The Diachronic Barber Pole Observations of a Recovering Hockey Exile

Montreal Canadiens versus Philadelphia Flyers

December 7, 2009, by Homme De Sept-Iles

Musings and In-Game Scribbles

My English is as good as yours, I just write these in a stream-of-consciousness mode that I insist excuses me from small things like rules of grammar or general etiquette. Let’s call it conversational English, hopped up on beans. You know what kind of beans (no, Carl Mellesmoen, not the magic ones)

Montreal Canadiens (13-14-2) host Philadelphia Flyers (13-12-1)
Monday, December 7, 2009
Game Thirty (score posted following scribbles)
Musings and In-Game Scribbles are a “live blogging” of the game that are compiled (typed, actually) during the game and edited and posted shortly after the game.

RDS’ Pierre Houde and Benoit Brunet are standing, the arena looking dark behind them.  Two dark suits and they review, in brief, the team’s last game against the Bruins.  Brunet suggests that Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri’s good game (three goals) was in part motivated by having met so many of the Canadiens’ legends that night.

Some folks have asked me, “What is RDS?”  RDS is Reseau de Sports.  The French version of TSN.  In fact, TSN is the same company,  RDS is based in Montreal.

Philadelphia has a new coach.  John Stevens has been fired and Peter Laviolette has been hired to replace him.  They are similar coaches and the hire is reflective of the Flyer culture which favours many of the philosophies that may have been of value 35 years ago but are of less impact today.

Pugnacity and effort are not enough anymore.

First Period

Metropolit’s line starts.

Flyers win the faceoff and control the puck early.  Plekanec works well to take the puck away along the boards but passes it to a Flyer.  A whistle goes shortly afterward.

Gorges looks very quick accelerating out of the corner to start a rush.  He slips and loses his footing.

Philadelphia’s Aaron Asham chases the puck into the corner.  He keeps working well as enemy red surrounds him and he sets up a mid-range shot for the Flyers which goes wide.

Crowd cheers.  A fight begins.  Georges Laraque versus Riley Cote.  Laraque, according to the asinine rules that govern this activity, wins the fight but loses points for getting knocked down at the end.  Go ask someone who cares about fisticuffs to give you the 114—112s on it.

Philadelphia has their usual share of truck drivers and beer drinkers on board.  The latest cowboy is Chris Pronger.  Yeah, trucks are fine.  And I know beer has sugar or something.  What, trans fat?

Stick-to-your-face Ray Emery is also a Flyer.  A goalie.  He has been blamed in various media outlets for John Stevens’ firing.

But who is holding Flyer management accountable?

Brunet’s psychological evaluation of the Canadiens is that the team is nervous and that they don’t want to make any mistakes.

Seconds later, the Canadiens get their best chance so far.  It’s the first quality scoring chance for either team.  A shot from Gill that may have deflected.

Briere takes the puck down against three Canadiens; pushes, insists and fires it in chopping through the slot, even as Ryan O’Byrne shoves him to the ice.

He looks uncommonly happy on the Flyer bench.  Happier than a routine non-Bell Centre goal.

Philadelphia 1, Montreal 0

Gomez line follows.  They assert themselves in Flyer territory to start.  Lose it.  Then Gomez applies his will along the boards in the Montreal zone.

Briere’s goal is the result of marked individual effort and Brunet says “hats off to Briere”.  Daniel Briere is one of many players who choose not to play in Montreal despite their Quebecois heritage.

Briere was offered more money as a free-agent by Montreal than Philadelphia (he was originally a Buffalo Sabre).  But he elected for Philadelphia.  The pressures of the media and fans, the perceived high taxes and the weaker dollar could all be factors.  It’s also colder in Montreal than most other NHL cities.  Certainly colder than the American cities which comprise 24 of the 30 NHL teams.

Briere gets called for a high stick.

Montreal gets a man-advantage as Briere will be serving two minutes for the accidental stick to the face.  Accidents count.

Bergeron is past the end-line.  Very deep.  He gets back to the point and Habs are passing quickly, which I believe is a key to a successful power-play.  Move the defenders out of position and fire through the resulting lanes.  The man advantage should lead to great shot sight-lines on any resulting rebounds.  Just one of many strategies for the power-play.

