Thanks to the great GG11, of the late and lamented Four Habs Fans website, for her Willy Wonka-themed Photoshop of Michel Therrien and the Canadiens diminutive forwards.
Your Montreal Canadiens played the woeful Buffalo Sabres twice in five days.
Both games were at the Bell Centre.
Over the course of 122 minutes and 16 seconds – Game 1 went into overtime – the Canadiens had 73 shots on goal. The Sabres blocked 54 shots, and the Canadiens missed the Buffalo net 39 times.
Out of 166 opportunities, the Canadiens scored three goals.
Against a team that has allowed more goals than every team in the league except Calgary, the Islanders and Florida.
We’ll rag on the refs and lament Team Oompa-Loompa’s lack of net presence in a minute, but let’s just linger over that stat.
At the risk of repeating myself: 166 pucks on Canadiens’ sticks and the red light went on three times.
On Saturday night, the Sabres had 18 shots on Carey Price. The Canadiens blocked nine and four missed the net. So Buffalo cashed twice on 31 opportunities.
Comparable numbers for the home team: 39 SoG, Sabres blocked 31 and the Canadiens missed the net 15 times. 85 opportunities, one goal.
In Toronto, the Leafs were outshot 33-13 and won 3-2.
Vancouver had 13 shots in L.A. and beat the Kings 1-0.
So, not a great Saturday for snipers … except Thomas Vanek, who had both Buffalo goals to run his season’s total to 16.
Ryan Miller has won eight of his last 10 starts against the Canadiens. He made 38 saves and was full value for selection as the game’s First Star, but I thought Miller was beatable.
There were rebounds. There were pucks sliding across the crease.
There was rarely a red jersey anywhere near these second-chance scoring opportunities. The Canadiens played primarily on the perimeter – a lacuna illustrated by two sequences in which Lars Eller went for a leisurely skate around the massed Buffalo defenders, ultimately losing the puck on both occasions and driving the crowd into howls of frustration.
Hey, we know the Canadiens can skate. But as the postseason approaches, can they crash, bang and score in the dirty areas where fancy skaters often fear to tread?
When the only forward with consistent net presence is a 5’8″ rookie, the Canadiens have a problem that Jeff Halpern isn’t going to solve.
Look, I love Brendan Gallagher. And you can’t fault Brian Gionta, David Desharnais and Gabriel Dumont for effort.
But I’m more than a little concerned about what will happen when Team Oompa-Loompa goes on the road to Pittsburgh and Boston for a back-to-back this week.
Is help on the way? Nope. The cavalry is stuck in traffic.
Rene Bourque has had a setback in his post-concussion rehab.
Brandon Prust, who was supposed to be out 10 to 14 days, has not played since March 5. There is no hint from the Canadiens on when he might return.
Nor is Raphael Diaz anywhere near ready to return. His absence means brutal power-play minutes for Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban. Both excel with the man advantage – would that Canadiens forwards were as dangerous – but it would be nice to have a better point shooter than Josh Gorges as a PP weapon.
The Canadiens cashed one of their three power-play chances against Buffalo. Markov picked out Michael Ryder on the lip of Miller’s crease, and Ryder did what Ryder does.
The Canadiens probably should have had more PPs. The Sabres did a fair bit of clutching and grabbing, driving the Bell Centre crowd into loud choruses of catcalls.
And for the second time in as many games against the Sabres, the refs blew a call on P.K.
In the Tuesday night game, it was a phantom high stick that sent Subban to the box and opened the door for Steve Ott’s OT winner.
In the second period on Saturday, Mike Blunden was penalized for interference – a dubious call that maybe wouldn’t have gone against a veteran of greater stature than the Bulldogs call-up. Then P.K. was penalized for Delay of Game on a clearing attempt that struck something – either a Buffalo stick or the edge of the glass – on its way out.
With the Canadiens’ penalty-killers protesting loudly, Brad Watson skated straight to the penalty box area and made the call, without consulting ref Justin St. Pierre or the two linesmen.
Barely over half a minute into the 5-on-3, Vanek tipped Christian Ehrhoff’s point shot past Carey Price to open the scoring. It was only the ninth time in 31 games the Canadiens failed to score first.
I think the NHL has to introduce a coach’s challenge. You can do worse than emulate the National Football League. And the speed and intensity of NHL hockey are such that calls will be blown.
There should be a mechanism to correct officiating errors. Give each team one challenge per game. And if the call is upheld, you take a two-minute minor.
I also want to get rid of staged fighting. But let’s start small.
There’s that word “small” again.