Jack Todd: It’s time for Canadiens to roll dice with Cole Caufield


You’re not going to beat the Leafs with “a power kill and a penalty play.” You need goals.

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At spring training in 2005, I was standing near the Washington Nationals dugout watching batting practice when I overheard Nationals GM Jim Bowden going over the lineup with one of his flunkies, deciding who would play and who would sit.

Fifteen feet away, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, the team’s manager, paid no attention. Bowden and his assistant wrote out the lineup and it was handed to Robinson, a fait accompli. Today, Bowden is remembered mostly as the guy who left baseball after he reportedly became the target of an FBI investigation into the skimming of signing bonus money from Latin American players, but I thought of the incident Saturday night after Marc Bergevin apparently made the call to ask for a replay of the Leafs third goal.

Bergevin is a far better man than Bowden and interim head coach Dominique Ducharme is no Frank Robinson. But in the sticky grey area of who calls the shots, especially at playoff time, the call for a replay that had no chance to succeed reminded me of that strange incident with Bowden and Robinson.

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With Ducharme wearing that interim tag and Bergevin plainly desperate to make his offseason and trade deadline moves work out, it would appear the GM is making some decisions that are usually left to the coach — and that without the security of a long-term contract as head coach, it’s hard for Ducharme to push back.

In the scheme of things, the silly, pointless replay challenge was little more than a minor subplot in a game that was uglier than that Auston Matthews smirk. But the lineup is not a minor subplot and that’s where it would appear Bergevin has exerted undue influence, with slow-footed veterans playing while some of the club’s talented youngsters sit.

The Canadiens do have a couple of advantages going into Game 3 at the Bell Centre on Monday evening. First, there’s nowhere to go but up. Second, there’s no reason not to go with the kids.

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That means Alexander Romanov. Jake Evans, too, if he’s able to go. Above all, it’s time to roll the dice with Cole Caufield. It’s a lot to ask, but you’re not going to beat the Leafs, as someone said on Twitter, with “a power kill and a penalty play.” You need goals.

Even if the Leafs run the table from here (and they appear capable of doing just that) the youngsters will at least have picked up some experience.

And let’s be clear: neither some terrible officiating nor a bad decision from on high was responsible for Saturday night’s debacle. The Canadiens were so badly outplayed that by the end of the second period, they were down 4-1 and being outshot 2-to-1.

The worst thing the Canadiens can do is to get caught up in the officiating. Yes, the cross-checking call on Jesperi Kotkaniemi was garbage, but you get those in every NHL game. Focus on that and you’re simply giving yourself a reason to lose.

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Game 1 was sufficient proof the Canadiens are capable of a titanic upset in this series, but it won’t happen if the Habs go on playing like they did Saturday night, in which case they will all, young and old, be on the golf course by next weekend.

The dumbest code in sports: Here’s the situation. The Warriors are playing the Lakers. Anthony Davis gets knocked down. Steph Curry, sprinting up the court, tries to jump over Davis to avoid contact, but accidentally hits Davis with his knee and Davis is concussed.

Once he is carried off on a stretcher, the Lakers send LeBron James out to fight Curry. Everyone knows they’re going to fight, including the referees, but they stand and watch while Curry takes a beating.

Never happen, right? Right. Wouldn’t happen in baseball, either. Wouldn’t happen in football, which is a fairly tough sport. Wouldn’t happen in rugby or soccer or field hockey or team handball or water polo.

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But in the NHL, the idiotic, childish code still prevails. Sheldon Keefe, who is one of the worst proponents of the code, sent Wayne Simmonds out to beat up Alex Edler a while back, then did the same with Nick Foligno after Corey Perry’s accidental contact with Leafs captain John Tavares on Thursday.

It was complete, unadulterated NHL nonsense and about as mature as a bunch of fifth-grade boys trying to see who can pee the farthest. It carried the very real possibility one of the combatants, either Foligno or Perry, would fall and hit his head the way George Parros once did and we would have two concussed players rather than one.

Yet it never changes. It won’t, until someone is paralyzed or killed and this League of Idiots is hit with a lawsuit so massive it finally has to pay attention.

Heroes: Carey Price, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Max Verstappen &&&& last but not least, Paul Byron.

Zeros: Sheldon Keefe, Nick Foligno, Nazem Kadri, Tom Wilson, LeBron James, Kris Versteeg, Ron MacLean, Claude Brochu, David Samson and last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

jacktodd46@yahoo.com

twitter.com/jacktodd46

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