Monday, 30 March 2015

P.K. Subban a target of the NHL

If P.K. gets fined and publicly shamed for embellishment, I want Carrie Underwood’s husband to get the same treatment for that B.S. pratfall on Carey. The overhead shot of him throwing himself backwards was especially damning.

Those ineffectual GM meeting in Del Boca Vista Phase II are such a waste of time, focusing on puck-over-glass or handpass minutiae, and trying to rid the game of the horrors of the shootout (horrors!), instead of rectifying what’s truly wrong with the game.

After Milan Lucic on Ryan Miller, after Chris Kreider on human decency, the NHL should have dealt with this, decisively. Come out very clearly against any attempt to make contact with a goalie, to ‘get him off his game’, ‘make him less comfortable’. Make it a strict liability offence, if a player makes contact with an opposition goalie in any manner while he’s in his crease, he gets a penalty. No grey areas.

Anything cravenly deliberate, any Nick Kypreos dive onto Grant Fuhr to blow out his ACL, it’s an ‘attempt to injure’ penalty, with all that entails. Don’t wuss out of calling those.

If a defensive player steers-pushes him into the goalie, he gets an offsetting penalty, but these will drop off dramatically, since the opposition forwards will be trying to skate away from the crease, there won’t be a need to joust with them, like P.K. on Logan Couture.

Protect the goalies like the NFL protects its QB’s. If you want to generate offence, get rid of the trap, the officious offside penalties, the hooking, the slashing. Lord, the slashing.

The NHL quarter-measures and backtracks itself to death, votes in favour of 3-on-3 OT.

The NHL futzes around with details (the blasted ‘hand pass’ controversy) but refuses to deal with the major issues (violence, intimidation and concussions; lack of offence, scoring and excitement).

Note the agony over OT, the shootout, 3-on-3, definite kicking motion, when they really should address the fact that Sidney Crosby has been concussed down to size, that Pavel Datsyuk gets slashed fifty times a game without it drawing a call, it gets characterized as ‘defensive play’.

Remember the furor over Linus Omark? The kid had moves and skill, was flashy, and he got buried, he’s not even in the league now. Meanwhile, Brad Marchand is a ‘passionate’ player who sometimes strays over the line. It’s madness.

I don’t have much time for RDS analyst Benoit Brunet, but one of his comments is so dead-on: whenever adjustments are debated on OT rules, etc., he asks, “Can we worry about improving the quality of play over the previous 60 minutes instead of fiddling around with the five minutes of OT?”

Instead of allowing more crashing and banging in the crease to “create more goals”, which are ugly, unspectacular goals anyway, why don’t we allow Evgeni Malkin and the Sedin brothers to wow us with their moves, instead of lionizing a Daniel Winnik for his effort and defensive play.

Diving is such a non-issue. Let the players play, free of intimidation and check-finishers and routine slashing every second of every game, and scoring will go up, and diving won’t be necessary.

Then, address any further instances of diving after the fact, with video evidence, and suspend players, coaches, and dock teams some draft picks. State very clearly that it’s cheating, like doctoring the baseballs, it’s an attack on the integrity of the game, and it won’t be tolerated.  None of this $2000 business.

Get the teams and the coaches, and it will stop. But again, the league wants the players to bear the brunt of this, suffer the consequences when they try to win, try to find a way around the nonsense that is the NHL.

Manny Malhotra will probably not be retained, Sergei Gonchar may not play again this season.

Richard Labbé of La Presse pointing out what we kind of already know as fans, that Manny Malhotra won’t be back next year.

When he was signed last summer I was fairly certain that he’d be an improvement over Ryan White and Daniel Brière as the fourth-line centre, that his size and skating and defensive ability would be a great benefit. He caught our eye early with great faceoff numbers, a spillover effect on those of the other centres, and his penalty killing which relieved some of the pressure on Tomas Plekanec.

As the games piled on though, it became tougher to overlook his non-existent offensive contribution, how he actually made his wingers worse.

Torrey Mitchell is smaller, but does bring the experience and leadership angle, the skating. He doesn’t really bring more offensive skill, but his speed and forechecking can precipitate offence.

