Be of good cheer and enjoy Sunday.
Your Montreal Canadiens lost to one of the best teams in the NHL.
San Jose is a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender.
The team the Sharks beat 2-0 Saturday night at the Bell Centre isn’t … at least not yet.
Give the Canadiens some credit.
Through 44 minutes, they were in a one-goal hockey game – despite being outshot and often outplayed by a very good team.
That crazy second San Jose goal was the dagger. From that point on, the Canadiens played like a team that realized resistance was futile.
Credit San Jose general manager Doug Wilson with retooling his team on the fly. Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are gone. Hall of Famer Larry Robinson is coaching a group of defencemen that includes no superstars, just six guys who do their jobs efficiently.
You can tell why Douglas Murray was deemed expendable in San Jose. All the Sharks’ Dmen – including veteran Scott Hannan – can skate and move the puck.
Likewise the Sharks forwards. This was the first game of the young season in which the Canadiens were conspicuously the slower team.
Best evidence, for me, was the play of my fave young rave, Michaël Bournival. Against Anaheim, the Canadiens’ rookie was constantly giving the Ducks’ defencemen fits with his ability to turn on the jets and find open ice.
Not against San Jose. Like almost all his teammates, Bournival found himself with a white jersey – or a few of them – in very close proximity every time he touched the puck and everywhere he went on the ice.
P.K. Subban habitually wheels and deals and evades foils all forechecking efforts. Not against San Jose. The Sharks were in P.K.’s face, forcing to work on defence and slowing down his efforts to move the puck up the ice.
And when P.K. isn’t leading the charge …
Tomas Plekanec was the only Canadien with more than two shots on goal. He had three.
Matthew Nieto (I’ve never heard of him, either) had six SoG for the Sharks. Couture and James Sheppard had four each. Three other Sharks had three.
In addition to their 35 SoG, the Sharks missed the net 15 times and had 18 shots blocked (four by former Shark Josh Gorges).
Corresponding numbers for the Canadiens were 22-9-12. The Canadiens also iced the puck 12 times.
The stats don’t lie. San Jose dominated puck possession.
Nor do the ToI numbers lie.
Why the heck was Francis Bouillon playing 21:22? Michel Therrien trying to kill the guy?
Nathan Beaulieu, by contrast, played 8:27. The rookie defenceman had one shift in the third period.
Was Beaulieu worse than Raphael Diaz, who was bounced on his duff and out of the play when Couture’s power-play goal opened the scoring?
The Sharks had four man advantages. The Canadiens had one, when Brad Stuart went off for boarding late in the second period. The Canadiens PP had one shot on Antti Niemi, who has played every minute of every Sharks game. Niemi has nine wins, a 1.53 GAA and a .933 save percentage..
It’s not difficult to post gaudy goaltending stats in San Jose. The Sharks allow 23.1 shots per game, a smidge behind Minnesota’s league-leading average of exactly 23. The Canadiens are 23rd, allowing 32.8 shots per game.
Again, Wilson has put together a nice team, and the Sharks are well-coached by Todd McLellan and his staff.
The Canadiens will play them again in San Jose on March 8. That will be after the Sochi Olympics and the trade deadline.
By then, each team will have a pretty good idea of what the 2013-’14 season is going to end up looking like.
It’s a good bet the Sharks will have their eyes on the prize.
The Canadiens? A work in progress.
Look, there’s no disgrace in losing a close game to a team as good as San Jose. The last time the Canadiens were shut out at the Bell Centre was Game 11 of the 2013 season.
That was when the Leafs laid a 6-0 whuppin’ on the guys in red jerseys.
The Canadiens then went on the road to Florida, where they won in a shootout over Tampa Bay and added an overtime win over the Panthers (David Desharnais got the winner).
The Canadiens came home to beat Philadelphia and Carolina before winning their fifth in a row at Madison Square Garden.
That’s where they’ll be for a rare Monday night game as the Rangers open their renovated MSG.
And by then, Ian Cobb and the HIO Summiteers will have made bail.
• Check out The Gazette’s HIO Summit photo gallery
• David Clarkson’s first game: 21 minutes, eight hits.