Game 1: Canadiens vs Leafs, Hockey-Like Substance Observed

by Jacob Saltiel
Carey Price,

Habs: Let’s Make a Pile! Leafs: Yay!
from Yahoo! Sports

Earlier in this blog, it was stated that if one were to watch Kaberle playing too many minutes, it was related to some injury catastrophe elsewhere on the Habs blueline. As it’s the first game and no one was injured to create this situation, Subban duly obliged with a contract holdout. While there are whispers that perhaps it is selfish or greedy of Subban to do so, it’s well within his rights to use all of his available means to secure himself the best contract he can get. Considering he risks injury in playing, why would he- or any NHL player- risk future earnings while playing on a below-market contract as a favour to an NHL team? The NHL operates in exactly this manner when it comes to renegotiating a CBA and locked out its players to achieve a similar effect.

Regardless, the team has to play on without Subban until this impasse resolves. Business, after all, is business, and based on at least this one game, business will be booming for young Subban.

On to the game:

Outside of a few flashes of NHL hockey, this game was made up of a lot of mis-timed plays, bad passing, confusion, and people at home and in the stands shouting “WHO IS MIKE KOSTKA?!”

Slightly more than 2% of the way into the season, it’s important to keep in perspective that a lot can change once the team gets a few more practices and games together. Over the next 47 games, NHL fans may, indeed, discover the identity of this Kostka phantom.

For Habs fans, the feeling that one was watching an awful lot of Kaberle is substantiated by his powerplay icetime, 6:25, and total icetime for the game, 20:05. The former figure is 40 seconds more PP time than Markov, likely because Therrien wants to use Kaberle as a PP specialist, which is fine. Or, this would be fine if Markov were still allowed to run the powerplay, but it seems like Kaberle has most of the puck while Markov floats around the perimeter looking for a backdoor play. It’s one (1) game and the team obviously needs more practice, but we need to Markov to express himself offensively.

More problematic than Kaberle’s usage, was Bouillon’s 22:20 of icetime. When Bouillon was signed, the assumption was that he would fill out the bottom-pairing, or even act as a 7th defenceman- not play top-4 minutes. He played 5 minutes more than the solid Emelin (who tried to change Kadri’s world mid-way through the 2nd) and somehow was used on the second powerplay unit. It was pointed out that, without Subban, the other options on the point for the second unit are Gorges, Diaz, Bouillon, or Emelin, and Diaz was already out there.

In other words, the powerplay will never resemble a clockwork machine of  players fiendishly swapping positions before a series of quick passes ends in a cannonshot into the back of the net until Therrien develops other options. Weber, it seems, offended someone in the head office and probably won’t be suiting up much unless 1 or 2 players above him on the depth chart are traded or get hurt.

Up front, the Habs’ top-line had trouble getting going, but showed a few shifts of last season’s ingenuity and the comically gritty line of PrustWhiteArmstrong showed something Habs fans born in the 80’s probably haven’t ever seen. Though they took a penalty right at the beginning of the game, it was refreshing to see a line that actually might scare some other teams and also to watch Prust get the better of Mike Brown. Whenever that line starts the game at the Bell Centre, the DJ should play this track, just to pump up the crowd and let the opponents know that the rumbles are coming.

Beyond that, the 2nd and 3rd lines resembled the end of a game of Jenga. Galchenyuk, while he undoubtedly has the skills to play in the NHL, hasn’t adjusted to the speed of the game, which doesn’t help his veteran linemates. Eller, who looked so good in the intra-squad game, was invisible till the 3rd period. Plekanec and Eller will have to anchor their lines and put the pressure on other teams by playing more organized hockey, which should come as they get used to Therrien’s system.

So what? The Habs lost 2-1 in a game in which all of the goals were powerplay goals. Price was solid, and that’s that for the opener. The next game is a Mechant Mardi matchup against the Florida Panthers, who pounded out the Hurricanes 5-1, and a particularly enigmatic Russian with ties to the Montreal area…

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