He’s been doing almost as well as Manny in the faceoff circle, and he’s a rightie, so he’s a better complement to our other centres, lefties everyone of them, even the part-timers like Jacob de la Rose and Alex Galchenyuk.

So yeah, I’d expect the Canadiens to thank Manny and let him walk this July, unless he experiences a rebirth during the playoffs. I envision the Canadiens making a pitch for Torrey instead, or checking to see what’s available on the UFA market.

Also from La Presse, an articles discusses Sergei Gonchar’s use lately, and the defencemen in general.

I don’t have a problem with giving Sergei more time off if he wasn’t out of the concussion fog yet, since we do have options.

Personally, I like the pairings lately, they’re my ideal pairings as a fan. Love, love Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu together, how they click, complement each other. Their time together in the AHL really shows, they’re not feeling each other out. They know each other and work well with each other.

It’s kind of the ideal pairing that you discuss in the theoretical sphere. A slick puck mover, a defensively-oriented guy with size who hits. But both have some elements of the other’s game, they’re not both unidimensional, stereotypical effete puck-mover paired with the plodding slow-footed brute. Nathan can play in the physical games, has shown he can drop the gloves. And Greg can skate, can pass the puck well, can shoot the puck.

Also, as much as I resolve to be patient, to allow our prospects to marinate in the minors, when some of them finally make it up from Hamilton, I want to see them play, want to see them stick, to be a solution, a harbinger of a brighter future.

I don’t want to tell the coaches what to do. I swear I don’t. But I’ll be happy if we see more of Nathan and Greg together, and if their minutes creep up, and if they get more and more difficult assignments, and they show they can handle it.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Michael McCarron playing centre? In the NHL?

I’m fast-forwarding through Friday night’s Generals-Petes game, and I’m intrigued by the fact that Michael McCarron is still playing centre, this time on the second line, after playing first line centre with Max Domi this season in London, and a lot of third and fourth-line centre last season.

We were surprised that he got moved to centre last season, almost suspicious, since it is Dale Hunter after all who made this decision, and I’m going to take anything he does with a shovelful of salt that’s being crosschecked in the back of my head, but his new coach in Oshawa kept up the experiment. And maybe experiment isn’t the right word.

Lots of players in Junior assume a role that they’re not destined to play in the pros. Two-way defencemen quarterback the powerplay in junior, à la Morgan Ellis. Checking, grinding centres play the first line, à la Bo Horvat or Jackson Houck. So yeah, against lesser competition, as they mature, junior players assume more responsibility that’s not likely to devolve to them as they move up the ladder.

And yeah, it’s common for forwards in the pros to have played a lot of centre in junior, and forwards in junior to have played a lot of centre in minor hockey. If you’re the best or one of the best players on your team, your coach will put you in the middle so you can have a greater impact on the game, but once you’re up against players who can compete with you, they’ll put you in a position where your skills align better with the role of your position.

So I don’t expect Mike McCarron to play centre in Hamilton, beyond maybe taking a few draws, something he’s apparently good at, and which he can do on his strong side if the coach prefers a rightie to a leftie. Martin Lapointe scoffed last summer when asked about this, how the Canadiens hadn’t expected him to play centre in London, but that it wouldn’t harm him, he’d learn quite a bit playing there.

Mike will be a rangy, heavy right winger in the pros, starting next season. Guaranteed.

Except, this year there aren’t ‘enough’ centres in the prospect pool in the AHL. So much so that Charles Hudon got an extended tryout there, and he said it was the first time he’d ever played centre, at any level. Next season, there is Jérémy Grégoire graduating to the pros who plays centre, but he might be one of those prospects who’s better suited to the wing at the next level.

Might it be possible that Mike McCarron gets some time at centre, a tryout? He’d need to radically improve his skating, but could he eventually be that big centre you deploy against a Joe Thornton or Ryan Getzlaf in the defensive zone? Someone who falls somewhere in the range of a Paul Gaustad to Joel Otto, in that continuum? Hopefully tending to the Otto end of the spectrum?

