Montreal 3 Philadelphia 5 (Bell Centre)
MONTREAL, QC.– Michael Bournival was the final cut from Team Canada this morning as the team who will compete at the World Junior Championships has been finalized. From all accounts, Bournival acquitted himself well, but didn’t have the size or speed to set himself apart from the rest of the pack. He was eyeing one of the bottom six energy roles.
Bournival certainly won’t be helping the Montreal Canadiens anytime soon, if at all. If all the stars align, he is projected to be a third line center several years from now. When the time comes, Bournival will be competing with a mitt full of players in the organization who could fill the same role. Alternatively the Habs GM of the day could spend just above the league minimum and pick up a Jeff Halpern-type of player.
What the Canadiens really need, and need immediately, is a big stat-at-home defenseman who plays physically, skates well and can clear the front of the net especially against a team like the Flyers. I can think of a guy who fits the bill but unfortunately plays on another team. He plays on the top defense pairing, logs more than 20 minutes a game in icetime, and has more hits than any Canadiens defenseman.
His name is Ryan O’Byrne. Oops!
O’Byrne was run out of town by a coach who undercut his confidence and were assisted by media and fans who didn’t like his name. All three groups have taken a “see no evil” approach to the play of O’Byrne’s replacement, Alexandre Picard. The well-travelled defenseman has had flashes of competence mixed with regular bouts of dumb decision-making.
Unfortunately Picard has been paired with P.K. Subban who has been piling up the mental errors. The two combined to give the Flyers their first goal. Subban made a bad giveaway while Picard botched his defensive coverage. Another Subban turnover led to a goal by Claude Giroux that put the final nail in the Habs coffin.
Subban’s power-play goal somewhat masked that he had his third suspect outing since his return to the lineup. But Subban wasn’t the only one. Jaroslav Spacek had a brain camp and got caught in the offensive zone while killing a penalty. That led to the Flyer’s winning goal.
It was an adventure for Hal Gill who ended the game at minus-2. Gill’s partner, Josh Gorges, still appears to be ailing. Gorges played 17:46, well under his season average ice-time.
Coach Jacques Martin wasn’t prepared to point fingers at his defenseman. Instead, he took a defensive stance, saying that if the team had listened to him and played his system, they could have beat the Flyers. He is starting to sound like a coach who is concerned about his job.
Canadiens fans can be encouraged by the play of the forwards. For the first time all season, the Habs had two top lines who were effective scoring threats.
It should not be a revelation that Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta play better when paired with each other. Nor should it have been a surprise that they struggled when constantly saddled with slugs. Tonight Max Pacioretty provided the spark and the complimentary skills to ignite the line.
It also allowed Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Mike Cammalleri to be reunited. When the three are allowed to play together for an extended time to recapture their chemistry, they are the team’s best offensive force.
Lars Eller can create scoring chances and was a good choice to center Mathieu Darche and Benoit Pouliot as the third line. The energy line was comprised of Jeff Halpern, Max Lapierre and Travis Moen.
The Habs forwards were making tape-to-tape passes. Players were able to attack with speed. Being comfortable with one’s linemates can go a long way to making a unit effective. Just ask Cammalieri.
As the coach is prone to do, he tinkered with the lines in the third period. Some things worked, others didn’t. The Canadiens just couldn’t overcome their defensive miscues even though they dominated for long stretches of the game.
Such is the lesson to be learned when playing the top team in the NHL.
The Canadiens are back in action on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, when the face Boston.
All Habs game stars
1. Michael Cammalleri
2. Scott Gomez
3. Max Pacioretty
Dustin Boyd, Tom Pyatt and Yannick Weber were healthy scratches. Andrei Markov is out for the season with a knee injury.
(photo by Shaun Best / Reuters)
Category: Game review