Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Game 3: Canadiens 4, Penguins 0

We get a national broadcast of the Canadiens home opener against the Penguins, I had to choose between TVA and Sportsnet for my tele-convenience.  I went with Sportsnet, I like the crew of John Bartlett and Jason York.  As much as I tried to give Félix Séguin and Patrick Lalime a chance these last couple years, they pale so greatly in comparison to RDS' Pierre Houde and Marc Denis that I can't enjoy their games.  Maybe I'll give them another go this winter, when my only other option will be Bob Cole on HNIC.

I'd like to think Kyle Bukauskas is a new addition to the Sportsnet team due to his easy professionalism, his youthful energy and camera-friendly appearance, but I can't help but think that he's the TV version of a player on an Entry-Level Contract, a cheaper replaceable cog, due to Rogers arterial bleeding of red ink and cost-cutting on their NHL efforts.

I was a little surprised that the Penguins would go with Marc-André Fleury in net, on back-to-back games, rather than harness some of Mike Condon's eagerness to prove the Canadiens wrong in waiving him.

And it doesn't take long for the second-guessing to coalesce, when Max Pacioretty gets the season's first goal for himself and at Le Nouveau Forum, after Marc-André botched a retrieval of a dump-in and set the Penguins scrambling in their own zone.  He managed to block a point blank shot from Alex Galchenyuk, but a few seconds later Max converted a beautiful feed from Jeff Petry, scoring near-post and in from the slot on a quick wrist shot.  

His detractors will tell you that Max did so lazily though, that instead of being open for the pass, he should have been jousting in front of the net, dishing out elbows to various Penguins.  That's the best application of his skill, they'll harrumph.  

Did I mention the goal was a result of a dump-in by the Canadiens?

In the second, Max sets up his buddy David Desharnais for the 2-0 lead.  Max works the corner with Andrew Shaw and wins a puck battle, finds David all alone in front of the net.  David has a good period in the second, making a dandy pass to Andrei Markov on an odd-man rush, setting him up for a clean shot on goal.

So far this season, I'd not noticed the team speed and high-pressure style as much as we might have expected, the Canadiens had seemed lethargic mostly, but tonight they've created mistakes by their opponents with their speed, notably on Marc-André Fleury, who's struggled handling the puck.  

And if David Desharnais and Andrew Shaw continue to mesh, to build that on-ice communication, we might have a decent forward corps, with a good Top 6, a productive third line and a fourth line Michel Therrien beams about.

The third period sees Alex Radulov finally get rewarded with a goal, a bit of a beauty aided by a nice unpunished instance of crease-crashing by Brendan Gallagher.  

David Desharnais covers his detractors in a lather of rage with his second goal, another one obtained by being open and alone near the net.  4-0 pour les Habitants.

All that remained late in the game was to preserve the well-deserved shutout for Al Montoya.  Nathan Beaulieu kind of complicated matters by clearing the puck into the stands and drawing a delay of game penalty, but the Canadiens killed it off, against a tired Pens team resigned to its fate by that point.  Nate, bear down.  Concentrate.  Situational hockey.  An icing is less bad than a penalty this late in the game.

Overall though, the Canadiens defence corps is rounding into shape nicely.  Shea Weber is playing the way we were told he'd play.  A healthy Jeff Petry who reminds us of the healthy Jeff Petry from early last year is a huge boost, with another two-point night, two savant passes.  Alexei Emelin is playing with a little more confidence, has been more creative with the puck, jumping in the rush, maybe that World Cup experience has done him some good.  

So a healthy 4-0 win, another two points, a strong performance after a lengthy opening ceremony.  It was nice to see Coach Jacques Demers doing better, and handing off the torch to Max before the game.  

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