An Oh!-riginal Six weekend for the Habs and a CBC failure
Two games in two nights was not a good thing for the Montreal Canadiens, taking on back-to-back losses for just the second time this season.
Their 4-2 defeat, at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, was not a total disaster as they had a strong finish to attempt to tie the game. Saturday, on the other hand, was a total disaster, falling 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canadiens again played along the lines of showing up for a top-ranked team, then falling flat on their asses against a weaker squad. For those keeping score, the Leafs lead the season series two games to one.
Montreal found themselves under the gun on Friday, taking four minor penalties in the first period. Questionable calls? Yes, some of them were, but I am one of these guys who doesn't like to put as loss on the zebras.
Regardless, the Habs held their own and were first on the board, thanks to Travis Moen. The relentless Red Wings attack pounded Carey Price for 18 shots in the first 20 minutes. Tomas Plekanec, one of the Canadiens top penalty killers (4:11 TOI) took a slashing call late in the period that resulted in a power play goal from Nicklas Lidstrom with just two seconds left to play. If only Josh Gorges had held onto the puck in the corner for a second or two longer.
Montreal started to reorganize in the second period, but goals from Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk, in my opinion the best all-around player in the NHL, out of reach.
The visiting club then played perhaps their best period of the season, shutting the Red Wings to just three shots, while firing 19 at Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings goalie admitted post game, that he was inspired by the large Montreal contingent sheering "Carey, Carey" and allowed a single goal, from Benoit Poulliot, in the period.
Note to Habs fans: Don't get over excited cheering for Price in the opposing barn!
With Price pulled, the Canadienshad their chance to tie it, unitl Jaroslav Spacek made a foolish no-look cross-ice pass on the blue line. Patrick Eaves finished the turnover with an empty net goal.
It was the first time this season that the Canadiens allowed four goals in regulation, and they were the last team in the league to allow it. Given that it was an empty net goal, that really says something for the Montreal defense and the value of Carey Price.
With a bit of confidence coming out of Friday's game, you'd think you'd see somer motivation at the ACC, right?
Wrong. The Canadiens were outshot 11-4 in the first twenty minutes, taking over ten minutes to register their first one, and Alex Auld allowed what could be considered a pair of weak goals, but I wouldn't put the blame completely on him.
Phil Kessel's first goal in seven games, saw four red jersey's behind or off to the side of the goal. P.K. Subban took a slide across the ice which negated Jeff Halpern from getting back to the net. Auld was likely expecting the puck to come out the other way and left some room for the Leafs winger to slip it past him.
The Tomas Kaberle goal, his fist since the team changed their name from the St. Pat's, was on the three on one that started off a Canadiens turnover in the offensive end. This one though I have to question Auld's positioning. He seemed to be in the right spot, but when he went across the crease, he sunk back towards the goal line. The puck then slid in as Auld deperately tries to get his trapper down on it.
With the Canadiens already without Andrei Markov, and missing Scott Gomez for two games, may now be without Spacek after he left the game following a melee with the Leafs' Clarke MacArthur.
Spacek gave his former Buffalo Sabres teammate a very questionable hit. MacArthur retaliated, words were said, then the Leafs forward exploded on the Habs defenceman.
MacArthur admitted during an intermission radio interview that it was he initial hit that started it all. Spacek nearly slammed his head on the ice, and appeared to be favouring his shoulder as he left the ice.
Fortunatley Yannick Weber had been dressed as a forward, and filled the void on the blueline admirably.
A second period goal by Mike Cammalleri put the Canadiens within one. Montreal outshot the Leafs 10-3 in the period, but most of those shots, like many others were right at Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has now won six straight against the Habs.
Cammalleri may have also got the attention of the officials by noting a missed call in the period. To be fair the officiating was terrible at both ends, missing several calls and even a few questionable icings. The back-to-back interference calls on Halpern in the first were a bit of a joke, but as I said earlier it's no excuse for the end result.
While Weber held the fort on a very busy Habs defence, P.K. Subban is still a major work in progress. One thing I have noted when Subban is benched during a game is that he is rather tentative for a while when he returns to the ice. It usually takes a couple shifts for him to get his confidence back.
With a three game view from the press box, that may very well have been amplified. Subban's performance against Detroit was not his greatest, but it wasn't his worst either.
But his confidence is surely bruised, as evident in Saturday's game. Having already been on the ice for both Toronto goals, the Canadiens rookie found himself on the point with Auld pulled.
With the puck in his posession, Subban took one of his usual and predictable long windup shots and had it blocked by Fredrik Sjostrom.Subban's point shot is frustrating at best, and rival's Charles Barkley's tee shot in terms of backswign and hesitation.
For those who don't know what I'm talking about..
Only difference is, Barkley's hesitation has vastly improved over the last year or two.
Back to the game, where Subban made an non chalant one-handed effort to chip at the puck, but Sjostrom gets it to Kris Versteeg and it's game over.
Subban finished the game at -3 on the night. Post game he seemed not to be making excuses for his play but this quote really makes me wonder where his head is at.
If this is coming from a player who has been injured for some time, I think I'd accept it. But given he wasn't and could have used what practice or skate time was available over the last week to be ready , I don't buy it. That's just my view, but the team did have an optional skate on Saturday. Weber was there, Gomez was there Subban wasn't.
There's also the speculation that the complaints on Subban's play and/or attitude was not coming from the coaches, but rather his own teammates.
My initial armchair GM reaction would be to send Subban back down to Hamilton to get some confidence. It worked once for others, including Price and Maxim Lapierre. But with injuries to Markov and potentially Spacek, that option is no longer there. I guess we could dress Ryan O'Bryne...oh, wait...
If there was anything worse than the actual game, it had to be the CBC's atrocious broadcast.
For once it wasn't the loudmouths such as Don Cherry and Mike Milbury, or the ineptitude of P.J Stock or Healy that caused the headaches, but rather the production crew. In an attempt to bring the game to the next visual level, the broadcast was made available in 3D. As wonderful as the concept is, there are maybe what, 100 households across the country that could watch this new technology?
The Canadian Press had a chance to watch the game in 3D, and even they had their TV loaned from Panasonic. You can read their review of the technology, which gives it's pros and cons, and how CBC staff really tried to push the product throughout the game.
The end result was spreading the resources of the broadcast crews. For SD and HD viewers, the sound and video was cutting out regularly and the transmission was even caught in a loop on a few occasions. It was to the point that I tweeted as to whether or not we get a tax credit for the game, seeing taxpayers foot the bill on the network.
The CBC is always crying poorhouse when it comes to funding, so should they maybe have given this technology a bit more time?
Back to the second dimension, where the Candiens host the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, back-to-back starting Wednesday, before embarking on a seven-game road trip to close out December.