Habs are negated.  A return to five-on-five sees Briere behind the Montreal net where he is boomed into the boards by Gorges.

Flyers have some control.  Briere goes after Gill who has the puck deep.  Briere hits him hard but it has little effect.  I’m impressed with Briere’s moxie, however.

Scuffle after a whistle; most of the 12 players on the ice are involved in the light sequence and I see Gill grappling with various Flyers and talking to Flyer captain Mike Richards throughout.  It’s hard to tell what’s being said but at the end I see Richards saying “Really?”

Anything could be discussed in these routine moments.  And scuffles are fairly routine.    “Hawaii time-shares are down 15% for next summer, Mike”.

Kostitsyn isn’t paying a high level of attention and a puck bounces towards and away from him during a three-on-two.  Plekanec led the rush and his shot caromed away harmlessly.

Flyers follow with a two-on-one of their own and Gorges challenges the puck-carrier very well while Travis Moen and Scott Hartnell collide with the long-haired, cavish Hartnell crashing into the post, taking the net off its moorings.  Neither player is hurt or angry.

We resume with a faceoff to Price’s right.  Bob Barker.

Metropolit shows good agility and puck control in getting around an unexpectedly close Flyer.

Canadiens get a good chance but both Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt D’Agostini are both unready for the puck that flew quickly from the corner.

On the other end, O’Byrne is called for interference.

Moen and Plekanec are the first pairing on the penalty-kill.  Gill and Gorges are the first defensive pairing.  Flyers get an early shot but it’s stopped by Price.

Canadiens clear off the faceoff.

Minute and a half.  Carter slides in tilting around the net.  Sergei and Gomez are the next pairing.  Kostitsyn (the younger brother of Andrei Kostitsyn) lifts the puck himself, stickhandles well and passes crisply to the other side to Gomez.  A pretty piece of work.

Next segment begins with 27 seconds left in the penalty.  It lasts six seconds before the Canadiens clear it again.  This is enough to end the penalty.

Crowd is very quiet.  The music they choose to play over the PA system is doing nothing to help.  Zero increase in crowd noise.

Metropolit nearly steals the puck in front of the Flyer net but loses it in the end.  D’Agostini now nearly causes a turnover.  Moments later he one-hands a pass with a Flyer all over him.  Good strength and even better job staying low and leaning to keep his balance.

Period ends on that play.

Flyers lead on shots 4 to 1.  Small number.  Seemed like there were more shots that made it to the net.

First Intermission
Philadelphia 1, Montreal 0

Alain Crete, Jacques Demers and Joel Bouchard discuss the first period.  He says that Price wasn’t very good on the Briere goal and we see a small orange boy moving left and shooting to his right while big red bears loom, shove and skate near him.  Danny, the gold damsel.

Smaller men playing a bigger man’s game create a grandmotherly sense of suspense.  A fear for a slender player’s immediate future.

Hal Gill is the interviewee.  His French is non-existent.  We are told that he logged 8:14 in the first period.  The Canadiens top defenceman, Andrei Markov (out with an injury for several more weeks yet) would log about 25, 26 a game.  Defencemen log more minutes per game, as a group, than forwards.  About five to seven minutes more if you compare starters.  Rough figures.

Second Period
Philadelphia 1, Montreal 0

Canadiens get an early jump and Pacioretty enters two-on-two with Metropolit to his right.  Pacioretty shoots early and it goes wide.  He has a lot to learn.  Does he really have to learn it here?  Can he learn in Hamilton, Bob?  (Hamilton Bulldogs are Montreal’s farm team; le club ecole comme on dit en Francais)

Flyers have a short, tidy possession leading to a pass to the blue line from Briere to Coburn for a sharp shot that is gloved by Price.

Price is called for delay of game as he accidentally leverages the puck over the glass in a clearing attempt.  Two minutes.

In the old days goalies used to serve their penalties.  Now a skater is selected by the penalized team to serve in the goaltender’s stead.

Flyers can’t get set up for the first minute.  Some missed passes and some poor forechecking are the culprits.

