About Sunday evening …

Clemmensen

Hockey on New Year’s Eve can be special.
On Dec. 31, 1975, a game at the Montreal Forum was more than special.
The 3-3 tie between your father’s Montreal Canadiens and Central Red Army of the Soviet Union was historic.
I was there, way up the cheap seats.
It was the greatest sports event I’ve ever attended.
On Tuesday, your Montreal Canadiens will play a New Year’s Eve game in Carolina.
I’ll live-blog it from a cheap couch in my basement.
Based on what we saw in Florida Sunday evening, anyone expecting an historic hockey game to ring out 2013?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZNock7Ed6g

The team that took the ice that night in 1975 would go on to win the first of four straight Stanley Cups. It was Guy Lafleur’s breakout season: he would total 56 goals and 125 points. Steve Shutt had 45 goals, Peter Mahovlich 71 assists. Playing behind the big three – Serge Savard, Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe – Ken Dryden went 42-10-8 with eight shutouts and a 2.03 GAA.

And the 1976-’77 team was even better.

Why this stroll down memory lane?

Because even for Canadiens fans who were only the gleam in their grandaddy’s eyes in 1975, that magical game is part of the CHe legend that is passed on from generation to generation.

It may be 20 years and counting since the Stanley Cup was paraded through the streets of downtown Montreal, but glory is part of the bleu-blanc-rouge DNA.

And we’re all waiting – with varying degrees of patience – for the good times to resume.

It might be a while yet.

Some key elements are there.

Carey Price has been a franchise goaltender this season.

P.K. Subban is the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

The core of promising young players includes Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher. There is talent in the Canadiens system and on display at the World Juniors.

But man, the Montreal Canadiens – as currently constituted – can be hard to watch.

They are not a bad hockey team. Price keeps them competitive; and halfway through the season, the Canadiens look a good bet to make the playoffs.

But on their off nights – and the game at the BB&T Center was most certainly an off night – the Canadiens are worse than bad.

They’re boring.

Not just to the rheumy old eyes who watched Lafleur in full flight. Fans of more recent vintage look at this team and get teary-eyed and nostalgic remembering Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev.

The team has had its ups and, mainly, downs since 1993. But there have (almost) always been talented offensive players: Mats Naslund, Stéphane Richer, Mark Recchi, Vincent Damphousse … right up to and including the courageous, cancer-conquering captain and L’Artiste who wore number 27.

Here’s the stat that jolted me briefly awake during the loss to Florida: through the first 40 minutes of the game, Max Pacioretty didn’t attempt a shot. No SoG, none missed the net, none blocked by the Panthers. Pacioretty’s final stats line for 17:39 of ice time was two third-period shots that missed the net.

The Canadiens didn’t lose because Pacioretty had an off-night. And they didn’t lose because the zebras disallowed two goals.

I think they lost because Florida, which also played on Saturday, had more energy and determination to win. In the face of such resolve, the Canadiens had few answers.

In his pre-game segment on RDS, François Gagnon talked about the Canadiens’ identity. He echoed the Michel Therrien dressing room rant we saw a couple episodes ago on 24CH, when the coach told his players they were a grinding team.

OK, a grinding team with a good goaltender and solid defence can make some noise in the NHL. Exhibit A, until recently: the New Jersey Devils.

But I wonder how much grinding you can do with a lineup that includes Brian Gionta, Daniel Brière, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher.

And while someone like Tomas Plekanec gives you solid, 200-foot hockey playing any style, I wonder if the imposition of a conservative style stifles the talent of players like Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk.

The latter played 13:35 in Florida. None of Galchenyuk’s ToI was on the power play, which has yet to register a goal on this road trip. He finished the game at minus-1.

Aleksander Barkov is 18, a year younger than Galchenyuk. Florida took the Finn with the second pick in last summer’s draft.

Barkov played 17:57 – including 1:26 on the PP – against the Canadiens. He scored a goal and was plus-3 on the game.

Florida can play a teenager almost 18 minutes because … well, because they’re Florida. The rebuild continues … and continues … and continues.

With visions of Lafleur and Kovy dancing in our heads, Canadiens fans don’t want to hear about rebuilds.

We want Ws and we want them now.

Th Canadiens have won more games than they’ve lost this season.

But how many times have they been fun to watch?

And where will the visit to Carolina rank on your list of New Year’s Eve hockey memories?

 

 

 

 

 

 

450 Comments

  1. frontenac1 says:

    Great come back by the kids today! What’s up with the these fans in Sweden? I’ve coached teams in the rural goon league in Eastern Ont. with more fans. Screw them! No more Soup for them.Saludos!