I know, pretty fanciful, but if other fans can trade Zach Fucale, Darren Dietz and a second for Nail Yakupov on social media, let me dream of better days too.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Game 75: Canadiens 2, Jets 5

--I watched the "Winnipeg Jets Pregame" show on TSN, instead of "Hockey 360" on RDS, just for a change.  It started with a back and forth between Sara Orlesky and former Hab Brian Engblom, focusing intensely on the Jets.  Very well done, Sara Orlesky is camera-friendly, and a polished pro, speaking easily and expertly, but allowing her analyst to make his points.

I wasn't as enthused with Brian Engblom for one reason, being that he went for the lazy-man's comparison when trying to lionize Brendan Gallagher, saying that he reminded him of Brad Marchand.  So facile.  They're short, so they're similar.  Coming up next, he'll explain why he thinks Tyler Myers is like Zdeno Chara.

--Asked by Sara Orlesky how his team would try to frustrate the Canadiens, Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice offered: "That's going to be a tough challenge, because that's almost their playbook.  They don't give you a whole lot.  They've got some good offensive skill in their lineup, they don't score an awful lot of goals, but they don't need to to win games.  So they've got a real good defensive structure, they've had for years.

"Our challenge, we've tried to frustrate offensive players through hard work and 'tight gap', we have to make sure we don't allow this to happen to us today and stretch our game out because there will be a problem, they'll take great advantage of that."

Clear as mud?

--Pierre Houde talked about what a great gift it would be for Winnipeg hockey fans if the Jets could make the playoffs this spring.  Dustin Tokarski did his part by wrapping up this game in colourfully patterned paper and putting a great big bow on it.  He was in a generous mood, giving up rebounds, softies, squeakers, dribblers.  Merry Christmas everyone!

--I wasn't crazy about Dustin's body language either.  After every goal, he'd a give a little shrug and hands-up gestures.  "How the heck am I supposed to block that, that shot was really hard!"

At least I hope that's what he was trying to impart, rather than that his teammates were largely to blame.  Because that's not going to fly.  Not when you let in 4 goals on 13 shots.

--In football, the rule of thumb for receivers is "You touch it, you catch it."  Simple.  If you can lay a hand on it, it's yours.  No "The sun's in my eyes" or "The rain sure is making the ball slick" or "QB didn't hit me right in the numbers, I had to stretch out, so it's not my fault."

I'm going to apply the same standard to Dustin's performance, and say he came up short.

--It's too bad, because for the first two periods, the Canadiens looked clearly the superior team on the ice.  They seemed too quick, too organized, too relentless for the Jets to contend with.  At best, they tried to throw bodychecks on the smaller Canadiens, but that didn't seem like it would be enough.

--The Canadiens threw 31 shots at Ondrej Pavelec in the first two periods, and that should have been enough.  The Jets goalie didn't make any miraculous saves, but he was solid, somewhat lucky on occasion.  Impermeable, as opposed to diaphanous.

--I would have liked Nathan Beaulieu's big huge attempted bodycheck on Andrew Ladd at centre ice to land square, instead of whiffing.  The Jets captain, as is his custom, threw his weight around, and 'finished' a few late-ish checks that were borderline.  It would have been nice to give him a taste of his own medicine, administered trans-cutaneously through his sternum, while he had his head down.

--And this would have been a good game for Devante Smith-Pelly to assert himself a little more.  That may have been a function of the "Canadiens Express" edits, but he was largely invisible, save for taking another penalty, which is troubling, since he came advertised as a player who hits but is disciplined, and doesn't take penalties.

Then again, maybe Devante is a victim of NHL officiating.  When he was a Duck, it was all fair game, but now that he's in bleu-blanc-rouge, whistles must be blown.

--And Lars, you're famously a big strong guy, a great skater, you need to be the best Canadien out on the ice on a night like this.  Step up.  You can't just wait to face Anders Lindback again.

--Blah!...

We lose, the Bruins pick up a point, Carolina and Phoenix both win while the Leafs continue to blow and sink further in the standings.

At least Tampa lost.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Game 74: Canadiens 2, Predators 3 (OT)

Some thoughts on the Canadiens 3-2 overtime loss to the Predators in Nashville.

1)  I watched on Canadiens Express, and it’s hard to get a sense of the flow when you do that, but the impression I got was of a game that can be decided by bounces, a bad goal.  Head Coach Michel Therrien acknowledged as much during his post-game interview.

