Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Game 40: Canadiens 5, Bruins 1

Has the sky unfallen yet?  The Canadiens put an end to the brutal losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Bruins in the Winter Classic.

I’m rewatching the game, the Sportsnet Jim Hughson version, after catching the NBC’s Doc Emrick this morning. I’ll subject myself to that, love watching the Bruins be embarrassed, then double down and disgrace themselves with Zac Rinaldo on the ice for the final minute.

Why doesn’t the NHL massively fine the Bruins and Claude Julien when they do that? Strip them of draft picks, of cap room, do something. But that would be ignoring the well-known indulgence the Bruins get in all aspects of their lawlessness.

NBC’s feed didn’t show clearly what caused the Jimmy Hayes-Lars Eller ‘fight’, the angles weren’t right to show what led up to it, or the edits anyway, but the Sportsnet images were conclusive: it was all bruindiocy. Jimmy Hayes hit, crosschecked, then started to fight with Lars, with no little shove or crosscheck or slash from the Canadiens forward as justification or even pretext for him dropping the gloves. None.

This was such a clear instance of instigating, it should be a textbook case for training referees. Same with Zack Rinaldo at the end of the game with a gratuitous, fragrant punch to Torrey Mitchell.

I think there’s a rule that when you instigate a fight near the end of a game, you get further discipline from the league, you get a suspension the next game along with your coach. But the NHL has no spine, no moral compass. They’ve crafted a rule that gives the appearance being tough on violence and mayhem, but the penalty is so steep that the league and its officials dare not apply it.

It’s like spearing, there are grave consequences for that, so the refs pretend that spears didn’t happen. Talking heads laugh them off as love taps. Even though the rule states that even the attempt to spear a player, even if no contact is made, is a double minor.

What’s even more galling is the way the talking heads keep goebbelsing it, soft-pedaling violence as passion or ‘edge’, like when they describe Brad Marchand’s crimes as “losing his composure”.

“Listen Brad, the last time you lowbridged Sami Salo, we suspended you five games. You did it again and again, and we tried to look the other way, but now we have no choice but to suspend you for two. And if you test our resolve again, we’ll suspend you for one. Got it, you scamp?”

On another note, I'm not crazy about the Canadiens new-retro uniforms, the numbers wash out, you can’t really tell who’s who on these new Canadiens jerseys. The blue stripe doesn’t provide the necessary contrast with the red numbers.

Small sample size so far, but did the arrival of Ben Scrivens settle down Mike Condon, let him feel like he’s not alone to shoulder the load anymore, him and another shaky rookie? Great game by him by the rookie.  We don't expect miracles from him.

And how about that return to action by Brendan Gallagher?  A goal, an assist, an old-timey electrical switch thrown to reanimate Frankenstein's monster, and the Canadiens looked transformed.  It could be the Bruins-effect, we saw how improved Alexei Emelin was for one, but it's hard to look past Gally on this one.

During The Streak, I posted how at training camp, the putative right wingers on the team would be Gally, Alex Semin, Zack Kassian, Dale Weise and Devante Smith-Pelly, and four of those players were unavailable, having been released or being on the injured list.

He took a gamble with Alex Semin and Zack Kassian, and I was comfortable with that bet, banking on fourty goals from those two, easy, and crossing my fingers for ten more. When both flunked out, and two stalwarts fell on the battlefied, our GM was exposed a little.

He doubled down, promoting players from the AHL, which is what we squawk for usually, to allow the kids to play, even if they make mistake and cost us a few losses. “That’s the only way they’ll learn”, we all agree. Marc Bergevin went to talk to his group in the dressing room and exhorted them to work their way out of this hole, that they shouldn’t look elsewhere for help.

Mix in with the goalies who couldn’t maintain a .900 save percentage, game after game, and you had the big reasons behind this ugly losing streak.

And now we get to see if Marc Bergevin’s gambit will pay off. He reportedly worked the phones and tried to get a trade going, but found nothing to his liking. If the team pulls out of this swoon, he didn’t pull off a bad trade under duress.

Every season under his régime, the Canadiens have had a bad spell during which Michel Therrien would intone that it’s good to go through adversity, that it would make the team better. This is/was the worst such spell in four seasons. We’ll see if the patient is stronger after the illness, or permanently weakened.

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