The Canadiens lose their line brawls and that's okay, why they happen is not - Part 2

Richard Wolowicz

Breaking down the rather unspectacular February 9, 2013 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs where the Canadiens were shut out 6-0.

It is something of an interesting coincidence that this game takes place exactly two years to the day since the Canadiens took part in their goal and fight-filled escapade with Boston in 2011. However this loss to the Leafs was far harder to stomach, as unlike the Boston game, the Canadiens were never once 'in' this game which is likely why people reacted so strongly towards it. The renewed call for an enforcer on the Canadiens has much to do with this game, as people felt a missing George Parros was the issue more than being lit up six goals to none. It does not help that there is a rivalry between the team's fans either.

I qualify it as a fan rivalry because aside from a couple of times in the 2013 season, where is the true hatred between the players of these teams? This is not the Canadiens and the Bruins, two clubs that share a legendary dislike for each other stemming back from many playoff meetings and a number of nasty games over the regular season in the past several seasons. The Leafs and Habs may be regaining a bit of a rivalry, but even then it seems mostly to be an affair sorted out by each team's fighters. On the whole, the Canadiens and Leafs take turns pounding each other and share maybe one or two 'close' games each season. There is a world of difference in my eyes for the anticipation and game action of a Montreal-Boston match versus a Montreal-Toronto one.

Now, let us examine exactly why this game went so badly for the Canadiens.

Official Boxscore


1st Period:

1st Toronto Goal: This begins at 0:34 on the video.

- This begins in Toronto's own zone. Andrei Markov picks up a bouncing puck at the point and lobs a shot on goal. James Reimer deflects it into the corner, where it is picked up by Rene Bourque who attempts a shot on goal but misses and it goes wide along the boards back to Markov at the point. Markov attempts to generate another shot on goal but the attempt is blocked by Phil Kessel, who chips the puck out to the neutral zone.

- Kessel and Markov chase the puck down, Markov nearly gets his stick on the puck at the Canadiens blue line but Kessel pokes the puck loose and gains possession in Montreal's zone. Kessel holds possession as Markov tries to backcheck, but Kessel holds the puck and breaks loose. Alexei Emein has joined Markov to cover Kessel, but misses an incoming Leo Komarov who has gained the zone to support Kessel.

- Markov breaks off to cover Komarov as Emelin covers Kessel. Kessel has seen Komarov incoming and dishes the puck back to him, neither Canadiens defender gets a stick down to break up the pass. Komarov gets the pass, Price is caught out of position and Komarov gets his first NHL goal (a fine Montreal Canadiens tradition). 1-0 Toronto.

2nd Toronto Goal: This begins at 1:42 on the video.

- This play begins in the Canadiens own zone. While the initial video does not show it, David Desharnais was kicked out of the faceoff circle on the replay, which is why see Erik Cole in the faceoff circle istead. Cole takes the draw against Tyler Bozak. Bozak wins the draw and gets the puck back to the Mike Kostka at the point.

- Kostka sends a cross-ice pass to John-Michael Liles, who fires a soft wrist shot through traffic, Price gets the save but it bounces loose to Tyler Bozak, sitting just on top of the blue paint and essentially in a perfect position to get the rebound.

-There is some missed coverage on net defence by the Canadiens and Bozak has the puck right on his stick and immediately shoots. 2-0 Toronto.

1st Scrum appears: At 2:45 on the video. With just under five minutes left in the first period, we see a minor scrum. But no real blows exchanged or fighting breaking out.

2nd Scrum Appears: At 3:13 on the video. A second scrum breaks out around the Toronto net in the last 15 seconds of the first period as the Habs try to get a goal on the board before time runs out. No success and a battling Subban falls to the ground fighting for the puck. At this point Korbinian Holzer decides to halfway jump on Subban's back. This leads to another scrum, but again no actual fighting.

2nd Period: Toronto Leads 2-0.

3rd Toronto Goal: This goal begins at 3:57 on the video.

- This begins on an offensive-zone entry by the Leafs. Phil Kessel skates the puck in and chips it along the boards and begins to chase it down. Josh Gorges moves to intercept him and gives him a nudge to interfere (not enough to draw a penalty) as they are now both chasing after it. Gorges is successful in holding Kessel up enough to allow Alexei Emelin a clear line of pursuit and retrieve the puck behind the Canadiens net.

- Emelin makes an odd decision here as he is free of immediate pressure, but goes for a dump along the boards, not aware there is no teammate to retrieve the puck. Toronto's James Van Riemsdyk is in position to retrieve the puck and gains possession.

- Van Riemsdyk rings the puck along the boards to Kessel who is now sitting behind the net and is himself without any coverage by a Canadiens defender.