2)  One tipoff as to the final outcome of the game on RDS' "Canadiens Express" is that they edit it to fit into a very tight 60 minutes, including commercials. So when you get to the third period, and see a lot of time left in your hour-long recording to fit it in, you start to suspect that there will be some overtime and shootout. Last night, I sensed right.

3)  I was a little miffed at P.K. a tiny bit, when he went on his stickhandling odyssey in O.T., and failed to shoot or pass at a very open Max in the slot, but took it in context and quickly let it go. I was glad to see the boys on L’Antichambre did the same, mentioned that and the fumble at the blue line which turned into a penalty, but they shrugged it off, explicitly excusing it as some of the stuff you accept, that comes with all the great stuff P.K. brings to the table.

I feel he had a lot of opportunities to get a quality shot on net, or pass to Max, but hesitated, kept wheeling around, and the play he made later was a lower-quality opportunity.

Again, not a capital sin, it’s not like he made a high-risk, low-probability play to give up the lead late in the game. He was trying to create to get us an extra point in OT, possibly made a sub-optimal decision, but overall in the context of the play he’s delivered since the All-Star game, not a wart I’ll pick at.

4)  If P.K. gets fined and publicly shamed for embellishment, I want Carrie Underwood’s husband to get the same treatment for that B.S. pratfall on Carey. The overhead shot of him throwing himself backwards was especially damning.

Those ineffectual GM meeting in Del Boca Vista Phase II are such a waste of time, focusing on puck-over-glass or handpass minutiae, and trying to rid the game of the horrors of the shootout (horrors!), instead of rectifying what’s truly wrong with the game.

After Milan Lucic on Ryan Miller, Chris Kreider on human decency, the NHL should have dealt with this, decisively. Come out very clearly against any attempt to make contact with a goalie, to ‘get him off his game’, ‘make him less comfortable’. Make it a strict liability offence, if a player makes contact with an opposition goalie in any manner while he’s in his crease, he gets a penalty. No grey areas.

Anything cravenly deliberate, any Nick Kypreos dive onto Grant Fuhr to blow out his ACL, it’s an ‘attempt to injure’ penalty, with all that entails. Don’t wuss out of calling those.

If a defensive player steers-pushes him into the goalie, he gets an offsetting penalty, but these will drop off dramatically, since the opposition forwards will be trying to skate away from the crease, there won’t be a need to joust with them, like P.K. on Logan Couture.

Protect the goalies like the NFL protects its QB’s. If you want to generate offence, get rid of the trap, the officious offside penalties, the hooking, the slashing. Lord, the slashing.

5)  P.A. Parenteau picked up another point, a nice assist on David Desharnais' goal.  The Montreal Gazette's Mike Boone said he played a terrific game.

I didn’t see a “terrific” game in the edited “Canadiens Express” version, but I support the idea of playing him a lot on the top line now, to invest that icetime in him, and hope that it pays off later.

In an interview in La Presse, he explained that recovering from the concussion symptoms was an ordeal. Not only was he not practicing, he couldn’t even do cardio while he recovered. So now, he says he’s trying to catch up, get his fitness, his conditioning back, AND trying to get his timing and chemistry back with his linemates, playing on the #1 line. We should be patient with him.

6)  I also preached patience with respect to Devante Smith-Pelly, thought he could bring more to the table in terms of production. I was mildly surprised that we obtained him so cheap in fact, and started wondering if Jiri Sekac was better than I thought, or if DSP had regressed since he played in Anaheim very early in his career.

After being shut out for so long, and seeing him kind of trip over himself with the puck all alone in front of the net, which would be mirthful if it hadn’t been a fumbled chance to win late in the game, I’m starting to sidle over to the camp of critics who think he needs to be bumped down from the fourth line, maybe even sit a game or two.

I applaud his effort and his affinity for finishing his checks, that may be more valuable in the playoffs, but it’s hard to overlook the ‘0’ (zero) in the ‘G’ column.

I agree with other posters that he will benefit from an off-season of more intensive, focused dryland training, and that he is a young player who will improve, but taking everything in consideration, if the coaches decide he’s had a significant enough chance and hasn’t done enough with it, I’ll support their decision.

