About last night …

Jacques Martin said his players would remember the Boston Beat-down.

Man, I hope so.

The slogan on licence plates in Quebec is “Je me souviens”, which means “I remember”.

The collective memory was expressed by historian Thomas Chapais (thank you, Google): “We remember the past and its lessons, the past and its misfortunes, the past and its glories.”

Not many glories last night at the TD Garden.

Lots of misfortune.

And, let’s hope, some lessons.

Here’s what we learned, which bears remembering:

• The Montreal Canadiens, as currently constituted, can’t play run-and-gun. The defence, minus Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, is too vulnerable to the pressure experienced in wide-open hockey.

Roman Hamrlik, Jaro Spacel and Hal Gil are old. P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber are raw. James Wisniewski has trouble in his own end. And they’re all small except for Gill, who doesn’t play big.

The Jacques Martin system is based on protecting the team’s most valuable asset, Carey Price, with a hghly-disciplined defence that involves all five skaters. It’s physically demanding, difficult to play – counter-intuitive, in fact, to highly-skiled forwards – and not always pleasurable to watch.

But the Canadiens have a better chance of winning when the final score is 3-2 than when it’s 8-6.

Something else we learned … or relearned, because we’ve known this for a long time:

• The NHL is a goon league.

Sidney Crosby, the game’s greatest player, took a head shot from David Steckel in the NHL’s showcase game. The Penguins foolishly played him again a couple nights later, and then flew Crosby to Montreal and promptly sent him home. He hasn’t played since, and the brightest of bright careers is in jeopadry.

Matt Cooke tried to take out Alexander Ovechkin’s knee. Cooke is an habitual criminal whose peccadilloes would not be tolerated in a serious sports league (See NFL: Harrison, James).

Marc Savard, another Cooke victim, is probably finished as a hockey player.

Tom Pyatt is not Sidney Crosby. But because Claude Julien coaches goon hockey in a goon league, Pyatt had his face cut open by Gregory Campbell’s loose elbow pad last night.

In an adjoining circus ring, Johnny Boychuk rained punches down on Jaro Spacek, who inexplicably got a game misconduct, as did Roman Hamrlik.

To be fair, the nonsense started with Travis Moen going after Andrew Ference (for which the Bruins chipped in and sent him champagne after the game). But you knew Benoit Pouliot’s KO of David Krejci would not go unavenged.

Don Cherry, Mike Milbury and P.J. Stock were probably wetting themselves with glee. The Boston fans loved it. The NHL tolerates it.

Depressing … and I’m starting to fear it will never change.

End-of-game thuggery must have been what Jacques Martin was talking to Don Van Massenhoeven about in the hallway outside the officials’ room. It looked like a convivial conversation – Martin is not one for ballistics – but I hope the coach made his point.

There has to be a way to prevent muggings in garbage time. Let’s just be thankful Milan Lucic didn’t get to P.K. Subban.

Something else to remember about last night: The Canadiens never quit. They battled back from two-goal deficits, only to be undone by shoddy D.

The team has to be better against the Islanders and, especially, Toronto, or this is going to be a lost week.

My friend Arpon Basu has some interesting things to say about Scott Gomez, who was brutal last night and will be toasted on talk radio today.

Let’s see what Gomez and his linemates do tonight. And let’s hope there’s a bounce-back, because the Canadiens have to have solid hockey from Gomez.

We all speculate about the Canadiens needing an experienced defenceman and a forward with size. Pierre Gauthier can’t add a Top Six centre to his shopping list.

•  •  •

Do you suppose the Boston bozos chanting “USA!” realize the Canadiens have six American players to three for the Bruins?

•  •  •

Tweet of the Night, from François Gagnon:

Je suis bien d’accord sur l’importance d’afficher plus de robustesse. Mais s’ils ont été poreux, ils n’ont pas été peureux…

•  •  •

Guest Comment from MathMan:

Two things.

“Too small”: seriously, this
is immensely overrated. Especially in a game like this (see below), the
Habs’ like of size was not a primary driver in the outcome. This gets
trotted out every time the Habs get beaten by Boston (or Philly), but
it’s a facile explanation that sidesteps looking at the real causes.
It’s a story that lives on its own inertia, really; it’s never really
been a problem, but since it’s reputed to have been a problem forever,
it lends weight to the idea that it still is.

It never comes up
when Montreal beats Boston — which is still the more common occurence,
oddly enough given Montreal’s supposedly crippling lack of size. (And
it’s not been a major factor in the playoffs either despite publicity to
the contrary that sometimes stretched suspension of disbelief — the
2007-2008 Philly series was especially egregious in that regard.)

As usual, the Habs weren’t intimidated by the Bruins and, as usual, the sideshow had no real bearing on the game.

Second: on that note, let’s talk about the game itself and its significance. How often do you see 8-6 games?

You
don’t. It was a fluke, a freak occurence. I don’t see how it is
sensible to draw any kind of conclusion from this. It’s pointless to try
to dissect a freak show when 99% of the game look nothing like this.

So
relax. A single freak game is not indicative of a major problem that
needs an immediate and radical fix. Odds are something like this won’t
happen again for 3 seasons.

I’m more worried about what it means
for the Habs, as they try to catch up to a Boston team I genuinely
believe is weaker than Montreal. But then again, the 6-spot is not a bad
place to be, as opening the playoffs vs. Boston is a pretty good spot
for the Habs.

 

102 Comments

  1. RetroMikey says:

    Shame on you punkster, shame on you.

    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

  2. Chris says:

    As I said, the Habs struggle against big, physical teams that can skate with them. I don’t see any disagreement there. What people refuse to recognize is that Boston and Philadelphia are not just big goons: they also feature some highly skilled players.

    The goals last night were not the result of physical intimidation. They were the result of defensive zone ineptitude. We can’t magically change the fact that Montreal’s core forwards are on the smallish side. But we can change the fact that the team competes every inch of ice. Last night, the only competition seemed to be who could make the most mistakes.

    The players didn’t seem to be taking the loss as a big deal, and I’m not really doing so either. I have not forgot the lessons of the past three playoffs…I don’t like our chances against Philly or Boston. But I also don’t like their chances against Washington or Pittsburgh. Time will tell.

  3. mbplekfan says:

    Yes, last night was one game out of 82. Yes, we have beaten the Bruins 3 times already.

    But last night the Bruins found the winning formula against the Habs. In the future we will see more of the same from Boston and probably several other teams.

    If we cant find a credible alternative to getting run all night we may see repeats often and for the rest of the season.

    We won 2 fights. Pouliot ko’d Krejci and Moen outpointed Ference.

    The Price-Thomas debacle is a non issue.

    Thornton, Boychuck, Campbell, Chara dominated their fights. They didnt pull punches. They didnt play gentleman’s rules.

    The TSN guys were right when they said the Habs had no answer on the bench to the thuggery. White in for Pyatt will mean little.

    We need a bigger, tougher defence corps. We need a bigger, tougher 4th line. We need Pacioretty and Pouliot to play mean.

    And we need to find something to do with Gomez. He killed us last night. He’s small, wimpy, and not contributing.

  4. mbplekfan says:

    The bruins showed their game plan from the opening shifts. Hit PK, get in his face and push everybody around. It worked.

    Gill is big but doesnt play big or fight well.

  5. Steve C. says:

    I think this is the best post regarding last night’s WWE classic.


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