Montreal hockey fans, who hadn’t seen St. Louis play on Bell Centre ice since January, 2012, won’t see the Blues again until next season.
Unless, of course, the teams meet in the Stanley Cup final.
Anyone want to bet their kids’ college money on the likelihood of that best-of-seven match-up?
I didn’t think so.
St. Louis is a serious Stanley Cup aspirant.
Your Montreal Canadiens are not.
What the Canadiens are is a gritty, never-say-die team with a core group of excellent young players who may become the nucleus of a Cup contender one of these years.
But right now – in early November of 2013 – the Canadiens are undermanned and undersized.
They gave the Blues all St. Louis could handle. After an opening period in which the visitors looked to run the guys in red jerseys right out of the Bell Centre, the Canadiens battled back and took a lead they held into the final half of the third period.
But for a fluke goal, the Canadiens could have won the game in regulation. As it is, they came away with a point that might be valuable in April.
They were not, however, the better team in this game. Just look at the possession stats:
Through 65 minutes, St. Louis had 32 shots on Carey Price. The Blues missed the net nine times, and 15 Canadiens skaters combined to block an astonishing 38 shots.
That’s 79 times the puck left the stick of a player in a white jersey.
Comparable numbers for the Canadiens: 27 shots on Jaro Halak, five misses and the Blues blocked 11 for a total of 43.
That’s the football score if Alabama played McGill.
And stretches of the game looked that way. St. Louis is big, fast, skilled and very well coached. The Blues throw the puck around like it’s on a string. And when they lose it, they battle like junkyard dogs to get it back.
The Blues turned the puck over four times. The Canadiens, under relentless pressure, had a dozen giveaways.
Led by their captain, david backes, who had nine hits, St. Louis outwhacked the Canadiens 29-15.
The numbers don’t lie, peeps. St. Louis is good.
Let’s credit the Canadiens who weren’t intimidated by playing against a superior hockey team: Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Michaël Bournival, Lars Eller and Rene Bourque all played their hearts out.
Max Pacioretty continues to round into pre-injury form. Alex Galchenyuk, playing centre for his first full game at the pro level, struggled in the faceoff circle (1-6) but made some clever plays and will improve. Andrei Markov made fast, smart decisions with the puck against a team that takes away time and space.
There is no quit in the Canadiens. Despite 79 man-games lost to injury at this early stage of the season, with the exception of a 2-0 loss to mighty San Jose, they have yet to be beaten by more than one goal.
Some fine June evening in a year or two or three, we may see Carey Price facing Jaro Halak in a Cup final.
But who will be behind the Canadiens’ bench?
As is his wont, Michel Therrien’s in-game coaching produced a few head-scratchers:
• With the Canadiens nursing a 2-1 lead halfway through the third period, why did the coach deploy George Parros and Ryan White, each of whom was minus-3 in the Canadiens’ loss to Minnesota? The two fourth-liners added to their minus totals on the Chris Stewart goal that tied the game. How did the visiting coach, Ken Hitchcock, get Stewart Derek Roy and Vladimir Sobotka on against Canadiens’ fourth-liners?
• With the score tied 2-2 and the Canadiens on their first power play of the game, what was career AHLer Martin St. Pierre doing on the ice for 1:09 of the two-minut advantage?
• Why was a Norris Trophy-winning defenceman on the bench for the last four minutes of regulation time and most of the OT? Alex Pietrangelo played 30:49 for St. Louis, while P.K. Subban played 20:52.
Yes, P.K. was on the ice for Stewart’s game-tying goal. He was also on, and drew an assist, on the Rene Bourque goal that got the Canadiens back into the game.
P.K. had lessToI than either Josh Gorges or Raphael Diaz.
But Raphael Diaz, FFS!
P.K. played only five minutes more than Douglas Murray and 55 seconds more than Francis Bouillon.
Montreal sports talk radio will be fun to listen to on Wednesday.