Thursday, 17 March 2016

Game 71: Canadiens 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

A funny thing happened on the way to watch the game.  I had the full game broadcast on my PVR, since Sportsnet had deemed this a national game, not subject to rapacious and arbitrary blackouts (thank you, Gary Bettman), but I also noticed that the RDS 'Canadiens Express' version was already under way, mostly complete, all warm and fresh from the oven, also ready for consumption.

So I chose to subject myself to the condensed, one-hour RDS offering rather than the full offering of bland, ultimately pointless hockey.  There's too much cognitive dissonance associated with goals where you think "Ah, man, someone should have covered Trochek there but at least it means we're one step closer to Auston Matthews".  Morosely rejoicing at the opponents' successes is driving me to drink.

First period:

20:00  The Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Andrighetto line, while exciting and shiny new, isn't an optimal combo in my opinion.  It's fine for now as we play out the string and experiment, but in the long-term, Max is wasted on that line.

Both he and Chucky are snipers, guys who shoot first, and with Sven completing that line, Max finds himself often mucking in front of the net.  And despite his size and strength, he's miscast wrestling in the slot with Roman Polak, he's better when he lurks around like a shark, looking for a pass or loose puck he can fire at the net.

As we continue the experiment, I'd like to see a Charles Hudon be recalled and tried on the left wing with Alex and Mike McCarron on the right to battle in front of the net, or a big body like Lukas Lessio on the left if we keep Sven Andrighetto on the right.

But resorting to Max as the netfront presence is not using him to play to his strengths, it's like asking a power hitter to bat leadoff, and to not take big swings, just try to make contact  and get on base.  It's like using your screwdriver as a chisel: it'll do in a pinch, but you'll probably mess up the job, and ruin your tool.  Take the time to get the proper tool for the job.

08:38  The Canadiens cleanly win a puck battle along the boards.  Lukas Lessio, aided by Mike McCarron, scoots off with the puck and dishes to Mark Barberio, who has a lot of time to operate at the blue line with the Sabres having collapsed around their net.  Andrei Markov ends up taking a good low wrist shot at the net, with Mike McCarron blocking the goalie's view.

And, this is the big one, after Mike McCarron takes an exploratory poke at the goalie to see if he can find the puck and pry it loose, the whistle blows, and the Sabres act all cool about it.  They stop playing, we stop playing, no Canadiens forward loses the top layer of his facial epidermis to a Sabres' glove.

No one gets crosschecked back to the Stone Age.  We knew this was the case, but it's being demonstrated again, the benefit of having players with big bodies and a temperament, what with the officiating being what it is in the NHL.

00:00  Gosh NHL refereeing sucks.

--They'll install cameras at the blue lines to agonize over trivial offsides, to the millimetre, but they can't figure out a better way to determine if a puck was struck above the crossbar?  Wimbledon uses cameras to deal with 140 mph serves, but the NHL has linesmen shrugging at refs who shrug back?  They've never heard of IR lasers?  Because Frankie Goes To Hollywood had those in the early Eighties.

--Alex Galchenyuk gets crosschecked by Rasmus Ristolainen into Robin Lehner, and then gets crosschecked a few more times by Rasmus Ristolainen for the crime of having been propelled into Robin Lehner.  Referees call offsetting minors, shrug again.

--Evander Kane loses his excrement and tries to go Tomas Plekanec, and both get offsetting penalties?  Because it's impossible to determine who was the culprit between the 5'11' 175 lbs guy and the 6'3" 215 lbs guy?  Who started it, who caused it?  More shrugging.

--Max Pacioretty is standing in the high slot without the puck, and gets crosschecked and then tripped with an obvious stick between the legs right in front of the ref, in full view?  Oh, the Sabre was just playing defence, he 'had his man'.  Play on.  Don Cherry would approve.

Meanwhile NHL GM's agonize over how to increase league-wide scoring in Del Boca Vista...

Second period:

19:13  Greg Pateryn with his first career NHL goal, very happy for him.

When he was at Michigan, he was described as an exclusively defensive defenceman, his last two seasons were played with Mac Bennett taking care of the offensive rushes while Greg minded the store.  To me, that didn't bode well for his NHL prospects, with all the studies that show that successful NHL defencemen, even those who becomes defensive defencemen à la Rod Langway or Craig Ludwig usually put up points at the lower levels.

But when Greg got to the AHL, the coaches there encouraged him to shoot more, worked with him and told him to keep his windup small, his release quick, and he started to create goals, pick up assists with it.  He started trusting it more, seeing powerplay time, and racked up 15 goals in 2013-14.

It took him a while to get his first NHL goal, 47 games over three seasons, but it was textbook, a low hard shot from the far edge of the faceoff circle, on a perfect feed for a one-timer from Alex Galchenyuk.  Good for Greg that his first goal is indeed one to remember.

And we've been hard on the AHL coaching staff, Sylvain Lefebvre first and foremost, but maybe we could chalk up Greg as a win for him, a guy who developed his game and blossomed with the Bulldogs, and who has a shot at being a regular NHL defenceman now, no small feat for a fifth-round pick by the Leafs.

10:00  Mike Brown on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty?  Our worst fears are realized.  Michel Therrien is becoming the goon coach we all predicted he would be, circa Summer 2012.

2:29  "Nathan Beaulieu est venu à la défense de Lars Eller..."

Cautiously avoiding the third rail, but kind of tip-toeing around it, can I ask why Nathan needs to defend Lars?  Our great big Viking needs to assert himself a little more, no?

1:10  Can I laud Andrei Markov for how smart he is, the way he handles the puck, offers it to a penalty killer, draws him in, then passes to his open man?  He's a joy to watch, makes it look easy, almost routine.  "Why can't Nathan do that?", you wonder.  After his powerplay goal at the end of the period, I'm more inclined to begin the process of forgiving him for quitting on his team in January-February, when he stopped trying.

00:05  What does Robin Lehner need to do to earn a penalty?  I guess assault and battery isn't the threshold.  Is it aggravated assault?

00:00  Greg Millen must be doing very well for himself, being employed by Sportsnet as a hockey analyst, and evidently drawing a handsome wage from the Buffalo Sabres as their on-air apologist.  Sure Greg, Lars Eller started all that ruckus by facewashing Robin Lehner, that's what happened.

Third period:

18:53  Mike Brown again on the top line.  I guess the coaching staff can feel my vibe about Max being assigned netfront duty, crosschecking against other defencemen, and assent to the wisdom of my observations.  As they should.

10:57  Dan Bylsma can't control the tempestuous Evander Kane, who's about to lose the game for Buffalo all by himself.  I have to say, for a best-qualified English coach, I'm not impressed.

08:04  Still pussyfooting around third rails (they're everywhere), Ben Scrivens should have stopped that.  But I know, I know, it's the Canadiens' lack of scoring that let in that Markus Foligno softie.

01:57  The refs have seen enough.  Alex Galchenyuk gets popped in the chops by Josh Gorges in the first.  Mike Brown gets a bloody nose from a crosscheck in front of the Sabres net in the second.  When Andrei Markov elbows Markus Foligno late in the game though, that won't stand, that's the straw that breaks the North American woodland bison's back.


02:45  What's Tomas Plekanec doing on the ice in overtime?  He hasn't scored in fourty games, hasn't tried in fifty.

02:02  Uh, about Andrei's smarts and all that...

01:45  Big Game
Torrey MitchellPaul Byron with another game-winner.  The guy's money in the bank.

And we avoid the worst-possible outcome, the loss while being splattered with a loser point.

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