.

-- Can a hockey team coast through a game and still play a 'real' game?  I thought of comparables while watching the first period, and the way the offensive and defensive linemen play in the NFL Pro Bowl came to mind.  They have to be there, they have to play the snaps, but you know they're just trying to get through the game without getting injured or extending themselves too much.

That's not very apt, the intensity, the urgency of this game is much greater than any Pro Bowl, but still.  Maybe things sort themselves out in the second.

-- I thought that maybe Dustin Tokarski might have been the better choice after all, seeing Carey let in two goals, at least one of which he'd want to have back.  And seeing that Toronto rookie kreiderate into him.

I'm not second-guessing the coaches, I understood and agreed with their decision to start Carey, this isn't a game with no stakes attached, there was something to play for.  But now with hindsight, seeing that having Carey in goal didn't inspire the team to stomp on the Leafs, get an early lead and put the game away so they sleepwalk through the rest of the game, maybe having Dustin in there to prevent a potential injury and to make the players a little more 'accountable' might have been the right call, heads-or-tails style.

-- Usually, the Canadiens get jobbed, get cheated by the control room in Toronto, which allows goals against and negates goals for, brazenly.  Tonight, in a refreshing change, they were cheated by the on-ice officials in Toronto.  Nice palate cleanser.

-- A Brendan Gallagher goal that would have given the Canadiens the lead in the third was disallowed by the refs, after a confab where they rigged up a way to rip off the Habs, claiming goalie interference on Jonathan Bernier.

Hilariously, the HNIC analysts agreed with the call, and were stating that Brendan wasn't pushed into the Leaf goaltender/crease while at the same time the replay clearly showed a Leaf defenceman's stick on his back.

-- The refs were probably tipping their hat to Colton Orr in his last game in the NHL, saluting the end of his scourge, by overlooking all manner of slashes, crosschecks, late hits, etc.

-- Dirty punk Nazem Kadri's 'courage' was probably embiggened by the presence of the Marlies enforcer.  He took a vigorous punch at Alexei Emelin, long after play had stopped, to the mute assent of the ersatz referees.  Later, he hit him in the back and projected him into the boards, again with no call, and no pushback from the Canadiens.

The Senators were probably watching this and licking their chops.  Certainly Eric Gryba and Mark Borowiecki must be, Bryan Murray had to be tossing lots of raw meat and offal in their cages, poking them with sharp sticks, getting them ready for 'playoff hockey'.

-- The abuse directed at Alexei Emelin was in retribution for a hip check against Eric Brewer.  The Leaf veteran objected and, in response, literally grabbed Alexei by the head and threw him down backward.  A scrum ensued.  Somehow, the refs concocted a scenario where the minor penalties cancelled out, Alexei was retroactively penalized for clipping, and the only penalty to the Leafs for starting this whole mess was a minor for roughing.

All is well in Don Cherry's, Mike Milbury's, and Colin "Daddy" Campbell's NHL.  Now 33% scrummier!

-- Michel Therrien tried a couple of times to inject reason in the proceedings, to no avail.  Eventually, the frustration grew so great that first Andrei Markov, and shortly after, during the same break in play, P.A. Parenteau were ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct.   Way to crack down refs!  No tolerance on words, those can injure.

-- I'm liking the livelier, shootier version of Lars Eller.  He's less prone to feats of stickhandling that carry the puck away from the opposition net, although he had a couple of relapses in this game.  We want him using his size and firing pucks at the net, not competing with Alex Galchenyuk for a magic hands award.

-- The blue line may end up being a strength this post-season.  Jeff Petry has really solidified this unit, and I feel as confident in Greg Pateryn as I do with Tom Gilbert in the lineup.  The rookie pairing with Greg and Nathan Beaulieu has me very hopeful for the future.

-- The shootout was so emphatically won by the Canadiens that it was almost anti-climactic.  First, Alex Galchenyuk faked Jonathan Bernier out of his Desmond Tutu fanclub jockeys ("He's always been a great hero of mine, the way his sons worked their way up to the NHL...").  Then, after Tyler Bozak soiled himself at the prospect of facing Carey Price and meekly shot wide, David Desharnais idled in to about 20 feet away from the net, took a P.K.-quality backswing and blasted a slapshot glove corner.  Joffrey Lupul forced Carey to make a pad save, and then the Canadiens goalie picked up the puck for his well-deserved team record-setting 43rd win.

-- Now we get set for our playoff calvary.  What outrages will be committed against our heroes but be chuckled at by the Sportsnet apes?  Why do we put ourselves through this?  We could watch pro wrestling, and it would be less crooked.  At least there'd be a narrative thread, and the stars would be showcased, featured, favoured.

But not in a league where a quality forward like Jamie Benn wins the scoring championship with 80 points or so, over a debilitated Sidney Crosby, playing without Kris Letang who was knocked out for the season, and may even have to retire, due to a Phoenix Coyote "finishing his check".

Nice work Gary!  Don't worry about details like that, focus on selling tickets in Vegas instead.

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