As frequenters of the game thread know, I had the good fortune of being at the game last night. There's so much you see at the game that isn't apparent on TV. One thing that's apparent no matter how you take in the game is that P.K. Subban is undeniably among the best players in the NHL. The first period was the Subban show, from deking around seemingly every single Blue Jackets player, to turning a great defensive play into a 100+ foot pass right onto Rene Bourque's tape for a breakaway goal, to beautiful puck protection and deking that gave Andrei Markov room to find Michael Bournival for the first goal of his NHL career. Subban now has 10 points in 7 games, a mark bested by only one player in the entire NHL, some guy named Sidney Crosby. Take a bow, P.K.
There is still one problem with Subban though, and it's something he can't control. I don't like blaming officials often, but it's gotten to the point now where it's more than obvious that they target Subban. Things every player gets away with are called for him, and even when there's no infraction at all, sometimes they're just made up. Subban took an "elbowing" penalty tonight where he made contact on a perfectly legal check with his elbow tucked, and on the ensuing powerplay Columbus was able to get back into the game.
Perhaps partially due to the penalty, Therrien decided to cut Markov and Subban's ice time a bit last night in favour of Josh Gorges and Raphael Diaz. This was an extremely confusing decision, because those two were an unmitigated disaster all game. However, Diaz found a way to make up for it, with two amazing blocks that prevented a tying goal in the final minute, and clearing the zone to set up the empty net goal that sealed the deal.
Josh Gorges is also on an extremely rare three game point streak, something he hasn't done since the last three games of the 2011-12 season. This is the third time Gorges has managed a three game point streak in his career, and he's never managed four.
Can we talk about Michael Bournival for a second? He scored his first goal of the season last night, and played over ten minutes for the second straight game. He was also a shocking 100% in Fenwick at evens, and had a very solid shift on the penalty kill. I know that the veterans supercede the rookie, but I don't think Bournival should be a healthy scratch again. His play has been simply fantastic, he had five shots last night in his ten minutes of ice time, five!
Bournival has been the exact opposite of David Desharnais, who after a couple of solid games returned to the form we saw over his first four. Afraid of contact, losing the puck almost before he receives it, and the worst possession numbers on the team, are signs that there's something seriously wrong.
Fans like to lump Danny Briere in with Desharnais, but every game I see Briere trying, and he's just old and declining. I don't see the same care level from Desharnais. I see reaching instead of skating, and I see him giving up on plays where he could do something positive because he's afraid to get hit. It's very concerning, and Therrien's heavy defensive deployment last night didn't help matters.
Also concerning is that Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are officially struggling. They struggled to hold possession while with Plekanec in tough minutes, but even while getting serious offensive deployment last night with Eller, the line struggled. Galchenyuk in particular is getting hurt on the defensive side of the puck, and he's going to have to seriously step up while Max Pacioretty is out for the next three weeks.
It was Galchenyuk's line that was victimized on the Blue Jackets' only even-strength goal of the night, although it was Lars Eller who flubbed a simple play that created a two-on-one break. We can talk about how Subban shouldn't have made the pinch, or how Markov played the break poorly, but what we should really say is that Ryan Johansen's shot was flat out beautiful. Carey Price has been phenomenal this season, and it was the first time since the first game of the season that he was beat cleanly. Johansen went bar down with a wrist shot that rang through the Bell Centre, and no matter who you cheer for, that's pretty cool.
After Boone Jenner tied the game at three (by the way credit to Robert Rice who called before the game that Jenner would score his first career goal tonight), everything was pointing towards the game going to overtime. Tomas Plekanec though, decided that wouldn't be the case.
On what seemed like a relatively harmless zone entry, Plekanec was looking to make a pass to Brandon Prust, which Sergei Bobrovsky anticipated. At the last second though, Plekanec noticed that Bobrovsky was cheating and he he fluttered a shot at the net that Bobrovsky was just slightly too out of position to grab.
Moments later Plekanec also potted the empty netter on a Prust pass. Speaking of Prust, he lead all Habs forwards in ice time, and looked great in doing it. Prust's chemistry with Plekanec and Brian Gionta is obvious, and just like last year his ability to fill that role is surprising and impressive. $2.5M for a fourth liner seems like a lot until he can play on the first line.
Here are the fancy stats from Extra Skater.
And don't forget to check out reaction from the losing side at The Cannon.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Max Pacioretty injury update: out for 3 weeks
- Canadiens vs. Blue Jackets - Top Six Minutes - You're off the force, Bobrovsky
- Ears on the Prize - Episode 6 - Archive
- École d'été (des indiens) sur les statistiques fines: Obsession possession !
- How many dirty hits does it take to make a dirty player?