- Kessel takes the puck out from behind the net to hovering just over the goal line and stickhandles as Emelin tries to get a poke check in but fails, Kessel feeds the puck to Van Riemsdyk who has just moved to the low slot and is essentially all alone. Van Riemsdyk fires a snap shot into the net. 3-0 Toronto.

- The game is probably a bit out of reach here for Montreal, they need to get the next three goals just to tie the game and force an overtime and the Canadiens are having a tough night in picking up their defensive assignments.

4th Toronto Goal: This begins at 5:35 on the video.

- Unfortunately we do not see the whole play develop on this power play by the Maple Leafs. What we see is Phil Kessel sending the puck back to the point, where Dion Phaneuf picks it up. We can note James Van Riemsdyk is screening Carey Price as well. Phaneuf sends a cross-ice pass to Cody Franson at the other point.

- Franson passes back to Phaneuf, who dishes it off to Kessel, who is hovering near the back of the zone. The Canadiens are established in a "Diamond" formation for the penalty kill, but so far the arrangement has failed at any point as we can see to credibly interfere with the Leafs movement of the puck on the power play. Kessel takes a few steps, and while using Andrei Markov as a partial screen, fires the puck just at the tip of the faceoff circle. 4-0 Toronto.

- Again, at this point you can say the game is out of reach for Montreal but they could have at least kept up net pressure on Toronto to try and make it more interesting and salvage some wounded pride rather than what would come later.

3rd Period: Toronto leads 4-0.

- Arguably Price should have had the third period off. While not terrible, it was not quite his night and the game was essentially done the way the Canadiens had been outplayed. Budaj in nets might have inspired the Canadiens to try tightening up their defence a little.

- 6:43 on the video. First Fight of the Game. At least this began with a Canadiens player where it is expected as part of his job to engage in fisticuffs. Brandon Prust squares off with Mark Fraser at centre ice while regular play is going on. Fraser pretty clearly gets the win here and both go off for five minutes. One would have hoped that might be the end of things.

5th Toronto Goal: Starts at 8:23 on the video.

- The play begins on a defensive zone faceoff for Montreal. Jay McClement is kicked out off the faceoff circle and is replaced by Frazer McLaren while Montreal has David Desharnais in the circle. Desharnais wins the faceoff against McLaren and dishes the puck back to P.K. Subban. Subban immediately passes to Pacioretty, who begins the breakout taking the puck out to the neutral zone and chips it to Gallagher who gets possession just as he crosses into Toronto's zone.

- Gallagher tries to cut into the net on a shot, but a sliding Korbinian Holzer trips up Gallagher and Gallagher's hurried shot on net bounces right out to where McClement picks it up and begins a breakout for the Leafs. With Pacioretty closing in to try and check him off the puck, he chips it along the boards into the neutral zone where P.K. Subban fails to catch it and slips by him.

- The puck spills into the offensive zone with Colton Orr in pursuit. He gains possession just inside of the faceoff circle and Francis Bouillon closing in, but Bouillon is too far out and Orr flips a backhand in on Price, who sends a rebound right into the slot, where Korbinian Holzer has joined the rush and is essentially gifted three open feet of net to shoot into. 5-0 Toronto.

3rd Scrum begins: 9:31 on the video: The third scrum of the game. Mike Kostka and Brendan Gallagher get into a minor scrap after Gallagher gives Phaneuf a shove, which is enough to make him fall down and knock over James Reimer in the process. Shoving and and a bit of wrestling turns into a scrap, Kostka starts throwing punches while Gallagher tries to hold him off and respond in kind. It does not work out that well for Gallagher who gives up a significant size advantage to Kostka.

4th Scrum begins: 10:31 on the video: Fourth scrum kicks off. An attempted hit by Leo Komarov by Brian Gionta that misses is taken exception to by Brandon Prust who starts shoving Komarov after the whistle goes and works in the first punch when the scrum breaks out. The infamous biting incident with Mikhail Grabovski apparently biting Max Pacioretty also occurs here, but no actual fights come out of this one. Prust, Pacioretty and Grabovski get game misconducts by the officials to try and cool things off.

6th Toronto Goal: This occurs at 14:34 on the video.

- Unfortunately we seem to have a gap in the video here but let us work off of what we can see.

- The Canadiens are attempting to kill of a 5-on-3 power play by Toronto, which you could say absolves them of most of the blame if they allow a goal against.

- James Van Riemsdyk is puckhandling along the goal line, and passes it back to Dion Phaneuf who is skating just outside of the faceoff circle who sends the pass across to Cody Franson who is sitting at the top of the other faceoff circle. Franson one-times the shot, but it misses the net and bounces off the back boards right to the goal line, Kessel is there to get the puck and tries to dish it to Bozak, but Raphael Diaz manages to intercept the puck and turns to skate the puck out.

