Before I begin, let me just say a word about the tragedy yesterday. I was downtown at Hurley's with by little brother when I heard the horrifying news, having a few drinks before taking in the game.
I wasn't able to do everything I wanted to do for the game thread to make it clear that everyone was going over to Cup of Chowder, but Travis helped out there. Thanks to all who were understanding of the situation, and sorry to those who were confused by the comments section being closed in the game thread.
SB Nation was showing solidarity with the city of Boston, sending all game threads over to the Bruins' website. We have a heated, hate-filled rivalry with Boston, but times such as these are a sober reminder of how little sports really matter. They are entertainment in the end, and we have more in common with Bostonians than we have differences. Hopefully the city of Boston reacts by changing absolutely nothing, because that's the ultimate way to battle terrorism, don't be terrified.
Last night I had the
pleasure misfortune of being at the Bell Centre to witness the worst game the Canadiens have played this season.
The two blowout losses to the Maple Leafs are contenders, but this one takes the cake. It also included the weirdest 21 minutes of hockey I've ever witnessed as a fan of the sport.
Carey Price was godawful to start the game once again. The first goal was partially getting burned by bad luck, but Wayne Simmonds never should have had a second chance to through the puck out front. When he's on the top of his game, Price doesn't give out that rebound right onto Simmonds' stick.
Then the team played the worst period of hockey we've seen from them this season, and Price bailed them out with several excellent saves. That, and some discipline issues from noted moron Jay Rosehill and whoever Oliver Lauridsen is, allowed the Canadiens to briefly tie the game up.
From there on though, the Canadiens allowed the Flyers to penetrate their zone with impunity, failing to block any passing lanes at any point in time. The result was allowing 4 goals against in the period, and Peter Budaj coming on in relief for the second time in 2 games.
Something isn't working for Price this year. Coming into the game he still had a very solid save percentage at even strength, and even after this one it's still at .923, which is above league average. But there's a problem. Whether he has a nagging injury like what was rumoured during training camp, or he's overzealously adopted Jonathan Quick's technique to terrible result as Chris Boyle has observed, something isn't working.
Price isn't the only big name goalie struggling this year, as Quick has a sterling (for 1984) .898 save percentage, Jaroslav Halak has a .899, Pekka Rinne has a .914, Roberto Luongo has a .913, Cam Ward had a .908 before he was hurt, and Jonas Hiller has a .906. Price is neither the best, nor worst of these struggling goaltenders with a .908 on the season, but it's not a good group to be a part of.
In an 82 game season, Price would have a possible 40 more starts to figure things out, but he probably has 4 left in this shortened season before the playoffs begin, with Budaj likely to see Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay, and Toronto in the last game of the year.
Last night aside, this is the best Canadiens team we've seen assembled since the early 90's and Price having his second worse season as a pro could be the difference between competing for a cup or not.
Then again, Patrick Roy had his worst season in 7 years in 1993, then he turned it on for for a .934 save percentages and 10 straight overtime wins in the playoffs.
The game itself isn't really worth recapping in detail, so I'm just going to bring up a couple of points of interest. Please forgive the lack of flow and random jumping around of thoughts.
The Flyers played dirty to start, looking to hurt guys, so Ryan White decided to actually hurt a guy, which will get him suspended for a long time. One thing I really hate about both the Flyers and Bruins though, is the late guy into a scrum that grabs a guy's head and yanks backwards or twists. Scott Hartnell, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton do this all the time. It's incredibly dangerous, especially when they take a person down. Far more dangerous than the odd Subban slewfoot that both fanbases like to cry about constantly. I really don't get why the league doesn't go after players that do it.
P.K. Subban seemed to be the only guy who brought it from puck drop. In a game where there were basically no positives, Subban's 2 assists to maintain a point per game pace, along with hitting the post multiple times, were a highlight. Subban's spectacular season has him on the same points pace as Jonathan Tavares and Claude Giroux (after we spotted Giroux 3 easy points last night). There have been many articles written lately about Subban not getting tough minutes, but any top 4 defenseman is playing tougher minutes than forwards, simply by virtue of playing more. And putting up similar production to certifiable franchise centermen is an accomplishment that needs more press. Screw the Norris, give him the damn Hart Trophy (actually don't do that please because then his next contract will be immense, it's already gonna be big).
I noted the same thing on twitter last night, and got a bunch of replies about Brendan Gallagher. The guy is never bad, but even though he motored most of the game, his first period was equally bad to most of his teammates.
So what was the problem? Passing was atrocious, and the effort wasn't there. My non-hockey fan brother was with me at the game, and kept asking why the Habs weren't trying. I didn't know exactly how to answer that, but if it's that easily observable, something wasn't right.
I really want Wayne Simmonds to be a Montreal Canadien. I know he probably never will be, but I would love to see a Pacioretty - Eller - Simmonds line. I think they would just crush people.
Speaking of Max Pacioretty, it's time to remove him from David Desharnais' wing. The chemistry that fans, media, and the coaching staff thought they had is not there. Pacioretty scored a goal in the game as soon as he got a shift with Plekanec, and Therrien couldn't seem to settle on who to give Plekanec as linemates, so why not try Pacioretty? Sheltering Pacioretty so heavily seems to have put him to sleep, and I think he needs a challenge to get to the next level.
Speaking of being challenged, Alex Galchenyuk was run 4 different times without the puck in the first period. He responded by laying a legal check on a Flyer in a vulnerable position. He got a boarding penalty for it, but honestly it was pretty awesome to see him stand up for himself and not take crap. He also scored a goal, bringing his season total to 7, which put him on a 43 point pace in an 82 game schedule. Reminder, Tyler Seguin played nearly the exact same minutes per game as Galchenyuk against weaker competition as a rookie, and netted 22 points in 82 games. Seguin also didn't miss a whole year of junior before his rookie season. Galchenyuk is the best.
I guess most of what I'm saying here is that you're right to be angry about two really uninspiring losses, but in the context of this season, maybe temper it a little bit.
Check out Broad Street Hockey, not only because they won, but also because they're one of SB Nation's featured blogs of the week.