There is no doubt the Montreal Canadiens organization knows how to do things in style, and they did it again last night for the opening ceremony at the Bell Center to start off the 2012 / 2013 season.
Captain after Captain emerged among the 21,273 fans throughout the arena, all bearing “the torch; be yours to hold it high”. But it was hardly passed on from failing hands.
It began with “The Roadrunner”, Yvan Cournoyer – as he began the decent through the crowd. Then the Bell Center erupted as Henri “The Pocket Rocket” Richard emerged with the next flame. Vincent Damphouse took up the march from there as he descended to rink-side to hand the torch over to Serge Savard.
But it was clear that every member of the fan base watching from the seats, or on TV’s around the globe were waiting for our Ambassador himself. And not to be disappointed, Mr Savard handed that torch to “Le Gros Bill”, Jean Beliveau – and the roof nearly came down.
In the touching moments that followed, through an extensive standing ovation, Mr Beliveau stood at the rinks doors and – after shaking hands and speaking words of encouragement – he passed on the torch to the current Captain, Brian Gionta, who skated with it held high to center ice.
As each player came out, being introduced over the arena’s PA system, each in turn took over the torch and held it high, passing it from one player to another, completing one of the most moving Opening Ceremonies that we have witnessed.
Unfortunately, that seems to be where it all ended. It became clear very early on that the team has not had enough time to get game ready. Scrimmages in Brossard are one thing, but big league games are something completely different.
What struck me most about the team last night, was the continuation of undisciplined play. I’m not sure I agree totally with the call on Ryan White for goaltender interference, but the Plekanec “snow job” on Scrivens was clearly brought on by frustration. I’m not saying that I particularly liked that call either, but it was an unnecessary move that ended up costing the team in momentum, and on the scoreboard.
More than that, the team was plain sloppy. They moved slowly, they failed to pass cleanly, they didn’t get to the puck, and seemed to refuse to get into the battles in the corners. Bigger players like Cole and Pacioretty seemed reluctant to get to the front of the net and cause problems for the Maple Leafs net-minder. Many rebounds went untouched as the Habs seemed to be content to stay to the outside.
I’m more than willing to recognize that there is a new coaching staff and a new system in place that hasn’t had much time to gel, but hopefully last night was a lesson that will be learned and worked on. There aren’t 81 games left to work out the kinks. This shortened season will tell us a lot about what this team is made of.
It wasn’t all bad news though. Alex Galchenyuk showed great poise in his first NHL game. An 18 year old who looked like he had played in the league for some time, he managed two very good shots on goal and held his own for the majority of the game.
Brandon Prust muscled his way around the ice and squared off with Mike Brown, throwing some serious right hands. Message sent. The Montreal Canadiens will no longer be a team that gets pushed around on the ice.
There is no doubt that the PK Subban distraction is having an effect. The defensive unit is missing a lot of depth without him, but having said that, Gorges and Markov seemed to have a decent game. Even Kaberle managed three shots on goal last night. But the sooner they get Subban back into the line-up; the better.
It was a disappointing beginning to a season that the fans here in Montreal have waited so eagerly for. They deserved better but didn’t get it. Having said that, it was only game one. Let’s all have a little patience and see how things come together over the next 2-3 games. After that we can start getting anxious.
In the meantime, let’s hope that the organization, coaching staff, and all players involved take to the sense of urgency that a 48 game season brings.