Thursday, 7 April 2016

Game 80: Canadiens 1, Panthers 4

Random thoughts on the Canadiens' 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.  I had to watch this game in a state of high illegality, thanks to Gary Bettman.

1)  The thing that’s dawned on me this season is that, when players like Benoit Pouliot and Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta and Andrei Kostitsyn and René Bourque and Thomas Vanek and Zack Kassian moved on, I’d feel like their departure was overdue, or at least justified, defensible. I was looking over their shoulder at the crop of rookies coming up, all these guys we’d drafted, and the UFA’s coming around the corner on July 1, and I always thought we were moving onward and upward.

I thought these guys and many others were stopgaps until the real talent showed up, the franchise players we were drafting and developing.

Looking at our second line now, I can’t help but think we didn’t keep up with the treadmill. We were advancing, sure, but maybe the belt was moving faster than we were. It’s all relative, like that guy Norman Einstein said.

And maybe all those other teams’ treadmills weren’t cranked up as fast as ours was. They’re adding pieces and youngsters and seem like they’re building to something. It might be a perspective thing, their grass seeming more chlorophyll-filled, but I look at teams like the Flames and Blue Jackets with envy. Maybe if I looked closer I wouldn’t, but that’s where I am.

I’m reduced to schadenfreuding the hell out of the Oilers, the Senators. Hey Melnyk, how’s that $7M+ yearly to Bobby Ryan feel? Money well spent? You douchebag?

But yeah, I was counting the Danny Kristos, the Sebastian Collbergs, the Magnus Nygrens, the Dalton Throwers, the Brady Vails (hey, don’t dismiss the importance of checking forwards…), the Alex Avtsins as hatched, couldn’t wait to bolt them on to the roster. Sure, we might get an Olivier Archambault who was never right to begin with, or a Daniel Prybil who takes too long to develop, or a Tim Bozon who gets felled by an act of Dog, but that’s fine, the rest of them will do nicely, right?

Now I’m fretting about Jacob de la Rose, even he looks iffy to me now. We promised to not call up guys too soon, but he’s a textbook case, right? A guy who looks good in the dressing room, look at him all handsome and imposing, you immediately adjudicate him a fixture on the team for the next decade. Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway, Arturri Lehkonen, our three Lilliputian forward draftees from 2013, when are they going to bring it?

But yeah, that second line there, that’s scary to me. In 2012, we were much worse off, with Aaron Palushaj and Petteri Nokelainen on regular rotation, but it feels like we can see that from here.

2)  Lots being made of John Scott getting to play a game as a reward for his professionalism and dedication and hard work playing with the kids in St. John's.  And in this chatter, I can't help but wonder what about Gabriel Dumont, doesn't he merit that same reward, for the same reasons, only more so?

I bring him up a lot, and get knocked a little bit for it, that he’s not really a prospect anymore, but yeah, for le Pitbull, the little guy with the huge heart and huge gonads, they should have brunged him up for a couple of weeks to let him draw a NHL wage, reward him with a few games. Especially when it became clear the IceCaps weren’t going to make the playoffs.

When I evaluate this, I think that maybe they were fearful of the team imploding without its captain, but then I dismiss that. That’s like punishing the guy for being the veteran leader of the team.  As if he'd have been better off not being so good, so indispensable.  

You know, mail it in once in a while.  Dial it down to 98%.  That'll earn you a callup.

3)  #22 is wrong for John Scott. He’s no Steve Shutt.

Rick Chartraw’s 27 maybe? But aside from Chucky having it now, it was Frank Mahovlich’s 27, not Chartraw’s. It definitely fits Alex better.

Gilles Lupien’s 24?

John Kordic’s 31?  While Carey’s not using it?

4)  Greg Pateryn takes a penalty when he high-sticks Alexander Barkov.  Not necessarily happy about the high stick, but I'm not mad either. I hate tripping and hooking lazy stupid penalties, but I’ll take roughing and elbowing penalties, especially if they’re situationally-wise, ie: not in the last five minutes when you’re trying to score a tying goal, etc.

If Greg plays hard and causes opponents to be a little skittish when he's on the ice, to have their head on a swivel, then I'll take the occasional penalty like this as the cost of doing business.

