Friday, December 17, 2010

Aftermath: Relief

The Canadiens really, really didn't want to start a seven-game road trip on a four-game losing streak. That was the story of last night's game. They came out on the attack right away and they got the jump on the Bs. The Bruins, being pretty keen to not extend their own losing streak, fought back. Every time they did, though, the Habs had an answer. They were faster than the Bruins and, through the ebb and flow of a game between two good teams, they were better for longer. It was a good sign that when the chips are down against an important rival, in a game both teams really want to win, the Canadiens respond with enough moxy to end up on top.

The desperation and determination to pull that game out at all costs was the main story, but as in any good script, there were stories within the story as well. Michael Cammalleri's strange game was prime among them. Cammy made a fantastic move to score his first career penalty shot goal, on a play that probably shouldn't have been a penalty shot. Then he fought his first NHL fight, bloodying and being bloodied by David Krejci. The goal was great. The fight was odd. Cammalleri acquitted himself well, but the question is, why was he fighting at all? It fits with the new, angry Cammy we're seeing this year. He's been taking pointless penalties, he's terse with the media where last year he was thoughtful and entertaining, and he's reacting visibly when he's frustrated on the ice. There's something bothering him and you can't help thinking he'd be an even better player if he could work it out.

Another story within last night's story is the emergence of Max Pacioretty. The team has been looking all year for someone to jump start Scott Gomez, and Pax might finally be the solution to the Gomez Conundrum. The man looks bigger than he was last year, and he's definitely savvier on the ice. The crushing hits that used to knock him flat before aren't getting him now because his head is up and he's more aware. He's using his size to win the puck, and he's discovered an ability to make a dandy pass. It's interesting that he gives so much of the credit for his turnaround to playing with David Desharnais. He says DD is the best centre he's ever had, and watching the way he operates taught Pacioretty a lot. Whatever the reason, it looks like he might be the missing top-six winger the team has needed forever.

Subban the Destroyer is another thing a lot of people will be talking about today. The kid laid an open-ice hit on Brad Marchand that had Marchand seeing little birds flying around his head. It was a devastating, clean hit of the type you see maybe once or twice a year in the NHL these days. They're so rare, you half expect a penalty on them because the refs react to seeing a guy pasted like that. The particular joy in that hit was Subban's discussion of it post-game. He sounded so sensible in explaining how he won't do that all the time because he doesn't want to take himself out of position. The amount of potential the kid has is astonishing and when he fully harnesses his ability, he'll be a force of nature.

The troubling story from last night was the fluctuating intensity level. Each time the Canadiens re-established a two-goal lead, they seemed to let down. The Bruins suddenly started getting to loose pucks first and the Habs D began running around. Passes got really sloppy too, when the Canadiens stopped skating. That's a concern and needs to be fixed when they hit the road for the west.

The D needs to be shored up as well. Watching Spacek try not to get hit as he favours his shoulder, and Gill repeatedly giving the puck away because it's difficult to handle when it's on the end of a ten-foot stick exposes weaknesses on the blueline that aren't going to get better as the year grinds on. Without Andrei Markov, the Habs are an elite puck-moving defenceman away from being a contender. Just imagining how good they'd look with him is almost heart breaking. Pierre Gauthier has got to be keeping his eyes open for a potential deal to fix the problem. It'll be interesting to see what he comes up with.

All in all, though, the Canadiens came through when it counted most. That's the story. This is a good team and it's getting better with the addition of guys like Pacioretty. Barring a disaster, it will be a playoff team and that's the only tale that matters.


Anonymous said... thinks the team would benefit by moving Desharnais up to the big leagues in exchange for bringing one down. Why are they leaving David behind, I don't get it?

Subban's hit was good but I would hate to be Marchand's Mom.

Hats off to Lapierre for not buying into Thorton's advances..

Anonymous said...

MaxPac's time in Hamilton has definitely made him a better player. He wasnt physically ready last year and probably was intimidated playing against men.

Now he uses his size, keeps his head up and after two games is looking like the player we have hoped for.

The habs are no longer a small team up front. Eller, Pouliot, MaxPac, Moen, and even Lapierre are all good sized players. Endqvist down in Hamilton has size and appears to be progressing as a shutdown center. The future looks good up front.

The defence is another story. Unless Emelin comes over next year we have no prospects ready to move up. Nash is at least two years away and maybe three. After him there is nothing in sight.

Ian said...

I found the commentary particularly frustrating. Milbury is an ass, plain and simple. Stock was an ally. What dinks!

What usefulness would it serve to have Lapierre fight Thornton in the opening minute? And why? There was nothing worthy of starting a fight. And Thornton is a scrapper, Laps is not. How freaking stupid do you have to be to take that fight?

Then they want PK to fight. WTF. Why? Because he hit a guy clean and hard? They wanted him to fight Carcillo the night before, too. How brain dead are these guys! First, Subban is not a fighter. Carcillo is. So how freaking stupid do you have to be to take that fight, too?

Milbury is a joke. Stock disappointed me being his clone. The rest of the broadcast crew took their shots at the Habs, too. Is it just me, or were they all disrespecting the Habs?

They were happy Cammy got into a fight. WTF. Do we really want our goal scorer throwing them at all, never mind against a bigger guy. One broken knuckle or finger, and where would he be!

The CBC crew certainly burned my ass. Milbury said Laps irritated him so much he wanted to go and punch him. I feel the same way towards him, the dink!

I wish we had an enforcer to straighten out the neanderthals. Our guys all get respectable minutes, so we can ill afford to have them sitting for five when the other team is losing only a dink. Not a good trade off.

Man, these guys piss me off!

Anonymous said...

These guys are about 3 players away from being contenders. They need a big centerman to compete with the Phili. They need another defenseman for depth and need another scorer.

Far too often this team displays an inability to score. Max Pac may help but Cammalleri and Gionta cant carry the load.

As for Pleks , I know that you were suggesting that he may be the best two way guy in the league. He is defintitely a plus for the Habs but he does not strike fear into opponents. He doesn't really get dirty and is soft.He doesn't have that sandpaper. He is fairly sound positionally but how many times do you see him take the body? And for a guy making his money he has to contribute way more to the offense. Its not enough to play against the other top lines and be perceived as a shut down guy if the habs barely score 2.5 goals a game.