- Tyler Bozak chases Diaz down as Diaz tries to dump it out, but Bozak gets his stick on the puck as Eller, Diaz and Gorges all try to converge to gain possession bu fail. Boazk knocks the puck back, where Kessel is in position to retrieve it and none of the Canadiens are close enough to cut off his passing lane to the high slot.

- Kessel sends a sideways pass to Dion Phaneuf, who one-times a shot and gets the goal. 6-0 Toronto.

5th Scrum Appears: 15:41 on the video.

- Fifth and final scrum of the game and the one that caused many to overreact to its outcome. This comes out of Colton Orr looking to take out Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec narrowly dodges Orr's attempt to apparently take out his knee and tempers boil over from the Canadiens side on the attempted run on Plekanec.

- Brian Gionta is the first to go after Colton Orr, but the size mismatch sees him easily pushed to the ice before any real blows are attempted.

- Rene Bourque attempts to start a scrap with Colton Orr next as Gionta is shoved down, but as he goes face-to-face with Orr, he is is immediately downed with one punch and the fight is over.

- Josh Gorges has simultaneously challenged Frazer McLaren who effectively manhandles Gorges and is the final fight of the game.

Conclusions:

-This game is different from Montreal-Boston engagement as that game was close for several instances and the Canadiens were not effectively neutered in their own building. The Canadiens never were in the game after the score went up to 3-0 and arguably not before then.

- I would say we can see the difficulty Alexei Emelin had this season in this game for sure. He was asked to switch from playing on his natural left side to the right side to partner with Andrei Markov and it certainly caused some miscues in his defensive coverage for the early part of the season, this game he is partially at fault for two of the goals against and they were the first and third goals, and the third was what likely put the game out of reach for the Canadiens in terms of hoping for an effective, but unlikely comeback. But he is also playing on his off side, he can not expected to be flawless after having switched.

- If the third goal did not end all hope, the fourth certainly did. This is where I take issue with the Canadiens coaching staff on their insistence that Markov play on this unit, it was never his strength before his knee was perfectly healthy and now he has trouble at even strength, let alone handling a penalty kill situation. This also would have been a good time for Therrien to choose to give Price the night off for while you can put the 2nd goal and maybe the fourth on him, the team was far more at fault for the score.

- The second and fifth goals I would label as owing to Price more than anyone. It was luck that the rebound came right to Bozak but if he had gotten his pad down enough, the puck doesn't slip through. The fifth goal is a rebound Price could have handled better as well. Albeit as some have noted Price had his worst season for rebound control ever in 2013. The rest of the goals against he probably did not have a fair chance on due to far too many open passing ianes for the Leafs to catch him out of position.

- The circus did not really begin until a player who I will state simply does not belong in the National Hockey League felt a need to justify his existence in a game that was already won. The commentators for the game state that Orr had his stick knocked/taken out of his hands and thrown away, so apparently he decided he needed to seek massive retaliation for such an offence after retrieving his stick. He selected Tomas Plekanec as his victim. Plekanec fortunately managed to avoid the hit but that entire mess happened because of Orr.

- Gionta jumping in against Orr was a bit cringe-inducing due to the risk of the Canadiens losing their captain, a man they have always played better with then without. Orr's one-punch defeat of Bourque touched off the question whether that was when Bourque suffered an undiagnosed concussion that caused him to miss a significant chunk of the season. Either way, what happened was bad, but it could have been even worse.

- The Canadiens were probably fortunate that McLaren did not try to really do any damage to Gorges, as that would have been an extremely tough loss for the Canadiens to suffer at this point.

- I think this is an interesting point to focus on because you have to think, does Orr really mind if he has to fight over attempting to run Plekanec? Even if the Habs are carrying George Parros last season? It is his job, everyone knows it. He does not shy away from it. At most what changes if Parros is on the ice at that time is he fights Orr instead of Bourque (possibly saving him from a concussion) but McLaren would still have ably manhandled Gorges. Unless you posit that there is another 'tough guy' on the ice for the Habs as this particular incident happens, but then you hit upon another issue.

- The Canadiens came into the Bell Centre with 18 NHL players who can all play a regular shift and were blown up on the scoreboard 6-0 with porous defence and some leaky goaltending. If they had been carrying two players who had been not been NHL-grade except for their ability to trade punches with someone, what would have happened? Could Toronto have successfully exploited when these two were on the ice and run up the score even further? The Canadiens would have run a bit of a shorter bench as well likely to balance out the shifts those two players could not reliably play. This could lead to more tired players and possibly being in vulnerable positions more often and put them at risk for injuries as well.

- Frankly, outside of just playing better defence from the start of the game, I do not see a reasonable argument to who the Canadiens could have skated on this fateful evening that would have prevented Orr and MacLaren from doing what they did in the final moments of the game. That is, aside from just better players, as better players theoretically could have prevented some of these goals against. But that is about all we can say could have prevented the circus act at the end.

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