Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Game 1 in Review: Low Quality Hockey On The NHL's Return

Thanks to everyone who responded by picking players for the dome. I think it went very well. It's not the dome I would have chosen, but I think we knew that would be the case after 5 years of arguing about these picks.

I won't be doing recaps after every game (sometimes, I'll group them in a weekly recap), but this being the first game, I'm making the exception.


Brian Gionta (73% of votes)

Gionta  was the only goalscorer in what was a pretty sad game for the team skating around the ice surface. Although I can say that he is thoroughly deserving of the choice, and was the first guy I penned in too, I do have to add that he was not Gionta of his best Habs days. In fact, if this Gionta is the one we get for the rest of the season (assuming it's not a goal a game), then that buyout police in the summer might be giving his name some consideration.

Brandon Prust (59% of votes)

I thought Prust did a fine job in the role in which he was cast. He fought and didn't lose and created something right off the get-go (disallowed, of course). He outshone Moen by a long margin and deserved his dome selection based on the mediocre displays all-around.

Rene Bourque (59% of votes)

This one took me aback a bit. Just from watching, he wasn't high on my list. For a guy we expect to be a top-three goalscorer on the team, he sure didn't look it. An examination of his detailed stats reveal that he was atrocious as a member of the ineffective Eller line, accounting for no scoring chances for for nine against. But I suppose what you all saw was his PP performance, and fair enough. I've long said the obsession with 5-on5 stats (because they are easier to isolate and interpret) is a bit neglectful to forwards who produce a lot of value for their team when goals come calling on the PP. Bourque was on the ice for all the important PP chances and played an important part in the one and only goal.

If I'm honest though readers, this dome so far looks like the answer to: "Who performed better than you expected?". Because while Pacioretty, Cole and Desharnais played willfully into the shot-blocking tactics of the Maple leafs defence, they still did all the little things right along the way. I guess we'll see over a season what becomes of them.


Alexei Emelin (68% of votes)

He was quite a standout for the viewer in this one. He defended well and gave the Maple Leafs pause before they would enter a zone he was patrolling. I think he was probably the best player other than our goalie in this one.

Andrei Markov (65% of votes)

Markov gives us all a reminder of what he can do in an off-game. I say off-game, because his passes really weren't of the top Markov quality, quite a number hopped long and wide in this game. But even without his foremost quality, he shone as a top defender in this contest.


Carey Price (100% of votes) -- Game Puck

An unsurprising pick for the dome and game puck. Carey was up to his old tricks letting in the first scoring chance (and shot) of the season, but he showed that was a mere statistical anomaly as he went on to make a fair number of difficult and, ultimately, game saving efforts. Keeping a team in a game like this is all one can ask of a goalie and he delivered perfectly in that regard.

Overall comments

The prevailing question after watching this game was: "How did they feel about making people pay to watch that?"

Frankly, it was a display of some of the sloppiest and unimaginative hockey I've seen in many seasons. I'm going to be generous here and attribute this to the ridiculously short prep period each team was given, rather than to Michel Therrien's ill-designed system. But I could be wrong. We'll have to see.

The Habs were also by far the worse of the two outfits. They were thoroughly outchanced, and their generous total of 22 shots came very largely from the perimeter. The line that should be tearing through such a rag-tag Leafs defence ended up missing or having their shots blocked far too often for my tastes. There was no bite, and there was loads of missed opportunity. Defensively, there was a lot of loose coverage and miscue, and the no-longer-underpaid or underrated Josh Gorges looked like he hadn't done anything for months.

The bright spots here were few. Price made some good saves. Markov and Emelin synced well, Kaberle shot and shot well, Diaz (when he can receive a pass) has a good shot from the point. As you noted in the dome, Bourque and Prust might not be as bad as we feared they'd be (Armstrong and Moen might be).

The main bright spot remains the fact the team looked unprepared and with time could not ever be less so. If the trouble was that a team is between systems and some members still need to get used to something other than watching twitter for negotiation reports, then time will heal.

Astute commenters also noted that the Canadiens quite thoroughly lacked PK Subban. After observing what is happening around the league right now, I'd say that not having him in place is an even greater waste than it looks on the surface. With so many players (Habs and on every team) so clearly out of shape, the skating and skilled members of the league are having a little field day here. PK would be well placed to join in the fun with his smooth strides and straightforward thirst for goals. Bergevin is miscalculating on so many levels. But then like a slow start to Therrien's reign, what else should we have expected?

Another try tonight against the intriguing Panthers. Let's see if they give the fans their money's worth.

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