With Gary Bettman's efforts to grow our game, I was relegated to RDS' 'Canadiens Express' to see in what manner exactly how our boys were going to be run out of the rink by the big mean tough Kings.
Instead, the Canadiens dominated the game and won 4-1, and withstood the Kings' bodycheck, late-check, and checks-in-the-back assault.
From my vantage point and my Bettman-enforced tunnel vision, it seemed the Kings were constantly interfering, if not outright wrestling our guys, even when they were nowhere near the puck. I'm pretty sure at one point for all the world that I saw Matt Green apply a Camel Clutch on Brendan Gallagher.
We talk about how the game is changing, that it's more about speed than size these days in the NHL, but I won't believe it until I see it in the playoffs. If the refs myope their way through the post-season like they did tonight, we don't stand a chance.
The big change for the Canadiens, one that many will believe was overdue, was the removal of David Desharnais from the lineup. He's been in a profound torpor for the last ten games or so, despite getting icetime with Max Pacioretty and some powerplay time. So David needed to step aside, and Phillip Danault got promoted to pivot his line with Max and Andrew Shaw.
One of the reasons I believe that David and Tomas Plekanec were tolerated for so long while producing no tangible results was that there was no obvious replacement. The boys in St. John's probably need to spend more time in the AHL. Top 6 centres don't grow on trees, don't come cheap on the trade market.
Well if Phillip Danault plays like he did tonight, he might be a short-term solution. While he doesn't have a history or pedigree as a point producer, tonight his speed and assurance handling the puck at least gave the impression that this could work. Even Andrew Shaw seemed vivified, and came close to potting a couple goals due to Phillip's passing and skating contributions.
And Michel Therrien will never get credit for playing a hunch and coming up aces with his decision to affix Paul Byron to Alex Galchenyuk's left wing. The online experts wailed that he's a fourth-liner and has no business in the Top 6, as they rent their Jiri Sekac jerseys.
Well, Paul's quickness and indefatigability seems to aid Alex & Alex, Inc., providing a bit of dash in their stickhandling wizardry. Paul also has two goals in two games, on the top line. We'll see if he's shut out on Saturday, and if the doubting Thomases shriek "Slump!" as they rend their Halak sweaters.
The Kings' fourth line, for which we jonesed not more than a couple years ago, looked moribund tonight, mastodons in the tar pit, with the same agility and future prospects.
Mathieu Darche on L'Antichambre noted that the Canadiens did much better in the faceoff dot, especially early in the game. We can hope that it's due to some hard work in practice with Kirk Muller, but you have to think that putting Phillip Danault out there also helped. He's a deluxe backup centre on the fourth line, but that means that he or Torrey Mitchell, two of our better faceoff men, are sitting out the draw when they play together.
Meanwhile, Alex Galchenyuk still has a lot to work on in this area. It blunts the teeth of their attack if he and Alex Radulov have to start every shift chasing the puck, instead of controlling it right off the bat.
A great win, another two points in the bank, and another masterful performance by Carey Price, who quarterbacked a multitude of breakouts with his vision and deft puckhandling. That boy's a keeper.