Veteran hockey beat writer Bertrand Raymond offered this wry assessment of the Canadiens’ home opener:
“The good news,” Raymond said, “is there are only 47 games to go.”
OK, that’s a bit harsh.
But you’d probably hear similar sentiments from a sellout crowd who arrived at the Bell Centre hungry for hockey and hoping for improvement on the last-place team they watched 41 times last season.
Until Brian Gionta scored with a few ticks over six minutes remaining in the game, the Canadiens were … umm, what adjective conveys it best … how about “reminiscent”.
They reminded fans of last season’s team
And that was not a good thing.
But hey, it’s only one game, right?
Albeit one of only 48 in the mad dash that is this late-starting NHL season.
In other openers, the Stanley Cup champion L.A. kings got their rings, skated the CUP around the ice and then got smoked 5-2 by the Blackhawks.
Philadelphia dropped its home opener to the cross-state rival Penguins.
One game does not a truncated season make … even if it’s the home opener and even if, in the case of the Canadiens, the quality of the competition falls well below Chicago and Pittsburgh.
For 54 minutes, the Leafs dominated pretty much every important aspect of the game.
They took fewer dumb penalties. I’m looking at you, Tomas Plekanec.
The speed of their forwards befuddled a Canadiens defence that desperately missed the physicality and puck-lugging skills of P.K. Subban. I’m looking at you, Tomas Kaberle and Josh Gorges.
Andrei Markov had his moments. There was the odd pass that found a red sweater in the neutral zone. But on the evidence of this game, Markov’s 34-year-old legs aren’t what they used to be.
But it was achingly obvious, all night long, that the Canadiens most reliable puck-moving defenceman was home watching the game on TV.
And I wonder if P.K. changed the channel after a couple periods. The game was that boring.
But hey, 47 more chances to prove this is a better edition of the Canadiens than last season’s cellar-dwellers.
Carey Price was outstanding. Anything less and it’s 5-0 after two. The Leafs had that many good chances.
Brandon Prust played with energy, killed penalties effectively and won his fight with Mike Brown.
Alexei Emelin, teamed with Markov, had six of the Canadiens 24 hits.
(Mike Komisarek – I’ll wait while everyone boos – had six hits for Toronto, which had 39 … including eight by some guy named Leo Komarov.)
Rene Bourque played with some spark. By the third period, he had been elevated to LW on the Plekanec-Gionta line, with Alex Galchenyuk dropping down to duty with Lars Eller and Travis Moen.
The highly-touted kid played 13:06 and had a couple shots on goal. He did not look entirely out of place, but Galchenyuk will likely be on the third line when the Florida Panthers visit the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
And if he’s going to play third-line minutes, maybe the kid would be better off in Sarnia.
Galchenyuk certainly was no worse than any of the Canadiens’ veteran forwards. Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens was well-protected by his D corps, rarel;y troubled by anyone in a red jersey crashing the net.
The home team generated no sustained pressure, nothing to p[ump up the crowd and make the building rock like it does when …
Well, when P.K. Subban has the puck.
Fearless prediction: Brendan Gallagher will play against Florida on Tuesday.
Another fearless prediction: Marc Bergevin and Don Meehan will talk on Wednesday.