Game 1: Toronto 2 Montreal 1 (Bell Centre)
“To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.” – Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
MONTREAL, QC. — As Michael Farber once said, “The only two Western institutions that really get ceremony are the House of Windsor and the Montreal Canadiens.” The Canadiens organization lived up to that billing once again to open the abbreviated 2012-’13 season.
Pass the torch of glory, figuratively and literally.
But as the lit torch was passed through the increasingly frail hands of former Canadiens captains, one wondered how much longer Habs fans will be satisfied to relive the emotional memories of past glory while hope of future championships remains dim.
But it was just one game.
And besides, P.K. Subban wasn’t in the lineup.
Despite the loss, there were definitely some positive signs and reasons to be hopeful. Carey Price silenced the concerns about an injury with some brilliant pad saves. Alex Galchenyuk had two shots on goal and didn’t look out of place. Brian Gionta scored on the power-play, fulfilling a promise that he made to his son.
And just wait ’til Subban signs…
Besides, this is a new Canadiens regime – a new general manager, a new coaching staff – a completely new direction.
Then why did it seem that we had seen this movie before? The Canadiens opened the previous season against the Leafs, losing the game 2-0. Looking back at the game notes, the Canadiens failings were an inability to generate scoring chances, shots from the perimeter and a lack of discipline.
The Habs racked up three minor penalties last night in the first 12 minutes of the game, five overall. And gave up two goals while short-handed.
Other than Ryan White‘s overzealous dash to the blue paint, Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens didn’t have to contend with red sweaters in his crease. In fact, Scrivens wasn’t severely tested all game.
It was a rather quiet night for the David Desharnais line. Jim Hughson from Hockey Night in Canada used the words “bumped off the puck” “separated from the puck” several times. Desharnais, himself, finished the game without a shot on goal.
It wasn’t Josh Gorges‘ best game either. But was it his fault or that of his defensive partner Francis Bouillon? Whoever was to blame, it was clear that these two defenseman weren’t on the same page — they were on the ice for both Toronto goals.
But if only Gorges’ regular partner, number 76, was playing, things would be different.
And it’s only one game. Or is it?
The Canadiens didn’t really look that much different than they did during training camp. The system looked similar to what we’ve seen over 39 games in Hamilton — the Bulldogs have won 13. And really, the Habs didn’t look much different to last season: almost good enough to win.
For all the grit, sandpaper and truculence that was added in the off-season, this is still a game about putting pucks into the back of the net. And while Subban is an upgrade over Bouillon or Raphael Diaz, he isn’t going to be the miracle cure for scoring once he signs a contract. He certainly wasn’t last season with only seven goals and 29 assists.
Looking back again to that opening game in Toronto a season ago, Subban was a minus-2.
Hughson began last night’s broadcast with “Tradition – nobody does it better than the Montreal Canadiens.” More than one fan feels that it’s time to replace ‘tradition’ with ‘winning.’
All Habs game stars
1. Carey Price
2. Brian Gionta
3. Alexei Emelin
The Canadiens will host Alex Kovalev and the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. Tickets are available here.
(featured photo by AP/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)
Category: Game review