Saturday, 10 December 2016

Game 28: Canadiens 10, Avalanche 1

I risked it this morning, setting my PVR to the Sportsnet broadcast instead of the TVA, at the risk of being saddled with Bob Cole for the whole game.  Luckily, we ended up with Paul Romanuk, who isn't in the top tier of announcers, but who we can abide, so I didn't have to scramble and switch to recording the TVA Sports edition.

Some thoughts on the Canadiens' 10-1 win:

1)  Tonight doesn't rinse out the 10-0 loss to Columbus bitter taste for me.  At least the Avalanche tried to change goalies, when they found their starter was having an off night.  They tried to avert disaster, which I'm not sure we did in the same situation, we just went down with the ship.

2)  Trade two-goal scorer Brian Flynn immediately.  Or, at most, in 6 to 8 weeks.  Strike while the iron is hot.  2nd-round pick OBO.  No tire-kickers, motivated buyers only.

3)  You got the sense that Alex Radulov was celebrating a little too hard out there, past a certain point.  I think Max almost shushed him on one occasion.  I wondered if it was just his natural exuberance, the fact that he's a frisky puppy that had him jumping around so, or maybe the fact that he probably tried to join the Avalanche and Patrick Roy and was rebuffed.

4)  On Max's third goal, he as usual found a dead area, a soft spot in the Colorado defence and was wide open for the Alex Radulov pass.  He often gets excoriated on social media for being soft, which is grossly unfair, considering his injury history and how he's always bounced back.  That's how he'll be successful, how he can best help us, is by lurking around the slot like a shark, instead of getting elbowed in the brain in front of the net.  We need Max to focus on what he does best, scoring goals, attracting defenders' attention, playing hard on defence and while killing penalties.  We won't be any further ahead if Max picks a fight against Derryck Engelland.

5)  There was some hand-wringing that Max was having a slow start to the season, that he might not bag 30 goals.  The more level-headed among us cautioned that Max is streaky, that he'll get back on track and resume scoring in bunches, while the insane contingent attacked him personally, advocated that we should trade him for Scott Hartnell.  His three, no four goals have him back on track for a thirty-goal season.  All is right in the world.  The booers will be silenced forevermore.

6)  The Canadiens had to engage in this precarious dance later in the game whereby they played hard, where they didn't ease up, yet also didn't overdo it on the forecheck and the scoring and the celebrating and the fiery puck battles.  It's a hard line to walk.  In the second I feared they might not manage it, but they got it right eventually, still skating and playing hard, in a muted way.

7)  I was happy to see Nathan Beaulieu and Zack Redmond get a lot of minutes, lots of assignments, as the game wore on.  This was a perfect game to modulate the use of Shea Weber and Andrei Markov.  The same goes for the fourth line, but we're used to seeing our coaching staff roll four lines, and trust them with late-game shifts.  The third pairing hasn't earned that latitude yet from them.

8)  I'm just glad that the Colorado roster doesn't contain a Steve Ott or a Chris Neil, or this game could have gotten ugly.

9)  The preceding thought was formulated before Alexei Emelin threw a hip check late in a laugher and upended Joe Colbourne.  Bad, bad form on Alexei here, very poor situational awareness.  That was the perfect time for a stick check, or just bodying the streaking forward onto the boards and closing off his avenue.

The Avalanche have conceded the game.  No one is running around finishing their checks, hacking at Carey Price, trying to instigate something Kypreos-style.  Sportsmanship demands that at this point, you be a gracious winner, accept the Avalanche's concession, and let them leave the building with their dignity.  You're still playing hockey, but that's all you're doing, you're not trying to dominate or out-tough anyone.

10)  The Canadiens did what they needed to do in this brief sequence after the West Coast trip.  They preyed on two poor teams and banked points.  The next five or so games, there's not a gimme among them.

11)  Watching l'Antichambre, I have to say that I much prefer how Pierre Houde treats P.J. Stock compared to St├ęphane Langdeau.  Pierre asks P.J. questions, pumps up his opinions, acts properly, as you should for a guest on the panel.  Too often, if not unfailingly, St├ęphane Langdeau sets up P.J. to fail, he interrupts him, doesn't let him get his point across, ridicules a tangential point he makes, it's embarrassing.  I'm no great fan of P.J. Stock, his views on hockey, his career and the 'style' of hockey he played, but if we invite him on the show to be on the panel, routine politeness should be the the minimum he should expect from the host.

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