7)  Richard Labbé of La Presse pointing out what we kind of know, that Manny Malhotra won’t be back next year.

I was fairly certain that he’d be an improvement over Ryan White and Daniel Brière as the fourth-line centre, that his size and skating and defensive ability would be a great benefit. He caught our eye early with great faceoff numbers, a spillover effect on those of the other centres, and his penalty killing which relieved some of the pressure on Tomas Plekanec.

As the games piled on though, it became tougher to overlook his non-existent offensive contribution, how he actually made his wingers worse.

Torrey Mitchell is smaller, but does bring the experience and leadership angle, the skating. He doesn’t really bring more offensive skill, but his speed and forechecking can precipitate offence.

He’s been doing almost as well as Manny in the faceoff circle, and he’s a rightie, so he’s a better complement to our other centres, lefties everyone of them, even the part-timers like Jacob de la Rose and Alex Galchenyuk.

So yeah, I’d expect the Canadiens to thank Manny and let him walk this July, unless he experiences a rebirth during the playoffs. I envision the Canadiens making a pitch for Torrey instead, or checking to see what’s available on the UFA market.

8)  Also from La Presse, an article discusses Sergei Gonchar’s use lately, and the defencemen in general.

I don’t have a problem with giving Sergei more time off if he wasn’t out of the concussion fog yet, since we do have options.

Personally, I liked the pairings yesterday, they’re my ideal pairings as a fan. Loved, loved Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu together, how they click, complement each other. Their time together in the AHL really shows, they’re not feeling each other out. They know each other and work well with each other.

It’s kind of the ideal pairing that you discuss in the theoretical sphere. A slick puck mover, a defensively-oriented guy with size who hits. But both have some elements of the other’s game, they’re not both unidimensional, stereotypical effete puck-mover paired with the plodding slow-footed brute. Nathan can play in the physical games, has shown he can drop the gloves. And Greg can skate, can pass the puck well, can shoot the puck.

I don’t want to tell the coaches what to do. I swear I don’t. But I’ll be happy if we see more of Nathan and Greg together, and if their minutes creep up, and if they get more and more difficult assignments, and they show they can handle it.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Game 73: Canadiens 2, Sharks 0

A great, great win against the Sharks, a team that has bedeviled the Canadiens for a few years now.  For example, when Tomas Plekanec scored in the first period, it was the first time the Canadiens had scored a goal on the Sharks since December 2011, when Erik Cole had potted one.

Listening to the game description on Hockey Night in Canada by Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy, I was struck by how positive and complimentary they were towards the Canadiens, how their skating, up-tempo forechecking style and commitment to team defence was perfectly suited to playing against the Sharks, to frustrating them and shutting them out.

Yet a couple weeks ago at the trade deadline, playing against the same team, the commentary was all about how the Canadiens were too small, not physical enough to compete with such big Western teams, and that it justified Marc Bergevin's decision to trade a skillful skater like Jiri Sekac for a thumper like Devante Smith-Pelly.

So it's interesting how the play-by-play call, the narrative molds itself to the way an individual game plays out.  When the Canadiens win they're too fast, when they lose they're too small.

Before now, the fact that Greg Pateryn wasn’t playing in the NHL was occasionally used as a sign on social media that he was a dud, a failed prospect, ruined by a terrible coach in Hamilton in Sylvain Lefebvre, that he was never any good to begin with, but our scouting staff never saw that.

Now that he is with the Canadiens and providing a strong, steady, mature, physical game, for some it’s a sign that Michel Therrien doesn’t trust rookies, that he’s been wasting his time rotting in the AHL, for two seasons now, that 'MT-MB sux'.

The Canadiens were, in my book, patient with him and Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, they made use of Marc Bergevin’s maxim that you seldom regret calling up a prospect too late, but often regret calling him up too soon. They let these guys develop, put in the miles in the AHL, away from the spotlight and the critics.

Marc Bergevin made the point during that tedious HNIC interview with Dale Tallon and Brad Treliving conducted by Strombo (does Brad Treliving say anything except regurgitate what has already been said more briefly by his panel mates?) that often critics of a GM’s work aren’t operating with all the information at hand, that if they did, they’d probably make much the same decision.

