About last night …

BudajColum

We’re halfway through November, and the Canadiens’ only wins this month have come against teams that are in the bottom tier of NHL standings: the New York Islanders and, in a Friday night Shootout, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Beginning Saturday with a visit to the Bell Centre by the New York Rangers, the Canadiens face a succession of opponents only one of which – the Buffalo Sabres – can be considered a weak sister.
So what did we see in Columbus that might inspire hope for wings against the Rangers, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Washington and the Leafs?

Well, Peter Budaj was good again.

After spotting the Blue Jackets an early lead – on two shots he had little chance of stopping, particularly the second – Budaj slammed the door throught wo periods plus five minutes of Overtime. And then Budaj stopped all three BJs in the Shootout.

(I know: that sounds raunchy. Sometimes I can’t help myself.)

Not that Budaj faced the kind of bombardment Carey Price saw on Tuesday. Columbus managed 25 shots – 20 fewer than the Lightning fired at Price. But Budaj had to be sharp, particularly in OT, when the home team had four shots.

Although the Canadiens didn’t manage a SoG during the extra time, their 40 shots through 60 minutes were a season high. Curtis McElhinney made 38 saves, but many came from the periphery. And therein lies a problem that might give fans pause as they savour a win that moved the Canadiens within a point of the Leafs in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings.

Before I start spewing negativity, however, let’s pause to celebrate the resurrection – for at least one night – of David Desharnais.

In addition to shoving a Shootout winner up the ample posterior of His Worship, Mayor Denis Coderre, DD played well enough to be elevated from the fourth to the third line, early in the second period.

Thus promoted, Desharnais enjoyed the dubious privilege of centring two players who wingers who are alleged to be power forwards: Max Pacioretty and Rene Bourque.

Max-Pac had eight shots on goal, tied with Lars Eller for game high. He had no hits.

Bourque had five shot and one hit.

If either Pacioretty or Bourque discomfited a Columbus defender at any point in the proceedings, I missed it. And contrast their lack of physicality with R.J. Umberger and the other blue-jerseyed hulks crowding the crease of Peter Budaj.

Look, I know Milan Lucic is a rare bird and not everyone packs that combination of size and ferocity. But is it too much to ask Pacioretty and/or Bourque to play a bit more like Umberger or David Clarkson … or their own teammates, Brandon Prust and Brendan Gallagher.

Oh well, Michael McCarron is only two or three years away.

Enough negativity!

Here’s what I liked about the game:

• If the Canadiens make the playoffs by one point, Alex Galchneyuk’s goal may come to be regarded as one of the biggest of the season. With the Canadiens trailing 2-0 and looking sluggish, the kid embarrassed a veteran defenceman, Fedor Tyutin, and put a sick move on a pretty good goaltender. Galchenyuk also had almost four productive, non-nervous minutes on the power play.

• Andrei Markov picked up his ninth assist and played the game with Lidstromian savvy and finesse. He’s had a terrific season.

• Lars Eller had a goal and went 15-4 on faceoffs – the only Canadiens centre better than .500 on draws.

• I thought P.K. committed a few gaffes – including a brain-dead penalty – but then I looked at the stat sheet and he played 29 minutes with two hits and three blocked shots.

• Brandon Prust gutted it out for 10:48 and had a couple hits and a fight. Too bad Prust has only the one heart and two stones to supply transplants for Bourque and Pacioretty.

• Michaël Bournival had four hits to tie hulking Brian Gionta for the team lead.

• Daniel Brière was good on the power play.

• Raphael Diaz blocked six shots. I’ve knocked the guy for lack of physicality, but you know what? Diaz understands hockey and makes smart plays.

So the rested Rangers are in Montreal and the schedule starts to get interesting.

Whom would you sit to make room for Alexei Emelin?

If I’m the coach – and I don’t have either the hair or the wardrobe – it’s Francis Bouillon. Douglas Murray is a statue, but he clears the crease and he’s good on the PK.

And if Brendan Gallagher is over his flu bug Saturday night?

That’s a tough call. I’m tempted to suggest an evening of hot dogs and stimulating pressbox conversation for Rene Bourque, just to wake him up. But it will probably be Ryan White.

 

193 Comments

  1. The Juice says:

    Boone you are a hero to us all!

    But please, enough with fluff like the following:

    “If the Canadiens make the playoffs by one point, Alex Galchneyuk’s goal may come to be regarded as one of the biggest of the season”…if the Habs make the playoffs by one point, there will be 20 other key plays in close games that could be considered the difference maker.

    Secondly, enough with the “wild card” standings update. At this point of the season, all we need to care about is “Games Over .500″ which is now exactly “nil”. Hopefully the team can go on a bit of a run here…

    Here’s hoping!

    __________________________________________________________________________

    “To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high!”

