I’m so used to this team being completely out of games that I had to perpetually remind myself between periods on Saturday that the Montreal Canadiens were only down by a goal.
Much of that has to do with the heroics of Samuel Montembeault, who’s making me look smarter and smarter for praising him when he first joined the team. Not that I’m the kind of guy who says, “I told you so.” Although I just wrote this paragraph, so maybe I am?
Regardless, the person I wanted to zero in on today is Alexander Romanov. Despite having a bad five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, there was a lot to like with his showing yesterday (See? i DO watch the games).
With 11:50 left in the first period, “The Tsar,” as Patrik Bexell dubbed him, tried to line up a hit on Montreal’s blue line. What I found impressive with this play was that he missed the hit but still managed to play the puck. Usually, when a defender commits to hitting someone coming over the blue line, it’s a high risk play. If he lands the hit, the offensive-zone play is over; if he misses it, then his team is down a defender for a few seconds while he regroups.
This play represents huge growth in Romanov's game. The fact that missing the hit was not a death sentence shows a new level of maturity. His game was far from perfect, but that’s one of a few instances when he showed a significant step forward.
Even statistically I would argue that his poor possession numbers had less to do with him and more to do with the play of Ben Chiarot, which was objectively bad by every standard. The numbers bear this out. Away from Chiarot, Romanov broke even in shot attempts. While they were paired together, Romanov dropped to 15.4%.
The point, as it seems to me, of hiring Martin St. Louis was to help with the development of the young players. The season is already lost, so don’t throw away the prospect pool with it. Watching Romanov play significant minutes and Caufiled score a huge goal suggests to me that hiring him may have been a stroke of genius.
It still sucks to lose; you could see it all over Jeff Petry’s face at the end of the game. But at least it was just that ... a proper hockey game.