Friday, October 7, 2011
06/10/11: Toronto 2, Montreal 0; false start for Habs
Rome wasn't built in a day. The Stanley Cup isn't awarded in October. Et cetera, et cetera. Just like "it's only preseason," these excuses do hold some weight, but at some point your Montreal Canadiens are going to have to start performing up to their potential.
If you didn't watch the game, don't be fooled by the boxscore. It may look like a hot James Reimer is the only thing that allowed his team, outshot 32-18, to win on opening night. The Canadiens may have technically had 32 shots on goal, but you'd be hardpressed to find more than a handful of quality scoring chances. Reimer was good, no doubt, but he was by no means forced to be anything more than just good.
The problems with the Canadiens in the opener were predictible. They looked much more like the 2-6-0 preseason team than just the team that kicked Tampa's butt in the final exhibition game. Montreal was "good" in the first period (there's that word again), but sloppy, unable to cash on a couple of in-close opportunities and often making one too many ill-advised pass despite having puck possession for most of the opening frame. But Montreal was only good. In reality, the reason the play was so one-sided is that the Leafs were terrible, causing turnover after giveaway after turnover. When Toronto started to play a little in the second, the tide turned just as quickly.
The defense, my biggest concern coming into the season, was weak. Josh Gorges and Hal Gill are effective shot blockers, but as a group, they lack major leaders and minute-eaters, or true physical/containment types. The team misses Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski right now, no doubt, and will continue to miss them until Andrei Markov is healthy enough to play. P.K. Subban did not have a good night, being one of those at fault on both Maple Leaf goals, and for a second time in his three games with the club, Chris Campoli was unable to finish the night, this time seemingly out for the next couple of weeks. That is the gamble you take in banking on a guy who hasn't had a full training camp. The groin is a major area of concern.
The bottom pairing of Raphael Diaz and Jaroslav Spacek frankly didn't look to be NHL caliber last night. You can blame it on Diaz's nerves, but Spacek is a veteran who was hoping to make amends for a poor year and was coming off a good preseason. He is certainly at high risk of losing his job as players get healthier.
Speaking of veterans coming off good preseasons and hoping to impress, Scott Gomez seemed to revert to the guy he was all of last season. It's only one game, of course, but the effort level and turnovers from Gomez were far from encouraging.
The team's powerplay was atrocious, much like it was throughout preseason, and the experiment of Tomas Plekanec at the point will and should be short-lived. The penalty kill, along with the play of Carey Price (though he didn't have the busiest of evenings) was one of the few bright spots on an anticlimactic evening for Canadiens fans around the globe.
But don't despair. It's only one game. The team wasn't going to go 82-0-0. All they have to do is regroup and walk into a rocking building in Winnipeg to steal the Jets' thunder Sunday night.