Some of the veterans – Chris Campoli, Petteri Nokelainen, a healthy scratch against Tampa Bay – won’t be there.
It’s safe bet Randy Cunneyworth won’t be back.
Quite apart from the language issue, the coach has not dazzled as either a motivator or a strategist.
Once again, the Canadiens were a one-line team against the Lightning. Erik Cole’s 6 shots represented one-quarter of the team’s total. David Desharnais took over the Canadiens’ scoring lead, to the delight of DD Fan Club president Michel Bergeron on L’Antichambre. As Bergie pointed out, there is every reason to believe Desharnais will lead the Canadiens in scoring for a long time to come.
And Alexei Emelin will lead them in hitting … and in fight invitations declined.
Don Cherry will be all over Emelin during Coach’s Corner Saturday night. Even Bergeron, who makes more sense than Cherry, said that players who dish out open-ice hits of the type Emelin laid on Ryan Malone have to back it up by dropping the gloves.
I respectfully disagree.
Emelin did not blind-side Malone. He didn’t use his stick or his elbow.
Malone didn’t have the puck, and Emelin was penalized for interference. But it was a clean hit – and Malone, who’s had a hate-on for the Canadiens since the preseason, reacted as though Emelin had insulted his mother.
And because the league is the way it is, a light went on over Pierre Gauthier’s head and he decided, 63 games into a lost season, the Canadiens needed a tough guy.
So welcome to hockey’s proudest franchise, Brad Staubitz – who, in his Canadiens debut, had 3:51 ToI and 17 PiM.
Here’s why Emelin won’t fight Malone or anyone else.
As a consequence of this KHL beating at the hands of Alexander Svitov, Emelin suffered a cracked orbital bone that was surgically repaired by inserting a metal pin in his face.
This is Emelin after his fight with Svitov:
He cannot and will not fight in the NHL. That should not disqualify Emelin from playing the kind of physical game that has made him an emerging stalwart of the Canadiens blueline.
By steadily improving as the season has progressed, Emelin has played his way into a core group that offers hope for the future of this franchise.
You know the names. I don’t have to list them.
You also know the players who have to go if the Canadiens are going to improve next season.
Geoff Molson will begin his housecleaning by hiring a new general manager. Pierre Gauthier won’t be at the draft table when the Canadiens make their Top Five lottery selection in June.
And the new GM will want to hire his own coach.
But there is a valuable service Cunneyworth can render this organization before he rides off into the sunset:
Let the kids play. Let them learn, from a man like Erik Cole, what it means to be a pro.
It’s the only way to find out if they belong in the National Hockey League.
So while I can’t for the life of me figure out why Scott Gomez had 4 minutes (of his total 9:31) on the popgun power-play – to 3:57 for David Desharnais and 2:17 for Tomas Plekanec – at least Cunneyworth gave Lars Eller 2:26 with the man advantage.
Eller had a good game in Tampa. I want to see more.
I want to see a lot more of Blake Geoffrion. He played 14:22 and ended plus-1 – a confidence-booster heading into what will be an emotional game for him at the Bell Centre Thursday night.
Rene Bourque had almsot 20 minutes of ice time, including 3:43 on the PP. The Canadiens pretty know what they have in Bourque – big-body third-line winger. But let’s get a fuller evaluation with increased ice time, in all situations.
I hope Louis Leblanc is recalled from Hamilton. He’ll be an important part of the team next season.
I hope Aaron Palushaj sticks around. And maybe the Canadiens will want to get another good look at Andreas Engqvist.
That’s what this miserable season has come to:
I’m lobbying for Engqvist.
• • •
This is great.
Vernon Fiddler does an impression of Kevin Bieksa and Alain Vigneault totally cracks up: