Saturday, 9 May 2015

Canadiens-Lightning: Pre-Game Thoughts

1)  My sense about tonight’s game, and the rest of the series, is that the Tampa Bay Lightning are very talented, and when they’re on their game, cohesive and firing on all cylinders, they’re hard to beat and we don’t match up very well with them.

They’re not unbeatable though. We dominated play in Games 1 and 3, two one-goal losses in which we didn’t get the puck luck. We beat Ben Bishop quite a few times, but the puck didn’t end up in the actual net, just on his forehead once, on the post half a dozen times, skittering through the crease, etc.

They’re like a knockout artist in boxing though, only needing one punch, or a batting order with lots of homerun hitters, who can put you away with one or two swings. And if they have a good night, it can be a slaughter.

So I’m modestly optimistic about Game 5, on home ice, feel we can win and go back to Tampa for Game 6, but I’m not underestimating the explosiveness of their team, or the propensity Ben Bishop has for throwing a shutout, the problem he causes for the opposition with his sheer size.

2)  We get Steve Kozari and Marc Joannette as refs for tonight's game.  So we have to fear the Québec referee who bends over backwards to show he's impartial.

I hate how that's become the norm.  Either we get a dyed-in-the-wool Hab-hater Ontario ref, who grew up wearing a Leaf jersey and sneering along with Don Cherry at visor-wearing "Europeans and French guys", or a local guy who feels he has to meet their low bar, to prove himself.

Ron McLean would have an easy solution to all this.

3)  Devante Smith-Pelly has had little effect on this series, aside from soaking up minutes on the right wing and delivering a few hits.

My sense before the trade, admiring the player from afar, mostly from his hockeydb page early on when he was the sole second-rounder of that class who was playing at the NHL level, was that he was a talented kid, an early-bloomer who'd be a big Top 6 forward, kind of like Curtis Glencross or Wayne Simmonds, a guy you can pencil in for some hits, who can resist the Tim Gleasons and Deryk Engellands out there, and notch twenty goals and season.

It's early yet, he's only 22, so he has room to develop, but so far I'm a little disappointed in his hands, his offensive acumen.  He does deliver on the toughness, the hits, the disciplined play, he's contributed that, and he's not lazy, the effort and commitment is definitely there.

But I thought he was a little niftier around the net.  And since there's a giant vacuum on the team in that regard, nobody who's naturally gifted at causing havoc in the crease and screening the goalie, I thought he take to it like a fish to water, compared to Anaheim where maybe there were three or four other guys who did that well and 'blocked' his development path.

He's got hands of stone, both based on his results so far, and what I've seen.  You don't see him make nice plays that don't quite connect, that come oh-so-close, and gives you that sense that he'll explode soon.  He doesn't wow you, doesn't show you the flashes of skill that promise a better future.

He's still valuable, an asset to the team, and there's hope that he'll improve, just maybe it won't be an immediate, showy addition to the roster like Dale Weise was last season.

But I temper my fanboy frustration by going back to the fact that he's only 22.  Looking at hockeydb yesterday, I noted that he's from the same draft class as Jarred Tinordi, who's still developing in the AHL.  And I'm very patient with Jarred, think the best is yet to come, so I should allow Devo some of the same latitude.

There's no rush in the grand scheme of things, it's not like he's about to turn UFA and we have to fish or cut bait with him.  We've got time to turn him into a productive Canadien yet.

I just want him to train with Max or P.K. this summer, join the latter for some crazy workouts at Laylor Performance in Toronto.  Work on his legs, squat until you puke, and get some explosiveness in his lower body, and maybe keep up with the pace a little better next season, be a little quicker, be on the puck instead of half-a-step behind.

4)  Tuukka Rask after a few goals, swearing, smashing his stick? Rattled.

Miika Kiprusoff after a few goals, calmly skating out of his crease to allow one of his d-men to retrieve the puck from his net, re-focusing, then coming back to take a swig of water and carry on? Not rattled.

Carey Price after a few goals, still poker-faced, still talking calmly with Andrei and P.K. about where they should be on faceoffs, not changing his expression or his style, still making saves and making them look easy in the third period of a lost game? Not rattled.

Ben Bishop swimming in his crease, on his backside, bobbling and mishandling the puck, dropping his stick numerous times, fainting after being brushed, whining to the refs, with the saucer eyes caught by the camera? Rattled.

No comments:

Post a Comment