The Montreal Canadiens front office has been desperate for media star since the departure of one P.K. Subban. Featuring Jonathan Drouin in all of their promotion one summer ago turned out to be a flop. While Drouin has skill on ice, his personality turned out to be a dud.
Enter Max Domi. Following the Alex Galchenyuk trade to Arizona to acquire Domi, Max was the voice and face of the Canadiens social media accounts this summer. The Habs marketing folks went into overdrive capitalizing on Domi’s likeability and charisma.
Domi embraced his Montreal celebrity having learned the role of entertainer from his Dad, Tie. And once the players returned to the ice, Domi was handed the keys to the Canadiens first line, lining up as centre, despite spending most of his NHL career at wing, so far.
But sometimes all of those expectations to be the centre of attention for a big market professional sports franchise can do funny things to one’s mindset. Was Max looking to gain the affections of the Bell Centre faithful for pummeling one of the opposition’s best players? Or did he lose control given his elevated emotions driven by the Montreal crowd and the long build up over the summer?
There’s no doubt that Domi was annoyed after the contact along the Panthers Aaron Ekblad and being on the receiving end of a stick. But three or four gloved punches to a player who clearly had no interest in engaging in a fight was not the appropriate response. Ekblad has a long history of concussions.
Domi added a sucker punch once he had dropped his gloves and that is what earned him the game ejection. And the cowardly action will likely result in a suspension. The NHL Department of Player Safety is reviewing the incident. Expect a hearing on Thursday.
Max was having a lacklustre Canadiens debut. He had no hits, no shots on goal, was a minus-1 and was just 33 percent at the faceoff dot. Adding 14 minutes in penalties and being tossed from the game was not the way to be noticed.
Despite the final score, there were a few positives for the Canadiens in this game. Firstly, Carey Price was solid in goal for Montreal even robbing Mike Hoffman with a spectacular glove save. Youngsters Josh Brook, Will Bitten and Brett Lernout each had strong games.
In fact following the game, many were quick to excuse the result given that the Panthers were icing close to an opening night lineup. But that would assume that that the blame for the loss could be laid at the feet of Canadiens younger players. That would be an incorrect assumption.
Thirty-five year-old Antti Niemi gave up two bad goals. His shaky night could open the door for Charlie Lindgren. Veterans Jordie Benn and Jeff Petry were exposed by Florida’s skilled forwards. And While Jonathan Drouin created scoring opportunities, he continued weak play in his own zone, finishing a minus-3 on the night.
▲ Carey Price, Josh Brook, Will Bitten, Brett Lernout, Matthew Peca, Paul Byron
▼ Antti Niemi, Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, Michael McCarron