Thursday, 22 December 2016

Game 33: Canadiens 2, Wild 4

While Gary Bettman was balefully shushing kids playing mini-sticks in his hotel room corridor, since they were intruding on the sound of his cash-counting machine, I was watching the Canadiens game against the Wild, on RDS' 'Canadiens Express', a decisive 5-2 loss.

Some observations:

1)  Nathan Beaulieu has a chance to show his stuff with Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin out of the lineup.  What does he decide to do, in the first period, when Carey Price gives him a short pass in front of the net, with the Canadiens scrambling in their own end, and the entire left side of the zone free and clear of opponents?  He foregoes the path of least resistance, the option of wheeling to his right and going up the left side of the rink.

Instead, he doggedly, resolutely skates behind his net, on his backhand, with a forechecker in hot pursuit, and then stickhandles and fights his way up the right side along the boards, through every Wild player there is.

I understand that sometimes it's worth it to take a small risk to surprise your opponents, to zig when they're expecting you to zag.  Also though, like the KISS acronym enjoins us to do, it's not a bad plan to keep it simple, to take yes for an answer.  I'm sure the coaches were as uncomfortable, to put it mildly, as I was on my couch, as they watched the play unfold.  It didn't end badly, Nate ended up taking a good shot on the Minny net, but I think the coaches will go over the video with our boy and hope he sees the error of his ways.

Nate gets knocked by analysts for his inconsistency and decision-making, among other flaws.  Tonight I tried to watch his shifts as best I could, and this one, midway through the first period, may be a microcosm of Nate's issues.

2)  Tell me again how Max Pacioretty is soft and of little worth, how he should be traded since he doesn't muck and grind?  Seeing him in slow-mo swooping in on net on that shorthanded goal, the 'C' and the 'CH' proud on his chest, picking the blocker side effortlessly to give the team the lead, I'm really interested in your plan to trade him for Jordan Eberle.

Max is a weapon.  Having him as a constant threat on the penalty kill is a great luxury.  He's the last mohican of the Ryan McDonagh-Max Pacioretty-P.K. Subban 2007 draft year, how about we keep him?

3)  Seeing Artturi Lehkonen bearing down on Jared Spurgeon, who was racing back to his end to corral a puck, I fully expected a good bodycheck to be delivered.  And not a brainless finishing of a check, in the parlance, but rather a tactical bodycheck to separate the small defender from the puck.  Instead, Artturi tried a stickcheck and couldn't steal the puck away.

I was a little disappointed, even fully knowing that this is what Michel Therrien preaches, that you don't go looking for the big hit, that you chase and fight for the puck.  Surely in this case, this was an opportunity to deliver a good hit, to win the puck in this manner, to leave a calling card with a rattled defender, who'll feel the nervosity the next time he's chasing down a puck, preferably with Mike McCarron slavering at his heels.

I didn't quite have the time to finish this thought before Artturi, Brian Flynn, and Tomas Plekanec caught up to the play in the neutral zone, turned the puck over, and swooped in on Devan Dubnyk's net for a decent scoring chance.  I guess it serves them well to keep their speed up, instead of coming to a standstill after a hit.

Okay, okay, but still, come on, once in a while, just one bodycheck, here and there, you know, just to keep things enlivened?  In loving memory of Dave Maley?

4)  Shea Weber got off a half-slapper in the second period.  Not his usual rocket or anything, but maybe his (suspected) bum wing is feeling better.

5)  Carey Price, with his deft puckhandling, can't be perfect all the time.  No one will need to point out to him that the Jordan Shroeder goal, you know, it kind of happened because, well...  

Never mind.  We're good.

6)  Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Petry chatting after a whistle.  Those two went through the Edmonton wringer together.

7)  Will there be a race to Qu├ębec?  A bidding war to sell their franchise between the Islanders, beaten down by their recent UFA signings and their ill-advised move to the Brooklyn Arena, and pauper Peter Karmanos trying to unload his lifeless 'Canes?  I'd fear the latter, seeing the Nouveaux Nordiques take to the ice with 6'3" right-winger Julien Gauthier and 6'4" centre Nicolas Roy, facing off against Martin Reway and Daniel Audette.

8)  It's never good news when the Canadiens earn a powerplay, and RDS skips ahead in the game action.  Seeing the action start with 45 seconds left in the powerplay early in the third, you knew the Canadiens weren't offering much of a show with the man advantage.

Sure enough, they'd cut out the fumbling and bumbling (probably), and joined the action shortly before Eric Staal's shorthanded goal.

9)  So now we have five points out of a possible ten in this crucial stretch.  Still playing .500 hockey, according to the NHL's new math, where games variably are worth 2 or 3 points, depending.  

All we need is a convincing win against the Blue Jackets,  tomorrow night, on the road, against a team that just beat the Penguins 7-1, and beat the Canadiens 10-0 in November.  And they get to face Al Montoya again.  

"Oye oye oye," says Benoit Brunet, probably.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job as always Normand. One remark: I've noticed in all the recaps I've read that no one has mentioned the fine work by the fourth line. Although he didn't register a point, I thought it was a bit of a statement game from Daniel Carr. And McCarron continues to play as if he belongs (until DD recovers).