We all should know by now that preseason, especially the first few games, means essentially nothing. Unless your team wins, then it means absolutely everything and there's partying in the streets! But seriously, although it's always nice to come away with a win, what matters more in preseason players looking good by the end of it. We still have to recap the game though, so let's do that together.
I was lucky enough to be offered a chance to go to the game live due to the generosity of our own Laura Saba and her friend Sarah, and the seats were pretty amazing.
After a pretty dominant first minute of the game, the Canadiens managed to fall behind early in a "Welcome to the NHL" moment for Nikita Scherbak, as he tried to make s fancy behind the back pass while covering for a pinching Jarred Tinordi, and ended up giving the puck right to Ryan Spooner, who beat Dustin Tokarski on a partial break.
Scherbak's giveaway may not have been so bad, if Greg Pateryn would have committed to defending against Spooner, but for some reason he played it as if there was a 2-on-1, when there wasn't. It was the start of a really rough game for the pairing of Tinordi and Pateryn, who don't seem to have complimentary skill sets at all, so I'm not sure why they were the top duo in Hamilton last year.
I liked Michel Therrien's reaction to the goal, in that no one was benched and he kept rolling his lines. It's preseason after all, no reason to freak out.
When Rene Bourque took a lazy penalty just over seven minutes into the first period, it was pretty surprising to see Magnus Nygren on the first wave of the penalty kill, especially with his reputation for being poor in the defensive zone, but the first play he made was to stand up a Bruin on an attempted zone entry and clear the puck, the start of a banner night for the young Swede.
Unfortunately, near the end of the penalty kill some bad gap control by Joe Finley and Nygren resulted in Matt Fraser getting way too much time in the slot to fire a bullet wrister through Tokarski to make it 2-0 Bruins. At this point, Laura turned to me and said she was never bringing me to another game because I was bad luck.
However the Canadiens started turning the tide a little bit, with Michael McCarron laying a beauty hit in the Bruins zone and taking a nice shot on net, and Charles Hudon's line with Scherbak and Bourque buzzing. After drawing a couple of penalties, the Habs shot themselves in the foot a little by playing a dump and chase game that saw the Bruins play keep-away in their own zone fairly easily.
As the first was winding down though, Jiri Sekac grabbed a loose puck in high slot on a broken play, and drove down towards the dot in the left side faceoff circle and wired a slap shot off the stick of David Krejci that fooled Niklas Svedberg and hit mesh.
The second period saw Nikita Scherbak kick it up yet another notch with his playmaking ability, setting up Rene Bourque for a sure goal, but it appears that, at least for now, "Almost Bourque" is back, and he couldn't get it to go. However even if Scherbak couldn't make a difference with his passing, he drew a penalty to give Montreal a chance to even it up, and the Bulldogs line of Nick Sorkin, Sven Andrighetto, and Christian Thomas did just that. A scramble in front of the net saw Andrighetto win his battle and get the puck on net and near Thomas, and Thomas just kept swatting it at until it went in.
The second period was marred a little bit by a nasty shove/trip on Michael McCarron off of a solid rush after the play was dead, sending him face first into the post, and apparently doing a number on his arm. McCarron took awhile to get up, but skated off with the help of the team trainer. A few people noted post game that there wasn't much scrummy crap or dirty plays for a Habs/Bruins game, then I thought of McCarron and chuckled a little that the Bruins only maliciously injuring one player is considered a clean game now... But I digress.
The third period began with a rousing cheer for the Bruins new netminder, as they took Svedberg out in favour of Malcolm Subban. Clearly his brother P.K. was proud, because the broadcast showed him beaming with pride and tweeting with Dominick Saillant. The cheers for Malcolm soon turned into a hostile "Suuuu-bbaaaaan" chant, which was extremely weird to hear in Montreal.
Subban though, wasn't rattled by the jeers, as he made several excellent stops while the Bulldogs line of Andrighetto, Thomas, and Sorkin dominated the period, generating chance after chance off of the speed of Thomas and the puckhandling of the other two.
Just when it seemed like the two sides were destined for overtime, Thomas' hustle for a loose puck finally paid off, as he sauced a nice pass across the Bruins' crease that Drayson Bowman smacked past Subban in the final minute of play.
It doesn't mean anything because it's preseason, but a comeback win against the Bruins just feels good, especially when they started two of their top three centers and the Habs essentially cheated to have only 4 regular NHLers on the roster.
A few preseason scouting notes:
- Andrei Markov cared about this game as much as he cares about reporters asking about his personal life.
- Magnus Nygren finished the game with two assists but played the least of any defenseman.
- Joe Finley led the Habs in shots and chose to take a slap shot on a 2-on-1 breakaway because he thinks he's a star or something.
- He isn't.
- Charles Hudon tied for the lead on both teams in hits with four, and they weren't chintzy hits, he can throw the body.
- Jiri Sekac skates, handles the puck, and thinks the game at an NHL level.