  2. Badwich says:

    Eller not scoring? Look who his wingers are. Dregs most of the time.

    Taberwitt

  3. The Jackal says:

    @Eddie in response to my post on the last page (is there any way we can just have a continuous page, HIO?)

    They certainly weren’t boring a couple of weeks ago. Point is, don’t land on the conclusion that the system is making us boring. We’re in a slump, whatever, it’ll end.

    Besides, how dynamic can your team be when you have Gorges, Bouillon, Murray, and Emelin as your four D behind PK and Markov… only the latter two can actually contribute to the offence. Diaz has taken a step back this season in that regard, Emelin is only coming back from injury, and the others…? Let’s not talk about that.

    Then up front we lack size and scorers. Gionta is not the same scorer he was even last season. Briere is almost superfluous on the team. Pleks is once again lacking adequate wingers. Eller has found a sorely lacking physical dimension to his game but he is not putting up points lately. Gallagher has been thrust into a grinding role – while he has really helped his line, he is missing scoring chances doing the job that a bigger player has an easier time doing. Galchenyuk has produced and will be good, but the patient approach is better than the previous approach we had for our prospects, besides, he has not yet shown that he can dominate offensively.

    All of this just shows that we are missing key pieces, like I said in my post. We are forced to use Gallagher in a less effective role because we have no forwards that consistently drive the net. Eller has not really found a scoring touch after a promising season last year and a good start this year. Gionta is less effective because of his surgeries, Briere is one of the same forwards we already have, and Prust has taken a step back this year too.

    It’s not the system, it’s the roster. We all expected everyone to be better than last season, and overall they are, but the guys we thought would score more and be more dominant have not really done so yet this season. I have no doubt that Galchenyuk will be a force and that Gallagher will be a scoring machine, but they are sophomores who are still adapting and we can’t pin our hopes on them or just give them all the ice-time just yet.

    In the end, the team has not been boring because of the system, they just haven’t been scoring enough – we don’t have the horses to run and gun. When we gain the zone, even skating it in with our speed, we don’t have anyone who can just get in the slot or go to the net consistently. We don’t establish pressure or cycle the puck. We also have a hard time scoring off the rush. All these problems are created by our roster, not the system. Sure, MT could open up the play more but then what? We only have 2 D who can consistently move the puck well and join the offence. We only have one forward who has been scoring consistently, and our fourth line has yet to contribute much in terms of goals. Besides, in the playoffs, the play won’t open up at all. You gotta grind it out, so better that the players learn how to play that style rather than be in shock when they all of a sudden have no room to make plays.

    ______________________
    Hockey sine stercore tauri.

  4. montreal ace says:

    We’re 4th overall in the conference and we did not get there by chance. This season is still young and even with our present roster, I feel like we can still improve, with the right call ups. Our road to the cup, in the not too distant future, will be when you hear something like, Patyern cashed in a rebound from Tinordi, while the Egg line each had two points apiece last night for the win.

  5. CHicoHab says:

    I don’t think everyone is looking for this team to be an instant power house. I think what everyone or most posties are wishing for is this collection of players show consistent play, effort, emotion, grit , tenacity, hunger, and desire to not to lose. Sitting Briere one game proved what?? Keep changing lines proves what?? Changing players is only solution. Send some guys down. Bring some guys up. Move some players out. Move some players in. And don’t be fooled by this defence first crap. Against lowly teams we may look good. But against elite teams our defence doesn’t look so hot. It’s not easy I concur. But it’s also not so hard.

  6. Steeltown Hab says:

    I’m all for re-signing Markov. But if moving him gets a 1st and a prospect or 2nd. Which we can use in a package to bring in an Evander Kane..than I’m okay with moving on.

    ———————————

    Lars, PK, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Emelin, Bournival, De La Rose – @J_Perez22

  7. Steeltown Hab says:

    It’s not the bounces, teams just looked real bad lately. Shake things up and ice this:

    Pacioretty – Eller – Briere
    Bournival – Plekanec – Gionta
    Bourque – Galchenyuk – Gallagher
    Prust – White – Moen

    Markov – Subban
    Beaulieu – Gorges
    Emelin – Pateryn

    ———————————

    Lars, PK, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Emelin, Bournival, De La Rose – @J_Perez22

  8. Steeltown Hab says:

    “We could really use a guy like Desharnais” – Said no GM ever

    ———————————

    Lars, PK, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Emelin, Bournival, De La Rose – @J_Perez22


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