With forty-five seconds the Orange and Black get a brief control on the point.  But moments later Plekanec steals it and shoots it down.  Icing is legal during a penalty-kill.

Brunet observes Cammalleri miss a shot and he says he isn’t the same Cammalleri as the other night.  Slapshot is blocked by a well-placed stick on a two-on-two.

Canadiens get their second shot of the night and members of the crowd jeer this poor stat.  Six minutes elapsed in the second period.

Plekanec wins the faceoff.

Canadiens are moving faster.  Plekanec and Kostitsyn are skating and passing with one another down and then around the Flyer net.  Then Plekanec gets it behind the net and quickly clicks it to Andrei who golfs it in.

Montreal 1, Philadelphia 1

He didn’t get all of it but enough.  It bounced upwards in an odd way.

Lapierre line is next.

Bounce pass from Sergei is intercepted behind the Canadiens net and the Flyers benefit with a six-second possession.  No shots result, no passes either.

Canadiens are deep.  Pacioretty.  Fires from the boards at a Poe-Allen door-angle light-in line of shadow.  And it’s very dangerous in its result.  But no Habs sticks can stab the puck.

Cammalleri line is on.  Cammalleri is delivering some fine work on the boards.  Waits. Captures.  Avoids.  Retains.  Turn-key with the puck.  Twist of Samsonov.  But nothing further as Plekanec was watching all the while.

Cammalleri’s turning ability is tighter, faster and more elegant than perhaps every one of his teammates.

Fans are in the mood for another 5-1 win.  That’s what they’re waiting for.  Looking at the replays of that game’s goals, I decided that Boston’s turnovers were as much a part of the lopsided score as the Canadiens skyward mood.

Lapierre is the most energetic player for the team tonight.  He nearly generates a scoring chance on a quick two-on-one but can’t control it quickly enough to get the spacing he wants.

Puck ends up on the boards in the neutral zone.

It seeps out and Lapierre grabs this one for another two-on-one.  His speed is the same (bold), his hesitation is fine (cold), his pass is final (sold).  Cammalleri scores.  Big net.  Beautiful play from Maxim Lapierre.

Montreal 2, Philadelphia 1.

Following a brief commercial break, Brunet summarizes some Cammalleri stats (including his 39-goal output with Calgary Flames last season), saying that Cammalleri plays well at home.

Lapierre is on of the best players on the ice tonight.  Extra effort.  Using his speed.  Employing his repertoire of board and puck tricks to keep possession.

Just over two minutes left in the period.  Icing ends the play.

Andrei is doing just enough to appear as if he is forechecking.  It’s not enough from a player that has just three goals in the first thirty games of the season.

Second Intermission
Montreal 2, Philadelphia 1

It’s too easy to evaluate a game by the scoreboard.  Montreal is leading 2-1 but isn’t playing very well.  Philadelphia is playing even worse.  Another cheese-behind-the-fridge organization.  Should we care about poorly managed teams?  I think not.  Even if they are ours.

Luckily, Montreal appears properly managed if not perfectly managed.  Hey, there’s only one Stanley Cup.

Today’s player-coach dynamic in which players are protected by the CBA and make far more than a coach creates a dynamic that is doomed to fail.  What kind of dynamic sees the boss paid less than his employees?  It’s a formula for toxicity.  And it is the reason so many teams are dysfunctional.  Coaches should have a union and they should be paid more than players.

Third Period
Montreal 2, Philadelphia 1

The Flyers are a poor team and we are playing worse than they are.  Philadelphia can’t pass, can’t skate and can’t commit to this game.  And the Canadiens, far more skilled and professional in their attitude are about even in time of possession.  Really shameful.

Coburn uses a knee to bring down Andrei behind the Flyer net.  Crowd boos briefly.  Flyers solve problems with their brawn because their talent can’t match.

Lunch money bullies, copying at test-time, threatening at assignment deadline.

Brunet says that the Canadiens are playing well since the start of the period.  Generous statement.

He corrects it moments later by saying the Canadiens are playing more convincingly.  Did Houde raise an eyebrow?

Pronger gets called for tripping.  Houde says that Pronger has received immunity all night and that this time he went too far.