  2. Chris says:

    David Clarkson played his first NHL season at age 23 years old. He was undrafted, and his first season after his draft eligible year was not all that impressive (17 goals and 28 points in 57 OHL games). He went on to play two more seasons, peaking as an overager. After that, he played 2 seasons of AHL hockey before finally getting the call-up as a checking line banger.

    R.J. Umberger also made his NHL debut at age 23, although that was likely delayed a year by the lockout. He played 3 years of university hockey, posting good college numbers and having an elite year as a junior (26 goals and 53 points in 43 games with Ohio State. He missed the 2003-04 season due to a contract dispute with Vancouver, but was very successful in his first season in the AHL (21 goals and 65 points in 80 games).

    All of this is to say that Michael McCarron is far from 2-3 years away. He is at least 4-5 years away, and it could take him even longer. Don’t look to McCarron, who is enduring a dreadful season with the Knights offensively (1 asssist in his past 13 games, and no goals in 18 games). McCarron has been a bust in the OHL, but he can hopefully resurrect his career next season when some of the Knights forwards graduate to the AHL and NHL. Until then, I would certainly temper expectations.

  3. dpap222 says:

    How about Gionta? that was the fiesty Gionta that made him captain when he came to Montreal, I’ve waited all season for the Gionta to show up.

  4. HabFab says:

    So are you really happy because it sure doesn’t sound like it? Habs are third in hockey fights so far this season. Behind Buffalo and Toronto but ahead of Boston… so the Atlantic is the GOON division of the NHL.

    Guillaume Lefrançois – Les Leafs étaient déjà 2es dans la LNH pour les bagarres cette saison avec 16. Sabres 1ers (17), #Habs 3es (15), Bruins 6es (13)

  5. Sportfan says:

    Ugh Staubitz in a Leafs Jersey how depressing…

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    • Chris says:

      Holland is the more disturbing acquisition…he’s a big (6’2″, 195 pounds) center with a lot of offensive talent. The only question mark on him has been his willingness to compete and his being buried behind Getzlaf in Anaheim. In Toronto, he should get an immediate opportunity to play with skilled wingers, and Holland is a very good passer.

      I watched him for years here in Guelph. He was always a bit frustrating because he always seemed to be playing below his obvious talent level (despite putting up big numbers at every level he has played at). That could end up being a massive steal for theLeafs.

  6. Maritime Ronn says:

    Cameron Talbot in nets for the Rangers tonight
    Only 4 NHL career games under his belt
    3-1-0 .933 SP 1.97 GAA.
    All have been road games
    He has beaten Detroit-Islanders-Columbus and has not given up more than 2 goals in any of the 4 games.

  7. Sportfan says:

    Not sure if anyone posted this but this is what Arpon Basu tweeted before
    “In 31:42 of 5v4 ice time on the PP this season, Francis Bouillon has been on the ice for one #Habs goal”

    Time to give someone else a shot on the pp unit like Gorges or Emelin…

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  8. Habitoban says:

    I must need a new TV cuz mine has been showing Bourque playing pretty well al year.

  9. The Jackal says:

    DD for life! Free DD!

    I hope that SOG gets him going, that was a nice move too.
    I’m not a fan of 4 smaller dudes on the team but if they call play with tenacity and score goals then that can’t be that bad.

    ______________________
    Hockey sine stercore tauri.

    • NCRhabsfan says:

      No goals in 18 GP getting lots of TOI with good wingers. DD is still a huge liability for a little man. I don’t think getting a shoot out goal means anything. Let’s hope it generates some actual good play when he’s not the only guy not the ice besides the other team’s goalie.

  10. Maritime Ronn says:

    It’s hard to believe some of the Trash Talk on here concerning Max Pacioretty!

    What exactly do people expect from this guy?

    Max’s Cap Hit is $4.5M/year.
    That puts him in the same financial neighborhood with players such as Teddy Purcell, Tomas Fleischmann, Ryan Malone, Brooks Laich, Ville Lieno, Brian Little, Umberger….

    2 years ago, Max had 33 goals and 65 points.
    Last year he was on pace (for an 82 game season) of 28 goals/73 points.

    He doesn’t hit enough?
    Perhaps he’s snake bitten.
    He has already been suspended 3 games concerning a hit on Letang, and narrowly avoided another suspension with a hit from behind on Ryan McDonagh.
    That would make him a “Repeat Offender” in Shanny’s world…and you know what that means with Bruins boy Colin Campbell always hovering

    Then don’t forget about injuries – some terrible ones, where he always seems to come back before any others would.

    Cut the guy some bloody slack.

    • John Q Public says:

      Forget the past.
      Forget the money.
      Forget the repeat offender crap.
      He’s probably playing thru his injury, which is a problem.
      Why the team rushes players back into the lineup, I’ll never know.
      But if he’s there he should be play tougher.
      But then the whole should team play tougher.
      The next 20 games, barring more injuries should tell us where we are.


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