Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Game 10: Canadiens 3, Canucks 0

An ugly game, at least from the Canadiens' perspective, but the best deodorant is winning, and they got it in gear enough to get the win.  Two quick goals on the rush in the second period and an empty-net goal were enough to overcome long stretches when the dysfunctional Canadiens were ineffective and bottled up in their zone.  Maybe the Canadiens should decline to have four-day gaps between games in their schedule next year.

The Canucks, while they were competitive and came close to winning this game, overwhelming the Canadiens in the first period, really don't seem impressive when you take a step back.  The kids like Jake Virtanen and Brendan Gaunce, the reinforcements brought in during the off-season to bolster the team, guys like Phillip Larsen and Erik Gudbranson, when you squinted hard this summer, you could start to buy in that they would be an improvement on the previous season.

But it's a house of cards.  Often when taking stock of a team, we hold some variables as constants, then take for granted that the additions will be improvements.  So Tomas Plekanec, as he approaches his mid-thirties and has shown signs of slowing down, is still pegged as a twenty-goal, sixty point forward in Canadiens fans minds.  Andrei Markov will still pivot the powerplay and give us a dozen goals, while not faltering on the defensive side.

For the Canucks, that kind of thinking had the Sedin brothers at 65-70 points "if they avoid injuries".  Add in 30-goal scorer Loui Eriksson as the finisher they've perpetually been lacking on their line, and you had a strong first line.  Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat make up a strong trio of Top 9 centres with Henrik.  Alex Edler will bounce back, and benefit from Erik Gudbranson taking up some of the slack.  Etc, etc.

But the Canucks are not the sum of these hopeful parts.  They gave it an honest effort tonight, but they seem to know they're the underdog, the snakebitten punchless bunch who've been forecast to come in last in the league, with as few as 63 points in one instance.

So the Canadiens Carey Price weathered the storm early, let the visitors exhaust themselves by throwing punches, like Homer Simpson did against Dedrick Tatum, and realized they were in a game twenty-five minutes in.  

The Canadiens were outshot 17-11 in the second period, but scored two goals and allowed none.  For the game, they lost the shot battle 42-22, but won the war 3-0.  Take that, Fenwick Corsi!

The fourth line this season is our version of last season's third line of Fleischmann, Desharnais and Weise, who carried the ball while other lines got their act together.  Torrey Mitchell scored on a 2-on-1 break, on a beauty feed from Phillip Danault.  With contributions like these, we can expect the coach to keep rolling four lines, to not hesitate to give these guys more and more responsibility.  Ideally, Daniel Carr or another of the IceCaps will catch fire, earn a spot on the Top 9, and bump Paul Byron back down to the fourth, and make it even more formidable.

All that will remain then will be to regretfully part with Brian Flynn in exchange for a second-round pick.  Grudgingly.  

Dave Randorff and Gary Galley spoke at length about Carey Price, including his ability to handle the puck.  He truly is a third defenceman out there.  He has this move where he loads up the puck on his forehand, intended for one defenceman, and the opposing forward will bite and veer that way.  Carey then quickly flips his stick over the puck, and backhands the puck to the other d-man fifty feet away, tape to tape.  He does that two or three times a game, and that doesn't show up on the scoresheet.  Maybe it's time to invent a new advanced stat.

So while it looked like the Canucks might break the Canadiens unbeaten streak in the tenth game again this year, they just didn't have the horses.  Let's hope they find their legs in the next couple of games and can hand the Senators and Leafs a loss.


An interesting stat brought up by Marc Denis yesterday prior to puck drop is that Ryan Miller was 27-12-6 in his career against the Canadiens.  That's more than respectable, especially considering that the Sabres weren't really a powerhouse when he played there.

When The Hockey News and EA Sports came out with their season forecasts that pegged the Canucks in last place with point totals in the 60s, one of the objections from some analysts was that they will have good-to-excellent goaltending with Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom, that this alone will prevent them from abysmal point totals like last year's Flames and Oilers, which relied on sub-.900 goaltending to enter the lottery.

I fear that won't be enough.  That might set the floor at 75 instead of 65 points, at best.  But their defence, thin and unimposing as it is, and the lack of talent on their forward lines which necessitated the employ of something known as Jayeson Megma at the very start of the season, even before injuries start to pile up, doesn't bode well for this team.

As someone else posted last week, it's just the Canucks' luck that they're going to have an unplanned season at the bottom of the standings, one that won't be shamefully engineered like the Leafs or Sabres or Oilers from the last few seasons, and will occur in a fallow draft year, with no Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews as the prize in the subsequent draft.  Nolan Patrick is the putative #1 pick, Craig Button describes him as a franchise centre, and a 6'3" rightie will certainly draw interest, but he's seen as a notch below the Jack Eichel-Auston Matthews level, and is recovering from sports hernia surgery this summer, and has already missed games due to injuries.

So Mr. Miller, take your loss, your record is now 27-13-6.  And I fear that your record will take a beating throughout the season, or at least until the trade deadline, when you're jettisoned to a contender for picks and prospects.

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