Friday, May 3, 2013
The Backhander: Sens Deflate Fabled Montreal Crowd
You don’t need another rehash here of the devastating hit Eric Gryba laid on Lars Eller last night in Game One. Everybody’s formed an opinion on it already and probably watched the footage to the point of surrealism.
A lot of hockey people said the same thing last night, with which I agree completely, that it was a clean hockey check with no intention to target the head. I could go on a rant about how boring and soulless it is to dissect every hit in the NHL like some kind of half-assed forensic specialist but I’ve done that many times before. To me, it was a play that’s just part of hockey – and should remain so. To quote Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy tweet, “Not every hard hit is a dirty hit. People who like hitting in hockey should understand that. People sometimes get hurt on hard, clean hits.” Gryba has a hearing at noon today and I guess there’s a chance he could sit a game, but it would be tough for Brendan Shanahan to rationalize it without confusing everyone.
Regardless, it was a hell of a way to open up a series and last night’s tilt in Montreal was full of everything you want in a playoff game. P.K. Subban’s hit on Chris Neil looked incredible on the camera from the stands. When Subban connected, Neil shot down out of sight behind the boards but his stick exploded into the air as the fans jumped to their feet. Jared Cowen’s monstrous hit on Max Pacioretty in the first period was almost as good.
Erik Karlsson’s goal to open the scoring was a thing of beauty – a textbook give-and-go with Kyle Turris. The Norris Trophy winner made it look so easy that it was almost spooky. Yet Karlsson didn’t look particularly good leading up to that play and seemed to be missing that extra gear – understandably of course. But at the end of the night he had a goal, an assist, was +3 and played 29:11.
Not surprisingly Craig Anderson was stellar. He’s been that way all season and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t be in the playoffs. All that noise about Robin Lehner possibly starting Game One has been silenced pretty firmly.
It was such a strange thing to hear how quiet that Montreal rink was in the third period once Ottawa climbed back out of that 2-1 hole with goals by Jakob Silfverberg and Marc Methot. Not only had they witnessed one of their better players face down in a pool of blood and seen shot after shot miraculously kicked out by Anderson, but Carey Price suddenly seemed fragile under pressure. It was almost like being at a ball game when the skies open up with rain. People were drooping in their seats and slowly the boos started to come out during the last two minutes when it was clear there was no comeback in the cards.
I have no doubt the crowd will be revitalized and just as loud to open the game tonight, but already this Senators team knows they can shut off the Bell Centre switch. That’s an important experience to have.
An experience they’d like to repeat.
Showing the replay of Cowen’s hit on Pacioretty during their highlight package, TSN’s Jay Onrait called Cowen “aka Little Jerry Seinfeld”..... TSN also showed a crazy scene of Montreal GM Marc Bergevin running wildly through the bowels of the arena towards the ambulance that was about to bring Eller to the hospital. Bergevin first had to contend with a large black curtain that he couldn’t seem to get through for a few slapstick moments. It kind of reminded me of all those 80’s B-action movies where just a simple net thrown over someone’s head could confound them into total submission. Just a bizarre series of events..... Tough outing for Price but at least he gets right back into the net 24 hours later, not allowing himself, the team or the press too much time to squirm about his Game One performance. Apparently Price dodged the media last night, but that’s understandable. If the team could somehow keep Price away from microphones and questions during the day today, that might be a good thing for everybody (except the press). If there was a day off between games, there’s no way Price could duck the reporters but the quick turnaround, especially if he plays well tonight, could really change the tone.....
.... Have to say I was more than impressed with the Habs pre-game presentation with the little kid skating the torch around by himself and then “lighting up” the centre-ice dot which engulfed the whole arena in flames. Such a simple concept executed perfectly. Then they had flames trailing the Habs skaters as they lapped around their zone prior to puck-drop. I felt like a slack-jawed hillbilly watching that, wondering how they did it. “How de heck dey get them flames comin’ outta those skates like dat? Dey’s gonna go and melt the ice wit dat fire.” Seriously though, was it some kind of chip in their skates that allowed a programmed spotlight to follow them from the ceiling? Or was it old school with 6 guys in the rafters with a spotlight each? ...
.... Cory Conacher only took one shot on net last night and that must be frustrating for the Senators coaching staff, seeing that he passed up a few really good chances on the rush to try and make a more complicated play. All the signs point to Conacher being the first guy to take a seat if Paul MacLean decides to make a change at some point. The only guy who played less than Conacher’s 9:17 was Eric Gryba who got tossed out of the game.... Daniel Alfredsson looks pretty good, doesn’t he?....
.... The strange thing about having the first two games of a series played on back-to-back nights is if you lose both, like the Habs are in danger of doing, you wonder what the hell hit you. It’s like a quick left-right to the head and it’s over. Thursday afternoon you’re ready to battle and Friday night you’re on your ass looking for a licence plate number. Normally, the team that loses Game One gets a day to readjust and get the emotions back in check. Montreal doesn’t have that opportunity. Like I said, that could be good or bad. I guess we’ll find out in a hurry.