5)  On a segment on L’Antichambre yesterday, Denis Gauthier interviewed Erik Gudbranson, who spoke perfect French, was a pretty good guest. When asked who gives him the most trouble to play against, he said it was his own teammate in practice, Nick Bjugstad, “who’s even bigger than I am”, and can skate and handle the puck and gives him fits.

Pierre Houde and Marc Denis were just talking about his tremendous size and fluidity and agility on the ice.

When the Canucks were trying to abscond with him in the Roberto Luongo trade negotiations, I thought he was more of a Brian Boyle/Paul Gaustad clone, a big lumberer who could play defensively and play tough, but he’s apparently much, much more than that.

That’s the thing about these huge guys, the appeal is such that for every five or ten players like Jamie Oleksiak or Jarred Tinordi or Hugh Jessiman who takes a long time to arrive or never does, teams will keep drafting them in the hope that they’ll hit on one like Nick Bjugstad and be set for years.

6)  By the way, do you guys remember when the Panthers were stupid for ‘reaching’ for Sasha Barkov, and not snapping up Seth Jones.

The idea was that Nathan McKinnon or Seth Jones would/should go first overall, in the blogs at least, if not to the Florida scouts.  So whoever didn't get picked first would surely go 2nd overall, it felt pre-ordained, for months.

Anyway, it was a mild surprise when they announced Sasha Barkov, and I remember Bob kind of going “Well, …” and going into his spiel. He was actually the voice of reason in this.

As a fanboy who’d read lots of writeups, I thought they were passing up Aaron Ekblad to draft Radek Faksa. I wouldn’t have thought twice about drafting Popeye’s kid.

Truthfully though, my main objection, personally, was that you shouldn’t spend that high a pick on a player who’s the spitting image of Jim Gaffigan.

7)  How do we put a stop to all this shot blocking?  Start by saying that you can’t put a knee or hand down on the ice to block shots. Keep players upright, with their face, eyes, their head, their neck out of harm’s way. If you can block the shot with your stick blade or skate, fine, but no getting down on the ice to do so.

Two birds with one stone, improved player safety, and more shots getting through.

In the same vein, you can’t get down on the ice, can’t sprawl to intercept a pass or prevent a pass attempt. Same idea, not safe, sliding into players knees, posts, goalies, etc. Also, it’s just anti-hockey. It takes no talent for a jabroni to sprawl on the ice to defend a two-on-one. 

Sure, sure, well-timed dive, blah blah blah, but get it out of the game, it’s grinders allowed to cancel out the skilled players. Tilt the game towards skill.

8)  Lars Eller gets interfered with in a chase for a loose puck, the play goes the other way and it ends up in our net.  No call from the ref on the interference.

This is exactly where the video ref concept would prove its worth. Clear as day on video, this wasn’t hockey, it was interference anti-hockey. In the Rugby World Cup, the video ref would have contacted the ref, said “Hey, I got a loop to play for you at the next whistle.” They would have watched together, the ref would have said “I see a two-minute for interference penalty, do you agree?”, the video ref would have said “I agree”, and the call would have been made, would have been right, the Florida goal would not have counted.

Instead, Colin Campbell is installing cameras at the blue line to adjudicate offsides to the millimetre. Because that’s what’s ruining the game, those offsides where a player is a split-second early entering the zone. Obeying the spirit of the rule there isn’t enough, we have to get it incontrovertibly correct.

Elbows to the head though, ref didn’t see it, play on…

9)  Mike Condon on the bench.  When pulling the goalie on a powerplay, I'm always fearful of clearing attempts going into the empty net.  Icing being allowed, you might as well shoot at the net if you get a chance, while killing a penalty.

We should change that rule, no icing allowed whatsoever, even shorthanded.

Maybe install cameras to enforce it. Right Daddy Campbell?

10)  Shawn Thornton wasn’t too frisky there, when John Scott tried to engage him in conversation at the faceoff. Not as slashy and jaw-y as he normally is, against Gally or Mathieu Darche.

11)  I love Brandon Prust, but there is a world of difference in how his season ended and John Scott’s is ending. The big galoot has kind of half-won me over, partially, in a sense. He went to St. John’s and didn’t whine, didn’t complain, and got rewarded.

Prusty had a tough season, and his opportunity to go home instead of playing out the season wasn’t tinged with the same gratitude from the Canucks as the Canadiens just showed.

I’d still want Prusty back though, keep the kids in line.  If he'll have us...

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