Montreal power-play with just under fourteen minutes left in the period (and game).

Canadiens keep it alive with savvy and gusto but the Flyers clear it.  Then Jeff Carter gets a near-breakaway.  He is forced to his backhand and Hamrlik appears to have gotten away with a penalty.  Seconds later, Montreal gets called for too many men on the ice.

I can only shake my head on this obscure, early December night.

Night of the Hacks.

Canadiens giveaway.  Briere in.  With speed.  One Hab.  One goalie.  Fires.  Deflects upward.

Pffft.  Lucky.

Lucky, lucky.  And the Alien isn’t even awake.  For example, where is Hartnell’s hatorade?  Imagine if Philadelphia cared tonight?  Would Montreal have matched that intensity?  Canadiens are playing the same lacklustre style that marked their second period.

Just over eleven minutes left in the third.  Please don’t let it go into overtime.  I can’t take any more of this kind of passionless play.

Long pass to the point.  Total miss.  Goes to Price.  His 70-foot pass goes to a Flyer.  Directly.  Apathy is infectious.  What does it cause?  Turnovers.  What do they cause?  …

Sudden chance for Kostitsyn and Lapierre.  In the slot. The frenzy leads to a Flyer penalty even as Flyer goalie Brian Boucher is pressed into the post and half out of his crease.  Oh the indignity.

Montreal power-play.

Montreal establishes possession with ease.  Flyers are just watching.  Pass goes from Hamrlik on the left point to Bergeron for a one-timer on the right point and he tings the post on the way to a net-finder.  Goal.

Montreal 3, Philadelphia 1.

Montreal has a deceptive two-goal lead that flatters their efforts.  What will be written.  What will be said?  Anyone who says the Canadiens played well tonight, you can write off their hockey knowledge.  You know they’re just going by the final score.  Lazy.  Or ignorant.  Probably both.

At 7:22 left, the Flyers decide to care.  Canadiens match the effort.  Lapierre is on for this matching of effort.

Jean Beliveau is at each home game.  Does he watch each road game, I wonder.

I’d be embarrassed to play passionless hockey in front of Jean Beliveau.  Really.  I mean, really.

Six and a half.

Two-on-one.  Kostitsyn tapped it to Plekanec to effect an exit then skated hard to get into receiving position.  Defender played the angles perfectly and forced Plekanec to shoot from a bad angle.  Prevented the passing lane.  Plekanec shot and was foiled.  Easily.

But I liked the efforts of both players there.

Is Scott Gomez the best skater on the team?  What effortless acceleration.  Mighty wind in your towels.  It’s an overcast, domestic night.  What the weather kept in.  Putting a roof over mediocrity.

Should I play down to that level?

Go Habs, Go.

Four minutes.

Yeah, ok.  Get me eighteen linebackers.  Junior Seau, Glen Jackson, Don Moen, James West, Doug Battershill, Lawrence Taylor, Ben Zambiasi, Stewart Hill, Bernie Morrison, Dan Kepley, Ken Ciancone, Dick Butkus, Ted Hendricks, Ty Crews, Vince Goldsmith, Frank Robinson, Tyrone Jones, Andre Tippett and Paul Randolph.

Dated myself.  I know.  Give them skates and give em red, white and blue.  One year to teach them skating and look out.

Minute and a half.  Tripping.  Gorges.

Philly power-play.

Flyers win the faceoff.  Inelegant action from both.

Flyers pull their goalie next.  Gill gets a long shot that just misses the net.  Goalie looking long.  Rarity.

Another clear.  Crowd cheers as if Montreal played well.  Pathetic.

Game ends.

Montreal 3
Philadelphia 1

HDS Stars: Maxim Lapierre, Daniel Briere, Tomas Plekanec
RDS Stars: Roman Hamrlik, Daniel Briere, Tomas Plekanec

I admire RDS’ choice of a defenceman as first star.  They choose Roman Hamrlik who had two assists tonight and played his usual low-mistake game.  Give Markov the “C” and give Hamrlik the “A”.  Forget about all that Cammalleri captain talk.  And if you’re going to have a forward, it’s Gionta that brings it every shift.  Not Cammalleri.

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