Carey Price was the leader in the three major goalie stats categories of wins, save percentage and goals-against average, but trailed Marc-André Fleury in shutouts, the Penguin netminder having had a torrid start to his season in that department.  I didn't mind that one too much, shutouts are nice but they're a more 'accidental' stat, lots of bounces have to go right for them to happen.  They're not as sure an indicator of quality goaltending.

Well, in two games Carey reeled him in for the co-lead in that category too.  He will not be denied.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

24 CH, 2014-15 season, Episode 10: Notes

This is a very sad episode, recounting the week of the passing and wake of legend Jean Béliveau.

01:25  Another of the revealing behind-the-scenes look at what the Canadiens do, what they go through.  Here we see Dale Weise showing us what he takes with him on the road in his suitcase, showing that he goes barebones, one suit, one pair of shoes, socks and underwear and that's pretty much it.  He then takes a dig at Dale Prust, saying he probably travels with three suits per day.

Sure enough, we then see that Dale is a clothes horse, carrying different outfits for different occasions.  He explains that his significant other Maripier Morin picks out which suit goes with which shirt and tie, lays it on the bed for him and that he packs it in his suitcase, but not before taking a picture with his smartphone to help keep the outfits straight.  Prusty then, sure enough, takes a shot at Gally and Weisy for their minimalist approach to how they dress.

An interesting angle is that Dale Weise says he leaves his passport in his jacket "all the time", so he doesn't forget it.  He tells the story how the previous season while still in Vancouver he'd forgotten his passport, and had to rush home to get it while the the Canucks' team flight was delayed, and how "John Tortorella wasn't very happy with me".  We know how Dale wasn't a favourite of Alain Vigneault and especially John Tortorella, and this is the kind of stunt that can sour a coach on a guy.  With the Habs, contributing as he does, Weisy's a lovable goofball, but there's a thin margin to being a fourth-liner who's more trouble than he's worth.

03:45  We see David Desharnais rushing the puck against the Avalanche, passing it off and then speed wobbling and falling down.  Back on the bench, P.A. Parenteau asks if he fell down due to skate trouble.  "No, that wasn't the skates, that was all him" Dan Lacroix teases, as he pats Davey in the back.

04:30  Hilarious segment showing a lighthearted Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust at practice lampooning each other's skating style and stickhandling moves.  Alex does these giant moves and telegraphs a clumsy pass with his whole upper body, after which Brandon skates upright, awkwardly, with a front-to-back stride reminiscent of a novice figure skater.  He then continues his spoof of Chucky with a puck on his stick and making four fakes and headbobs and feints and dekes per second.  It degenerates from there, with Gally and P.K. joining in.  They're a very loose team.

05:00  Shot of the Olympic Stadium mast lit up in bleu-blanc-rouge.  The city mourns le Capitaine's passing.

06:15  Classic clip of John Ferguson embracing Jean Béliveau, celebrating after a goal.

07:00  Amazing story of the link P.K. Subban had with the Béliveau family, due in large part to his father Karl's love of the Montréal Canadiens.  When Jean Béliveau was invited by P.K.'s coach to speak to the team before a tournament game, Karl appointed himself as guide and 'bodyguard' of the Habs ambassador, and P.K. saw the effect it had on his father.  It's how he became a fan of the Canadiens.

"P.K. might not always listen to mom and dad, but he'll certainly listen to Mister Béliveau", Karl says.  "And whatever advice Mister Béliveau gave to him I know he will not forget it."

" 'Hockey's a team sport, and you can't win unless you play as a unit' he told us, and at the time I was the captain of the team, so he pointed at me and said 'It's your job as the captain to lead the way'," P.K. remembers.

09:30  Equipment manager Pierre Gervais explaining how his counterpart on the Minnesota Wild helped him source out a local printer who made up the number 4 stickers that the players will wear on their helmets for the game that night.

Physiotherapist Claude Thériault showing a picture of himself as a toddler, in his bright snowsuit, being held in Jean Béliveau's arms.  As is customary, when showed the picture decades later, Monsieur Béliveau remembered the occasion, when the picture was taken.

