Weise, Therrien and the Habs Defy Logic
There's an air of defiance in Dale Weise, both on the ice and off of it. He's a perfect representation of a Canadiens team that's often underestimated despite its obvious talent and determination.
It's with defiance that Weise flew through 14:51 of quality ice-time with quality linemates against the New York Islanders Saturday. Weise picked up a goal, fired another tremendous scoring chance on net and found his teammates with precise passes all over the ice.
Not a bad performance considering the bulk of the team's fanbase and the outspoken branch of the Canadiens' media lamented Weise's promotion to the top line, taking full advantage of the opportunity to question Michel Therrien's audacity to run his hockey team as he sees fit.
"I don't think I'm surprised when that happens; maybe it's just you," said Weise to a reporter about the place he believes he deserves in the lineup. The tone in his voice was very serious. Defiance shone through once again.
"Every time, I've played with Patch, I've had success. I don't think anyone should be surprised now," Weise adds as a justification for his rise from early-season healthy scratch to top line winger.
With opportunity afforded to him, Weise has managed to tie his personal NHL-best 16 points some 20 games sooner than when he set the mark last season. He has as many goals as P.A. Parenteau (6), having appeared in just one more game than the scoring winger. He's got two more assists than Jiri Sekac does, having played four more games than the talented Czech National. And he's absolutely right about his success next to Max Pacioretty-- that much is plain to see.
Weise's success on Saturday; the success of the entire Canadiens' lineup against one of the East's best--the New York Islanders--is a testament to the fact that we spend too much time picking apart Therrien's controversial line combinations.
"I think so," Therrien agrees, wryly smiling about the opportunity to comment on the constant barrage of criticism he faces for every decision he makes. Quickly putting that behind him, he starts with: "I really liked the performance we got from all our lines tonight."
How could he not be satisfied? Therrien joked in French before his press conference took rhythm that he'd be keeping these lines together for Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators. The beauty of it--behind that smokey rich laugh--was that he was being serious.
The Canadiens pumped six goals past Jaroslav Halak, forcing Islanders coach Jack Capuano to mercy pull him from the game. Halak came to the Bell Centre riding a sterling unbeaten streak against his former team, sparkling with a goals against average of under 1.00. A steady flow of speed and commitment throughout Montreal's lineup broke the cycle.
It was speed and commitment that put Montreal on the powerplay, barely a minute into the hockey game. They capitalized with simplicity; an umbrella setup that filtered the puck from Andrei Markov to P.K. Subban, with the latter firing a one-timer that Sekac guaranteed as a goal by screening Halak. Later in the game, Gallagher's speed and commitment drew the Canadiens another powerplay, where they managed an identical goal--this time with Plekanec firing through Gallagher's screen.
At even strength, Weise's marker just 10 seconds into the second period gave Montreal a two-goal advantage. In the third period, Alex Galchenyuk banged home his 11th for the Canadiens' fourth goal. Later in the period, David Desharnais cut off a neutral zone pass and blasted a slapshot over Halak's shoulder, and Plekanec capped a four-point night with a beautiful finish on a 2-on-1 break with Max Pacioretty.
Montreal's fourth line of Brandon Prust, Manny Malhotra and Michael Bournival didn't manage to score, but their influence on the game was very notable. Prust tilted and traded punches with Matt Martin before nearly scoring the goal of his life on a shorthanded rush. Malhotra--scoreless on the year--had one of his best opportunities of the season stifled by Halak. And Bournival's persistence authored the game's most impressive shift; a minute and a half-long juggernaut of offensive pressure that exhausted the Islanders.
Therrien also reinserted Mike Weaver into the lineup. He did so at Tom Gilbert's expense, and not Alexei Emelin's--as the fans and media might have expected. Weaver played a solid game, but the reliance on Gonchar and Beaulieu kept the Canadiens aggressive throughout, even if they got caught on the ice for a couple of goals against.
In the absence of Carey Price, it was a strong team effort. Dustin Tokarski was good, but far from his best, which only served to highlight what the Canadiens got from the lines Therrien assembled. All in all, it was probably the most entertaining game of the season at the Bell Centre.
Weise, Therrien and the Canadiens continue to defy commonly held opinions of the team. They've earned themselves an I-told-you-so (one of many this season) until the fans and media retort upon the team's next loss.