Sunday, May 5, 2013
MacLean Living Inside Therrien's Head As Sens Bully Habs
Your move, Michel.
Paul MacLean made his point right off the opening faceoff by starting his gentlemen line of Zack Smith, Chris Neil and Matt Kassian.Not only was that symbolic of MacLean's mindset going into this traditionally vital third game of a playoff series, but it was prophetic of the shitstorm that was to ultimately unfold here tonight.
Over 230 penalty minutes comprised of outright brawls, slashes, high-sticks, elbows and cross-checks. We saw Ottawa respond to a timid Game 2 performance with Jared Cowen feeding Ryan White, Neil and others hitting Brendan Gallagher at every opportunity and just generally beating the life out of the Canadiens in the alley, on the scoreboard and psychologically.
We saw the holy triumvirate of the Habs franchise suffer a complete mental and physical breakdown tonight - P.K. Subban, Carey Price and Michel Therrien - at the hands of Coach MacLean, who seemed to have a shit-eating grin strategically hidden beneath that "walrus" moustache that Brandon Prust is so fond of.
First it was Subban, running around like the alpha male gone lone wolf on his team, trying stickhandle through every Senator on the ice, getting demolished at centre-ice by Colin Greening and subsequently getting into a screaming match on his own bench with Max Pacioretty. The entire sequence was caught by the CBC cameras near the end of the first-period and right then you knew something was rotten in Denmark. He was a man alone the rest of the game and got himself thrown out after a chickenshit mauling of 125 pounder Kyle Turris a few shifts after the real fights went down and saved himself the embarrassment of having to partake in the last half of the third period.
Then it was Carey Price, who was left to rot in the net by Therrien, even when Tomas Plekanec was forced to play defense on a 5-on3 penalty kill because Montreal didn't have a defenseman who they could put on the ice. Price got hammered here tonight and there's no telling how he'll respond in Game 4. There's no way he could play worse.
Finally we get to Therrien. The most surprising aspect of the night was the fact that Therrien restrained himself from going over the glass and into the Senators bench when MacLean called a timeout with barely any time on the clock and a 6-1 lead heading into another power-play.
Sure, Therrien squawked and screamed at both the Sens bench and the refs, but the fact no one got choked is a miracle of humanitarianism.
"The Code" says a coach doesn't call a timeout when you have a huge lead in a game. MacLean knows the code very well. What he chose to do was break it willingly just to piss off Therrien, hoping that the historically volatile Montreal coach would lose his freaking mind. Maybe not at that moment, but possibly after a sleepless night stewing over the insult... or later this spring when he duffs a golf shot and it all comes out on an unsuspecting golf cart that gets flipped over and beaten into scrap metal while horrified children run from the scene. MacLean already knows Therrien is homicidal because of the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller, and the imagined insult of MacLean not knowing the name of Raphael Diaz and blah blah blah. It's hard to keep up with what Therrien finds so insulting.
MacLean knows that Therrien is capable of being pushed to the brink of rationality. Everyone remembers the "old Therrien", the guy that couldn't keep a job in Montreal and Pittsburgh because he pushed his players too hard and was over-emotional at even the slightest provocation. All year, everyone has been raving about the "new Therrien", the coach who has learned to relate to players and keep his raging inferno of emotions largely in check.
Cue the MacLean time-out call late in the third with a 6-1 lead.
Or is it? Therrien smartly used the "disrespect" angle once already in getting his team ready for Game 2. Now he has the opportunity to use it again. But at what point does a team move past using "insults" as a motivator into just being a perpetual victim? I hate to bring up Montreal fans calling 911 on Zdeno Chara... but I guess I have.
Therrien made a point in post-game press conference to say that MacLean's timeout was to "humiliate" the Habs. MacLean responded by saying "They did a pretty good job of that themselves". He also said he was resting his players. At one point he had only five sitting in front of him, so that makes sense, right? ... nah. This was MacLean turning the screws.
Again, Montreal is playing the perpetual victim and MacLean is openly mocking them. As he should. Clearly, MacLean has gotten into Montreal's heads way more than Chris Neil ever could.
And shame on me for waiting until now to mention the latest left-field playoff hero Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the would-be Daniel Briere clone who got a hat-trick tonight. And for losing a tooth on the first one from a Subban high-stick at the moment he released the puck. The sight of Pageau leaning over to pick up his teeth from a pool of blood while his teammates celebreated the goal around him (pictured above) is just as incredible, if not better than Price handing his teeth to the trainer on the bench in Game 2 or Craig Anderson smiling like Bobby Clarke after his win in Game 1.
You could also hear fans chanting "Pageau, Pageau, Pageau, Pageau" to the "Ole, Ole, Ole" chant, which must have been mindblowing for the rookie who was just hoping to catch on with Binghamton in the AHL this year. Allegedly the Sens in the locker room were doing the same thing after the game when he walked in after taking a bow on the ice as one of the game's 3 Stars. Not sure how MacLean is going to keep that kid calmed down after the night of his life, but I'm sure he'll find a way. Like scratching him for Game 4...
There's way too much to talk about after that mindbender of a game. That was a night everyone will remember for years no matter how this series turns out.
The next day or two will be full of fallout from the craziness we all were witness to. Let's see how it falls, but for Sens fans - enjoy the moment of being the team that some people will consider the bully.
I'm betting it feels nice to be on the other side of that equation in the playoffs.