10:45  The Minnesota Wild honour the passing of Jean Béliveau prior to their game against the Canadiens with a short video tribute.

12:00  Michel Therrien to Alexei Emelin on the bench: "Emmy!  Emmy!  Everything quicker!  Get the puck, move the puck."

12:25  Max Pacioretty crashing at full speed in the boards behind the Wild net.  He's down, the trainer runs out on the ice.  As usual, Wolverine re-grows a leg in seconds and doesn't miss a shift.

14:00  Doctor Mulder reminiscing about Jean Béliveau, telling the story of how he wanted to pull John Ferguson from a game to check him for a concussion.  Fergie obviously wouldn't have any of it, until Jean told him "If the doctor says you're not playing, you're not playing."  The Canadiens enforcer meekly complied with his captain's direction.

14:25  Amazing shot of Jean Béliveau, Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard in the dressing room post-game.

15:10  Amazing shot of Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau and Maurice Richard with security officer Mario Brousseau.

Mr. Brousseau tells the story of how it's Jean Béliveau who once asked his wife to find a camera so he could take a picture with Mr. Brousseau.  We're then shown the picture, that the longtime Habs employee reverently keeps in a manila envelope.

15:40  Amazing shot of Jean Béliveau, in action against Bobby Hull.

15:45  Amazing shot of Jean Béliveau and Maurice Richard cheek-to-cheek with the Stanley Cup.

15:55  Amazing shot of tuxedoed Henri Richard, Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau and Yvan Cournoyer, standing around the Stanley Cup perched on a table.

18:50  Disappointing loss against the Blackhawks, with the winning goal allowed in the final minute after the Habs had battled back to tie the game.

19:00  Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and his father Eric Molson reminisce and eulogize the Canadiens captain.  More amazing photos and video, and scenes of the thousands of fans streaming into the New Forum to pay their homage.

19:50  Amazing shot of three retired gentlemen, Gordie Howe in a green Hartford Whalers jersey, Jean Béliveau in a white Canadiens jersey, and Bobby Hull in the red Blackhawks jersey.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Three-on-three overtime will be great, with a minor adjustment in the rules.

Last season, Ryan White got a mondo huge amount of penalty minutes late in a game and was sent to the dressing room, his night over.  Except that the Canadiens mounted a furious comeback so all of a sudden they were headed to overtime, and there was a chance the game would last long enough that Ryan's penalty time would be served and he could be used by the coach.

As the equipment managers burst into the dressing room and explained all this to him and tried to help him put his gear back on, Whitey quipped: "The thing is, I haven't had an OT shift since before Junior."

And that's my problem with the 3-on-3, it will just be more of the same, the Daniel and Henrik show for the Canucks, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane with Duncan Keith for the Blackhawks, etc.  And good Canadian kids like Whitey looking on for the bench.

Hooey, I say.  Let's get these boys in the game.

I've advocated in the past that enforcers should be forced to take penalty shots in the shootout, to dissuade teams from dressing one or three of them.  That shootout attempts be taken by the players with the least icetime that game.  Encourage the Lightning to keep and dress Jonathan Drouin and not Pierre-Cédric Labrie.

So let's do the same with 3-on-3.  Sign Shawn Thornton for his character and his leadership, for his Don Cherry Seal of Approval certification, for his great work in the community, his charitable endeavours?  Good for you, but now he's taking the first shift of 3-on-3.

Try to change the chemistry and character of your Sharks, Doug Wilson, by taking on John Scott and Mike Brown?  Eff you, play them, they're on against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Love the grit and toughness Radko Gudas and Eric Gryba and Roman Polak bring?  Well you're getting a great big helping of that surliness in O.T.

That kind of forward, lateral, out-of-the-box-left-field-blue-thinking and more is the kind of innovation you can expect when you install me as your benevolent
despotCommissioner of the NHL, for the good of the game.

Game 71: Canadiens 3, Panthers 2

My thoughts on the Canadiens win against the Panthers tonight, as perceived while watching RDS' "Canadiens Express".

--Saw a couple of solid breakouts by Greg Pateryn.  Keep it up kid, nice going.

