Observations on the Canadiens' season-ender, which I foolishly PVR'ed on Sportsnet without first realizing which broadcast team was handling our game. And thank you for this, Gary Bettman, along with the entirety of your oeuvre.
--I was truly worried about Bob Cole at puck drop. He sounded medicated, or as if he was just back from the dentist. He warmed up, seemingly, as the game progressed, and sounded better later on, but I'm not joking. At first I didn't recognize him, thought it might be one of those "Thrill of a Lifetime" contests that had some Joe off the street doing the intro to the game.
I've criticized CBC and Sportsnet for continuing to employ Bob Cole, when there are lots of play-by-play callers in the country just dying for a chance at the big leagues. Mr. Cole is no longer qualified to do the job. Right off the bat, he confused Greg Pateryn with Andrei Markov, which is kind of hard to do, with the leftie-rightie being a clue as to who is who, their size, their numbers being completely different. This isn't Francis Bouillon and/or David Desharnais and/or Raphaël Diaz, which used to give him fits. I know Greg and Andrei play the blue line, and wear beards, but that's about it in terms of similarities.
I know his foghorn voice is chock-full of memories for a lot of fans, but I grew up watching "La Soirée du Hockey" with René Lecavalier and later Richard Garneau, and Gilles Tremblay providing the colour commentary. So I'm immune to Mr. Cole's charms. And keeping him in the broadcast booth is to prioritize nostalgia over the actual quality of the broadcast.
And succession planning. HNIC has already lost Chris Cuthbert to a rival by coddling Mr. Cole.
--That shove by Greg Pateryn on Tyler Johnson looked bad initially, but on replay it was clear that he was giving him a perfectly legal crosscheck in the meat of the arm, as benedictioned by Saint Michael of Babcock.
--Markov-to-Galchenyuk-to-Pacioretty makes for a pretty goal.
--Andrei Vasilevskiy is nearly as large as Ben Bishop according to the stats, but he doesn't appear equally sumo-like, you can actually see some mesh behind him.
--The Lightning are last in the NHL in terms of powerplay efficiency. With all that talent. It's incomprehensible.
Their coach Jon Cooper has failed to adapt, continuing to play his system, stubbornly staying the course. He's too stubborn, stubbornly insisting that Steve Stamkos play wing instead of centre.
None of his players were ready to play tonight, and that's on the coach, that's his job. He didn't have them ready to play, didn't make between-periods adjustments, that's something he's incapable of. He failed to lift the goalie when it was obvious he wasn't sharp. That's also his job.
He's lost the room, it's only a matter of time until Stamkos bolts, because Jon Cooper stifles him, stubbornly refuses to modify his system to his skills.
He's now doing the same thing to Jonathan Drouin, stapling him to the bench anytime he makes a mistake. How is he supposed to learn without making lots of mistakes?
And which youngsters have progressed under his reign? Sure, you'll say Victor Hedman, but he was always going to be a superstar in this league, he gets no credit for him. But Carter Ashton, Richard Panik, Brett Connelly, Slater Koekkoek, all ruined because of him.
But that's Jon Cooper for you, stubbornly sticking to his methods, driving his best players off the team. It's stubborn and arrogant, for a coach who never played in the NHL, and is so insecure that he surrounds himself with yes-men like Rick Bowness and Steve Thomas who won't be a threat to replace him, will never question him.
And honestly, I wish Drouin was english. Because then we would KNOW that his being french isn’t part of the problem. Right now I’m not sure. Either way I’m disgusted with Cooper.
--Couldn't help but notice how Vladislav Namestnikov's hair was bone dry, all flowing in the breeze when his helmet was off and he was skating to the penalty bench after a fight. That takes some doing, in the middle of the second period of a game. He's obviously not trying, he wants his coach to get fired.
--Valtteri Filppula's penalty that nullified the Tampa powerplay was directly caused by Jon Cooper's incompetence. They didn't adapt to the situation, with four Canadiens stacked up at the blue line, yet insisting on trying to carry the puck in. Sure enough, Mr. Filppula lost the puck, and then got a tripping penalty.
With so many injured defencemen, with the inexperience the Canadiens have on their blue line, the smart thing to do is to dump the puck deep in their zone, behind them, and pressure the youngsters, chase after the puck and retrieve it. You have to make them back off the blue line, or force them to make mistakes. Not just try to barge through four defenders lined up and expecting you, you can't stickhandle through that, this isn't the 80's.
But that baffoon Jon Cooper, missing his two best players, kept stubbornly insisting that they carry the puck in, because he's too stupid to adapt.
--A highstick on Brian Boyle needs to be very high I guess.
--How close did Max get to his 30th goal on that late powerplay in the second? If I'd have freeze-framed the image when he had the puck on his stick, I'd have bet money he had it, the entire net was open. Good job by the Tampa goalie scooting back to block it. If Max could have raise it a little though...
--If I have to pick my poison, I guess I'll choose the Flyers to participate in the playoffs over the Bruins.
Now we get to white-knuckle it at the draft lottery, and hope that last year's result proves it's on the up and up. If Gary Bettman didn't rig it so Connor McDavid didn't land in a major American market, or American Market, or anywhere-but-Edmonton market, then maybe he won't gift his boss Jeremy Jacobs Auston Matthews.
--Toronto's 'War Room' goosed the numbers a little bit, made them look better in terms of calls going against the Canadiens versus those in favour, in a meaningless game for us, with that goalie interference call which nullified Mike Blunden's goal. Trying to make it look like they're even-handed against us, smart move.
--Sure Coach Cooper, try to lecture Jonathan Drouin right after he scores. Hilarious seeing his stupid face when his players tell him "No, Jonathan didn't mess up, we did." Trying to cover it up with that stupid yellow card, but failing anyway, we can totally see his lips move. What a clown!
No wonder no player will sign in Tampa this summer, nobody wants to play in that circus!
--And Drouin gets another. Sure Cooper, keep playing your favourites Callahan and Brown, but send down Drouin to Syracuse, because you can't deal with skilled players.
--I can't explain how happy I am for Max that he got his 30th. The guy had a tough year, starting out barely recovered from a tibial plateau fracture, which curtailed his summer conditioning regimen with Ben Prentiss. He's taken a lot of heat from fans who want him to play like Chris Nilan or Mario Tremblay.
Max will get knocked by those same people for scoring a few empty-netters this season, including this one, but I'm happy that he did, as opposed to previous seasons when we'd fail to cash in on these opportunities, failed to put opponents away. Remember Tomas Plekanec messing up his chance against Edmonton, and how we eventually lost that game? Empty-netter are important. They count.
--All that remains now for the season is the unpleasant matter of the draft lottery. Can't wait to see Auston Matthews' face when he learns along with all of us that he's headed to Edmonton.