Was that a Stanley Cup preview?
The NHL could do a lot worse than a best-of-seven series pitting two of the Original Six franchises.
Chicago could make one half of the dream scenario happen. The Hawks’ 4-2 win at the Bell Centre Tuesday night lifted them past Minnesota into first place in the Central Division.
And despite being outshot decisively, Chicago looked like a team that could make a deep playoff run toward its fourth Cup in eight years.
As for the other half of the equation …
Canadiens fans should ask themselves this question:
Can you imagine the name “Alexei Emelin” engraved on the Cup?
Would you want number 74 sharing Cup space with Canadiens’ defencemen numbers 2, 3, 5, 18 and 19?
Not to mention Tom Johnson.
And Chris Chelios.
Emelin was on the ice – and looking horrible – on the goals that propelled the visitors to a 3-0 lead. By the end of the game, Shea Weber’s one-time D partner was on the third pairing, watching recently acquired Brandon Davidson work effectively with Jeff Petry.
You have to wonder what Nathan Beaulieu, consigned to the pressbox for a big game, was thinking.
In his postgame press conference, Claude Julien declined to single Emelin out for criticism. But the coach has to make some back-end decisions over the next few days as the Canadiens prepare for a crucial weekend home-and-home against Ottawa.
Tampa Bay did the Canadiens a favour by beating the Senators late in Overtime. Ottawa is one point behind the Canadiens and holds two games in hand.
The Senators will play host to Chicago on Thursday night. Fans have to hope the Hawks bring the A-game they displayed in snowbound Montreal to the Canadian Tire Centre.
Game statistics don’t tell the story.
The visitors were outshot 42-24. The Canadiens had 90 shot attempts to 51 for the Hawks.
The Canadiens also held a 28-23 Hit advantage and won 40 Faceoffs, to 25 for Chicago.
Those impressive stats notwithstanding, the Hawks were fully in charge until the Paul Byron and Shea Weber goals that set up an exciting last few minutes.
Corey Crawford ran his record against his hometown team to 7-0-2. But the Chicago goaltender did not have to make spectacular saves under sustained pressure.
As is the case all too often when they lose – and sometimes when they win – the Canadiens ran up their shot total from long distances and bad angles.
Because Alexei Emelin doesn’t play for Chicago, Canadiens forwards were not gifted scoring chances in which they found themselves all alone in front of Crawford.
Bottom line here, folks, is the better, deeper team won the game.
And there is a far greater likelihood of a Stanley Cup parade on Michigan Ave. than one on Ste. Catherine. St.
• • •
Comment on the Liveblog by kalevine:
The flu excuse for Emelin has been brought up a few times, but 1) why play him when he’s sick when there are a couple of D who could step in
2) the mistakes are all mental not physical mistakes. I suppose you could argue that the brain may not be 100% when sick, but normally in those cases you play it safe and don’t over extend yourself. He was pinching and getting caught. On the first goal, what was he doing up at center ice when he gave up the puck?
And from Coach K:
My take-aways tonight,
Emilein is not usually THAT bad. Any chance he was suffering from that flu bug that ravaged the team all week? Is that why Julien had him out there with the net empty. Trying to show him that he still has faith in him despite his utterly forgettable game?
For a guy who is supposedly poor defensively in his own end, Galchenyuk looked pretty good tonight. Especially when you consider he had to defend against possibly the best two way centre in the game and a high-octane offence in general and yet still managed to pick up an important assist in the process.
Plekanec. Veteran player, plenty of experience, allegedly the team’s best shutdown centre who was mostly invisible except for a -2.
Lastly, every goal scored against them tonight was completely self inflicted.
Gotta find a way to fix that little issue…