--I can't tell R.J. Umberger and Scottie Upshall apart in my mind.  I don't know what differentiates one from the other.  For me, they're identical, big players who prey on smaller Canadiens.

--I also have trouble telling Cam Barker, Cam Fowler and Jared Cowen apart, for the most part, although I'm aware when I expend energy on this is that Cam Fowler is the talented one who's in Anaheim.

--I've also never been strong on my Sutters.  I know the older ones are Darryl, Duane, and there's another guy, but I really have no firm grasp on this, I think one of them was a Blue and another was a Blackhawk for a long while, or maybe it was the same Sutter who did both?  I do know that Ron and Rich were the twins, and Ron was more talented and had a better career than Rich as predicted at their draft, but that kid brother Brent was the most talented of all.

--As for their numerous offspring, I gave up before I ever got started on those guys.  They're Sutters, and that's good enough for me.

--As the first period drew to a close at 0-0, I thought of how the Panthers have been a weak team for most of its existence, with a couple of rebuilds around promising rookies sprinkled with vets that never took off.  I sense that the team Dale Tallon is amassing though, with so many mega-talented kids, is going to be a tough out for the next while.

--And I think back to those fumbled games against the Sabres and Coyotes and Oilers, and how a five or six extra points would be a nice cushion to have right now.  Seasons have hot streaks and cold spells, we won a few games against powerhouses that we probably shouldn't have, so it evens out, but still, the Sabres...

--On the first Panther goal in the second period, we saw Tom Gilbert, but mostly Jeff Petry, commit the opposite of a 'strong play', when after stopping a scoring chance, he stood poised with the puck right in front of his net, assessing his breakout options, for at most a second.  This was all the time it took for Sasha Barkov to pick his pocket and slide the puck past a contorted Dustin Tokarski.

Puck movers are great, I love the fact that our 'brigade défensive' is nifty with the puck, but in this instance, a Josh Gorges or Hal Gill, a Craig Ludwig or Donald Dufresne, a defensive defenceman, would have hacked at the puck and swept it in the corner, where it wasn't an imminent threat, a clear and present danger.  This time, a 'strong play' would have prevented that goal.

--Loved the Brandon Prust assist on Jacob de la Rose's shorthanded goal.  The RDS boys were saying while voicing over the replays that both players knew where each other was and what the other would do.  It is especially true in that Brandon, on the replay that showed him in a closeup, is seen to make a no-look pass, looking at the goalie and freezing him in anticipation of a shot, but passing to Jacob, without looking, like a basketball point guard, or a rugby scrum half.  Great job, love to see him get icetime and be rewarded, after a difficult, strenuous outing last night in Tampa.

--Good to see P.K. score on a nice wrist shot, but I'm almost happier that Lars gets an assist on the play, and that he may be digging his way out of his funk.  And P.A. Parenteau on the ice, in front of the net, making things happen, you want him to get in gear for the playoffs too.

--In the third, the Canadiens were outclassed 21-4 in the shots department, which was a little hard to tell in the edited broadcast I was watching, but which Pierre Houde and Marc Denis kept reminding us of.

--On L'Antichambre, the panel quickly centered their aim on Devante Smith-Pelly and his lack of production, his meager contribution, and his bad penalty in the offensive zone at the end of the game.  They allowed, with Vincent Damphousse being the main spokesperson on this matter, that it's understandable that the coaching staff is giving Devo time to get in sync with his new team, and trying to get him in better game shape for the playoffs.  What worries them though is that guys like Brandon Prust and Dale Weise, who get significantly less icetime and were here all along, and who are producing, may sour on this situation.

The point was made that tonight, with Brandon Prust getting off to a good start in this game, and having had his tough outing the previous night, it would have been a great opportunity to move him up in the lineup and give him more leash.

All agreed that Devo's leave may or should be drawing to a close, that the third line would benefit by having a speedy, committed Dale Weise on the right flank instead of the former Duck.

And if we need him to improve his conditioning, let's have him skate a few extra lines at practice, and work a little bit more with Pierre Allard.  Points are hard enough to come by these days, it's hard to justify being patient with him much longer if he's not going to start clicking.

--Four points out of six, with another loss to the Lightning that's a little hard to accept, but overall not a bad road trip.