Rene Bourque. When you see him play the way he did - a goal and an assist, good chemistry with his line mates, a lot of jump (well rested) and leading both teams with six shots on goal (another shot hit the post) - there is no thought of any so-called lingering health issues.
It was a game featuring the NHL's two best teams in Canada. But it was a telecast featuring only one of them.
•Rene Bourque. When you see him play the way he did - a goal and an assist, good chemistry with his line mates, a lot of jump (well rested) and leading both teams with six shots on goal (another shot hit the post) - there is no thought of any so-called lingering health issues. I thought we had seen the last of Bourque in a Habs jersey. Maybe he heard Chris Nilan on the air with me Friday afternoon when I asked Knuckles what he would say to Bourque if he was in the room: "You gotta bring it tonight. Be part of this team. Prove everybody wrong here. You got size, you can skate, you can hit, you can shoot the puck, you can pass the puck. C'mon - put it together - we need you. You might not think we do but we need you...if you're gonna put this jersey on have some pride and play to that emblem on the front, please...". Let's see how Bourque follows this up in Boston.
•Brian Gionta. Could it be he's actually getting stronger down the stretch? Keep him to 14 or 15 minutes a night instead of 17-20 and you'll likely see a more productive 35 year old captain. He played 14:30.
•Thomas Plekanec. His winning goal ended a 13 game goalless drought and sent Leafs fans to the edge of the top of the CN Tower. It was just his second goal in 24 games. The Habs lack of production down the middle had them experimenting with Alex Galchenyuk at centre. In practice only. For now. Plekanec has two offensively-minded wingers right now in Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. But if Daniel Briere falters between Bourque and Gionta, then Galchenyuk will finally move into a slot that is merely being kept warm for him.
•David Desharnais - Thomas Vanek - Max Pacioretty. More than held their own against the Bozak - Kessel - Van Reimsdyk trio. It was a Kessel giveaway to Desharnais that led to the game's opening goal by Pacioretty. It was Pacioretty's first goal in seven games. And you know what happens when he starts scoring after not hitting the back of the night for a few games. The only players in NHL who have more goals than Pacioretty are Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby, Joe Pavelski and Chris Kunitz.
•Alexei Emelin. A lot steadier lately.
•Carey Price. Didn't like the Leafs third goal but Price is still working on some timing issues. Smothering pucks again but still having a bit of trouble squeezing pucks with his catching glove. Was easily Habs' best puck handler inside their own zone. Habs have managed to win 3 of the 4 games he's played since returning from his injury even though he's allowed 13 goals. i'd say that's a good sign.
•Douglas Murray & Mike Weaver. I've been playing a game with the Murray haters all season. Every time they harp on how crappy he is I'll go after one of their favourite players. It's pretty simple with Murray. He has often been crap because Therrien has used him way too much. Instead of shortening the bench during a game he has continued to roll out his 5th and 6th defensemen without regard to the score/opponents on ice. I liked the signing of Murray because he brought a size and toughness element that was sorely lacking. He is a role player who happens to be a defenseman. As we said back in October, Murray can be useful if limited to 10 minutes a game and against the Leafs he led the Habs in both hits (4) and blocked shots (5). And he was a +2 for the first time this season. Total time on ice - 10:13.
•Francis Bouillon. Habs got away with one with Bouillon struggling the way he did. Played more minutes (25:10) than anyone in the game not named P.K. Subban. The good news is that Josh Gorges has started to skate - with his healing broken hand gripping a stick.
•Brendan Gallagher. It was a rare night off. No jump.
•Injury to Lars Eller. He looked very good on the 4th line with Dale Weise and Travis Moen. Skated very well and went hard to the net. Looked comfortable and loose. And why not - as he was up against Troy Bodie and Colton Orr for a few shifts before he got hurt. Smart way to build his confidence back up. Hopefully the injury (looked like a possible groin pull) isn't too serious and he'll have enough time off to re-examine his role and importance to his team.
•Hockey Night In Canada. This is too easy but it had to be a new low. I'm normally on RDS with some flipping. HNIC - for as low as it's sunk since its heyday - remains top notch on the production meter. But considering the importance of this late season match up I wanted to stay with them all night to see if they would even acknowledge the visiting team. The Leaf-loving Cherry is a lost cause. I get the Toronto-centric nature of the coverage. But the way they covered this one - from virtually no recognition in between periods including a nonsensical brief highlight showing something positive that David Clarkson allegedly did ("Hey look! He won a puck battle against the boards! He beat that Montreal player!) while outmuscling the much smaller Daniel Briere to spending almost an entire intermission on James Reimer to the incomprehensible ramblings of the most inane analyst in the NHL (This is what Glenn Healy actually said when the game ended, in a voice that sounded as if he was going to burst into tears - "The Leafs deserved a better fate. They were the better team. But the problem was James Reimer was just good enough.") The Leafs are in trouble. There is reason to fret and discuss. Spending almost an entire three hour window on them might make some sense if the visiting team was from the United States. But to throw this up to the rest of the country while the Montreal Canadiens were on was a disgrace. Surely Scott Moore isn't blind and deaf to this. Because if he doesn't alter the tone of these broadcasts beyond the hiring George Strombolopolous, there will be 12 more years of this shit.
Mitch Melnick is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690 - Montreal's Sports Authority. Mitch also has his own website at MitchMelnick.com where you can find his blog, music links, upcoming events, neat photos and more. Listen Live to Melnick - weekdays from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. If you have questions or wish to contact Mitch, you can email him at email@example.com
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