Help wanted: Sniper
Experience at making red lights go on essential.
CV should include goal totals, shooting percentage and some indication of willingness to go into dirty areas.
Apply to Marc Bergevin, Bell Centre.
Let’s forget about the game on Long Island, when your Montreal Canadiens beat poor Kevin Poulin five times with 29 shots.
In games against Ryan Miller and the tandem of Marc-André Fleury and Tomas Vokoun, the Canadiens had 76 shots on goal.
They scored once.
Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, against the hottest team in the league, the Canadiens fired 25 shots at Fleury and 12 at Vokoun: 37 shots and the red light stayed off.
They lost because the only goal of the game was what Michel Therrien accurately described as “a perfect shot by the best player on the planet.” Given one of the very few good scoring chances conceded by the Canadiens in an intense, playoff-calibre game, Sidney Crosby made no mistake.
“We did many good things,” Therrien said in his postgame remarks. “We deserved better, and we have to stay positive.”
Positivity will help at the TD Garden, where the Canadiens will try to recapture first place in the Northeast Division when they face the Bruins Wednesday night. The currently anemic offence will be facing another quality goaltender, Tuukka Rask.
Maybe someone will step up and score.
Maybe that someone will be Max Pacioretty, who has seven shots on goal against the Sabres on Saturday and another seven in Pittsburgh. I think the stat – 14 SoG in two games – is deceptive because unlike the best player on the planet, the best player from Connecticut is not burying his chances.
Despite the Canadiens’ excellent performance in Pittsburgh – the only criticism the coach offered was the team’s inability to build any momentum off the power play – Therrien might consider some line changes to light a fire under his slumping scorers.
On L’Antichambre after the Tuesday game, Michel Bergeron said Alex Galchenyuk hasn’t been the same player since Brendan Gallagher was promoted to David Desharnais’s line. Perhaps Lars Eller should be centring the reunited kids.
The problem is a lack of depth. With neither Rene Bourque nor Brandon Prust available, Therrien doesn’t have many cards to play in shuffling the deck with his forward lines. Playing with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta might shake Pacioretty out of his doldrums, and Ryder is a natural RW who would benefit from DD’s playmaking skill if he replaced Gallagher. But who would play on the left side?
And don’t suggest Travis Moen.
Or Jeff Halpern.
The team’s latest addition played a terrific game in Pittsburgh. Halpern had four hits and won 11 of 18 faceoffs – a 61 per cent success rate Canadiens fans haven’t seen since the glory days of Yanic Perreault.
But Halpern, who had been averaging nine minutes ToI with the Rangers, played 14:51 against Pittsburgh. That was three minutes more than Eller and only 38 seconds less than DD. Halpern had more ToI than either Tyler Kennedy or Brenden Morrow did for Pittsburgh.
Again, you can’t fault Halpern for his effort. But when a waiver wire pickup who’ll turn 37 in May is seeing that much ice time …
OK, I’m being too negative.
Therrien is right. The Canadiens played well and deserved better than to be shut out and – for the first time this season – suffer a second consecutive loss in regulation time.
Carey Price had no chance on the Crosby goal. And he was brilliant during a Pittsburgh PP that saw the puck zipped around the Canadiens’ zone for the full two minutes.
At even strength, however, the Canadiens defencemen and forwards did a superb job of containing the explosive Pittsburgh offence. Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Kris Letang and the incomparable number 87 were not allowed to wheel and deal with the reckless abandon they displayed during that crazy 7-6 game at the Bell Centre.
This was playoff hockey: tight, hard-hitting (but substantially clean), intense in all three zones.
The Canadiens’ game plan was to chip pucks behind the ponderous Pittsburgh D, and they enjoyed substantial success in doing so. The Plekanec and Eller lines – heck, even the fourth liners – exerted prolonged periods of pressure in the Pittsburgh zone.
Again, however, the absence of Bourque and Prust deprived the Canadiens of two players who might have caused some consternation in the Pittsburgh crease – a role that has devolved to Gallagher and Gionta because Pacioretty and Ryder seem uninterested in getting their mouthguards rattled.
And now, the Bruins …