Had a good time at Hurley’s with a few of the Summiteers:
The inimitable Ian Cobb, 24 Cups, Kevin von Steendelaar, JD, Punkster, Peter from Whitehorse, Serious Fan 09 and Todd Denault, who’s been kind enough to quote me in The Greatest Game, his new book about the 1975 New Year’s Eve game between the Canadiens and Red Army.
I was at the Forum for that classic.
I was also in the Bell Centre last night.
It wasn’t the greatest game, and I said most of what I want to say in Quick Hits.
For the most trenchant analysis, I have to quote my great and good friend François Gagnon:
“Too many (Canadiens) played at the end of their sticks. And when you have to extend your arms and your stick it’s because you’re too far from the action. And if you’re too far from the action it’s because you’re not skating enough to get there or you’re afraid of finding yourself there.”
Lack of intensity, aversion to hard work and disinclination to do the messy things you have to do to win hockey games.
All these lacuna were in ample evidence against the Senators.
And when your Montreal Canadiens get outworked, they lose.
The usual capacity crowd had two thrills the whole game:
• Brian Gionta finally scored a goal, and
• Mathieu Darche laid out Peter Regin with a thunderous hit at the Canadiens blueline.
Both occurred in the third period. Had they happened earlier, the outcome may have been different.
My friend Gagnon points out what a total joke it was that Brian Elliott was the game’s Third Star on the basis of 21 fairly easy saves. He’d have picked Erik Karlsson, whose on-target point shots led to the first two Ottawa goals.
En route to a season-low 23 shots, there was no flow to the Canadiens offensive game.
And en route to a 32-20 hit advantage, there was no sustained forechecking that would have hampered Ottawa zone clearances and led to pressure that might have made Elliott earn his star.
Maybe it was fatigue. While the Canadiens were playing in Buffalo, the Senators were chillin’ in Montreal … although it must be said a Friday night in my swinging hometown can be more rigorous than skating to a win over the woeful Sabres.
Maybe it was line tinkering. Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez (who was pretty good last night) had a variety of wingers and didn’t particularly click with any of them.
Maybe it was indifferent play by the fourth line. As Frankie writes (the man is a sage), it’s permissible for Dustin Boyd, Tom Pyatt and Maxim Lapierre to be at the end of their shift for the first goal-against by a resurgent Kovy. But then to be soft in your own end and give one up to the Senators’ fourth line – that sucks, especially when you never score, as is the case with Boyd, Pyatt and the MIA Max (who had a couple Top Six shifts late in the game).
Credit Andrei Kostitsyn with hard work and involvement (six hits), but he had no SoG.
Cammalleri had one measly shot and took a brutal penalty to negate a
power play … though the announcement of a penalty has been sufficient
to negate this team’s PPs. Canadiens are dead last in power play
efficiency, and the Sun newspapers’ Chris Stevenson had a good line: “Were Glen Metropolit and Marc-André Bergeron THAT important?”
The D wasn’t very good.
Andrei Markov was out of gas and shouldn’t have been on the ice with Carey Price out and the Canadiens pressing for a third goal.
P.K. Subban was minus-2 and played a season-low 17:17 … although it must have seemed longer to the kid because he’s paired with Hal Gill and it just isn’t working.
The Senators went at him pretty hard in the first period and had bodies in his face all night. Price was full-value for his Second Star selection.
Not that it will help Rick Moffat.
I learned, at Hurley’s, that the CJAD play-by-play man has a bet going with Patrick V. Hickey on which goaltender, Price or Jaro Halak, will have more wins, a better GAA and a higher save percentage this season.
Shall I enliven the Comments section by pointing out Hick’s lead in all three categories?
Festifan at the Bell Centre today, Vancouver on Tuesday night.
Unless the Canadiens play much better than they did last night, a rare visit by the Canucks will not be overly festive.