When you play only half the game, you don't often come out with the win, and the Habs didn't last night. But was their play in the third period something we can look forward to? Maybe the first 40 were just a dud game? We'll break it down inside.
I didn't think it would take so long, but it was midway through the second period before the feeling came back.
Sure, I was excited when the Habs passed the torch around, and when the puck was dropped, but I didn't get that feeling until much later. You know the feeling I'm talking about. That strange tension, the increased heart rate, your palms start to perspire a little. The feeling of hockey that you really, truly care about.
I can't name the exact moment that I started feeling it, but it was around the time the Canadiens actually decided to show up to the game. It was already 2-0 Maple Leafs by then, both goals coming on the powerplay off of chintzy penalties, but penalties all the same.
The Canadiens were undisciplined to start the game, and even though the calls thinned out and evened out as the game went on, I don't think they got any more disciplined. Erik Cole looked very slow and out of shape, as he and David Desharnais made a habit of hanging off of whatever Leaf happened to be near them. Max Pacioretty wasn't much better, sticking mostly to the perimeter instead of driving to the net. However at least he didn't look lazy, he just wasn't very engaged.
The second line was better, but not amazing. Rene Bourque started the game on the 3rd line, but bumped Alex Galchenyuk down with some inspired play. Bourque still can't control the puck or pass at all, but he was driving the net and creating room for his linemates, which is his strength.
Keeping on the encouraging notes, it looked like Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin have what it takes to be an excellent second pairing. Emelin was dishing out insane hits all night, and caught Mikhail Grabovski with his head down twice, which is always enjoyable. Josh Gorges also wrecked Grabovski in the neutral zone, in fact he kind of looked like Subban.
Carey Price was as he usually is, absolutely phenomenal. Both goals that went in on him were of the near impossible to stop variety, the first being Nazem Kadri making a brilliant read and intercepting a cross ice pass against the flow of traffic, forcing Price to go side, to side, to side. Price still nearly got a blocker on it, but it was a great goal. The second was a pure bouncer, rebounding off a shin, then shot again, then off Price, then Tyler Bozak found the loose puck before Price could recover. Better defensive coverage than that will be needed soon.
The Canadiens were outshot 21-14 at even strength, although no goals were scored 5-on-5 in the game. It's one of those games where even though the bounces clearly didn't go their way, you have to begrudgingly say that Toronto deserved the win.
Onto the bad, shall we?
Michel Therrien's usage of Francis Bouillon terrifies me. I was worried when he was signed that because they have a personal relationship that he wouldn't be the 7th defenseman and often a scratch, even though he likely should be, and now I'm worried he's going to play top 4 minutes. Bouillon got more ice time tonight than Josh Gorges. Seriously. He even played 3:39 on the powerplay. Francis Bouillon, who has averaged under 10 points for the last 5 seasons, was played on the powerplay.
And that wasn't the only problem with Bouillon's usage, he was also matched against Phil Kessel, which wasn't very fun to watch. I guess it was a good test to see if Price's groin is okay (I'm guessing yes, based on outstanding play).
Gorges at times seemed to really struggle, getting caught behind the play a few times. I'm betting that without the safety net that is Subban's speed and defensive awareness, hockey is a little bit harder.
One thing that is very clear after playing a bottom dweller like Toronto and letting them run roughshod over us, we need P.K. Subban on this team. A Gorges - Subban pairing is infinitely better than a Bouillon - Gorges one. Please sign him, Marc. I don't care about the money or the term, just negotiate something and put it on a piece of paper. It can be a napkin for all I care. Get. It. Done.
Even with the loss, it's tough to be too unhappy. It's pretty ridiculously awesome to have watched hockey for 9 hours today, and to be able to write about hockey that just happened is a pleasure I can't even describe.
Next up, the Canadiens host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at the Bell Centre. The Panthers are now the team of former Hab Alex Kovalev, who had 1 goal and 2 assists in a 5-1 trouncing of the Carolina Hurricanes in which they were outshot by the Canes 42-25. Maybe by then Subban will be there.
Okay I sound like a broken record with the Subban thing.