Let’s put the 0-1 start – which is odds-on to be 0-2 after they visit Winnipeg – into perspective:
I’m more worried about the lingering recession than I am about your Montreal Canadiens.
This is not to minimize the soul-crushing suckitude of a loss to the Leafs.
But it was a winnable game. If your Montreal Canadiens had popped a couple during that dominant first period …
But there are always Ifs in sports. And how often have we seen a hockey team – especially this offensively-challenged team – dominated possession and SoG, only to come up empty and breathe life into a reeling opponent.
The breath of life became a shot of adrenalin after Matthew Lombardi scored shorthanded. That one was on P.K. Subban, who had been overly adventurous on the power play, then late and ineffectual getting back.
Playing in his hometown, P.K. compounded a tough evening by coughing up the puck on the play that led to Dion Phaneuf’s goal.
Tomas Plekanec was the other Canadien on the ice for both Toronto goals. But let’s cut Pleks some slack: he was heroic on the penalty-kill.
During L’Antichambre, Guy Carbonneau – a welcome addition to the panel – expressed the concern that Plekanec’s workload – 23:30, including 3:58 on the PK – would wear down a smallish player as the season progressed.
David Desharnais played 1:20 shorthanded, Andreas Engqvist 1:15. Their ToI will have to bail out Pleks to avoid the Carbonneau scenario.
So there’s one thing to worry about if you insist on fretting after one game: Plekanec’s ToI.
Another is durability. The Curse of the ACC, which has felled Andrei Markov twice, rose up to bite Chris Campoli. Josh Gorges’ new partner left the ACC on crutches, and Damien Cox of the Toronto Star reported a hamstring injury and three weeks on the shelf.
I had a strong premonition, headed into the season, that the Canadiens would miss Roman Hamrlik. But not after one freakin’ game.
Hamrlik’s former D partner, Jaro Spacek, was not good in the opener. But I liked Spatcho’s new partner, Raphael Diaz, who toook some heavy hits, kept his composure and played decently in his NHL debut. Gorges was Gorges and Hal Gill, with 5:26 of his 17 minutes on the PK, was Hal Gill.
We’ll likely see the Russian newcomer in Winnipeg. Pat Hickey reports the name is now “Emelin”.
Why drop the Y?
I’ve given up trying to figure out hockey players from my grandfather’s homeland … beyond stating, without fear of contradiction, Mikhail Grabovski was the best Belarusian on the ice last night.
Andrei Kostitsyn was one of four Canadiens had four shots (Pleks, Michael Cammalleri and Max Pacioretty were the others). Promoted to the Pleks line, AK46 had his moments. But Guy Carbonneau, who knows the player firsthand, said this about AK46: “He can change a game, but you have to live with his mistakes”, a description Carbo also applied to P.K.
The other forwards?
I thought Scott Gomez started starong then reverted down the stretch. Erik Cole didn’t do much, despite the energetic efforts of his linemates, David Desharnais and Mathieu Darche.
Pierre Gauthier’s prize free-agent acquisition played all of 1:04 on a power-play that was 0-for-5. That was a head-scratcher in a game that provided the obligatory Too Many Men penalty and some early-season fodder for Jacques Martin-haters (who will mourn the loss of Four Habs Fans as an outlet for their spleen).
In a game in which the Canadiens were decisively outmuscled – especially at the hands and stick of Mike Komisarek – Max-Pac was not a physical factor. Nor was Travis Moen.
Brian Gionta had one of his team’s 32 shots. The captain’s main contribution was to direct verbal abuse at Komisarek in the scrums.
Komo and Co. were the better defence corps last night. They blocked 20 shots; and after a hectic 20 minutes, James Reimer had a fairly easy time of it en route to bagging a shutout on his first opening night.
There will be other nights.
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What is left to be said about Don Cherry?
He showed video of Scott Stevens distributing concussions and lamented we may never see the like again.
Bruce Dowbiggin was on Cherry’s ass in the Globe & Mail and Chris Nilan trashed the old fool on Twitter: found a way to get more followers, have an ignorant, uninformed 77 year old make statements on air. good work you dope, but thanks.
• • •
Guest Comment from Un Canadien Errant (one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs, BTW):
Well, I just finished watching Maple Leaf Night in Toronto, a tough loss for the Canadiens, but I did learn a lot about the Leafs, lots of cool infographics about them and their players. Good of CBC to tailor the coverage towards me as a Montreal fan, I guess they knew I’m quite familiar with all the Canadiens players and their stories, so they thought they’d focus on Dion Phaneuf and David Steckel.
The game itself didn’t have a lot of flow and emotion. The Leafs I think were kind of surprised to score the first goal and having an opportunity to win after being dominated in the first period, kind of like Vince Wilfork with an interception falling into his hands, so they started rumbling and stumbling with it, kind of like Vince Wilfork running with the ball after an interception. The Canadiens looked disjointed and listless, like they would have benefited from one or two more pre-season games with a full roster.
Jaroslav Spacek isn’t strong enough to play NHL hockey. Every hit he took was enough to cause him to fall to the ice. He may be fitter than last year, but he’s still overmatched by most players he comes up against.
My eye was drawn to Andrei Kostitsyn during the game, and I was rarely impressed. I don’t know if I’m developing an unhealthy obsession with him, but every time I saw him he’d be circling aimlessly in the offensive zone. On his give and go with Tomas Plekanec in the first period, he floated too long before realizing he should charge the net, and got there too late to pot a fat easy rebound. Maybe the coaches saw the same thing I did, and maybe the experiment didn’t last even a whole game, but Erik Cole found himself on the top line in the third period.
I also noticed that the Canadiens have Perry Pearn and Randy Cunneyworth behind the bench, but defence coach Randy Ladouceur is up in the press box. With all the young and new defencemen the Canadiens have, I think it would be important to have Mr. Ladouceur behind the bench doling out tips and encouragement. Especially if Chris Campoli is injured and we have to press Mr. Yemelin into service, this should be considered.
Not a great start to the season, and it stings that it’s to the Leafs, the CBC’s second favourite team after the Bruins, but it may be a little early to panic. For now.