“Fortune favours the brave,” said Pliny the Elder as he steered his ship toward the shoreline near the vicinity of Pompeii after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Dominic Ducharme threw caution in the wind and went hard after the Vancouver Canucks in the last few minutes of regulation in last night’s game. The coach pulled Jake Allen for an extra attacker with two minutes to go, giving his players a fair chance to earn a draw. A puck-out-of-play penalty gave the team over a minute to equalize, and the coach went for it. He put his best players on the ice and asked them to deliver, and they did. Aided by a prolonged chance to play at six-on-four, only six seconds were needed for Nick Suzuki to score.
However, in overtime, with one point already in the bank and no chance to lose it, the chance-taker Mr. Hyde transformed into the calm, careful, and boring Dr. Jekyll who didn’t want to be found wanting. The fortune that had favoured Ducharme’s brave decision earlier was gone, Montreal got the first chance after having lulled their opponents to sleep, but were themselves caught off guard as Vancouver struck back with a vengeance, winning the game after a good individual effort from J.T. Miller.
Ducharme should the lauded for going for it with two minutes to go, but he will also get flak for starting the overtime with Phillip Danault, Paul Byron, and Jeff Petry. Danault and Byron have scored a combined four times in the opening 30 games, and to expect them to suddenly burst out and win it in overtime would make you one of the most optimistic people in the world.
The coach said afterward, “when Anderson, Toffoli, and those guys come on the ice, I want them to have the puck. Danault is there to win the faceoff and get us possession to allow us to go three forwards. The strategy worked, we got the Anderson chance after keeping possession.”
Yet if Danault is there to win the faceoff, why did he not leave the ice after winning it? If he believes the team only has one player that can be trusted for faceoffs that is a weakness that should be adressed. But even that is not the case, with Jesperi Kotkaniemi being just a few percentage points behind Danault on the night — actually outperforming him in Winnipeg the night before — and a superior offensive player.
Paul Byron is a fourth-liner, with great skating, but really Jonathan Drouin had a great game, even taking faceoffs towards the end. He also has puck control and offensive skills that are valuable in overtime, why not at least use him next to Danault to give yourself a chance on the first shift?
You can not lose a point in overtime, only win an additional one. Fortune favours the brave. Like the high-octane overtime in the World Cup of Hockey between a young Team North American and Sweden. It seems that Montreal’s coach isn’t bold enough to proceed under full sail in the extra minutes of the game.