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Montreal sports radio host Mitch Melnick on M&M: ‘Every player dives and embellishes a little,’ including Bruins’ Shawn Thornton

05.01.14 at 12:04 pm ET
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Montreal sports radio host Mitch Melnick of TSN 690 joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday to discuss the Bruins-Canadiens playoff series and accusations that the Habs sell out in an effort to get penalty calls. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Canadiens often are criticized — at least in Boston — for embellishing physical contact in an effort to draw penalties.

“When the Bruins talk into microphones and cameras and are talking about stuff like, ‘We don’t do stuff like that. We don’t dive. We don’t embellish. We don’t do this, we don’t do that.’ Everybody does it. Everybody does it. Shawn Thornton, stand-up guy, he does it. Every player dives and embellishes a little,” Melnick said.

“The fact of the matter is, if you polled players around the league, who’s the most disliked guy on the ice, Brad Marchand probably wins that poll by a mile since Sean Avery was kicked out of the league. And do they respect Brad Marchand? Absolutely. It’s kind of like Boston toward [P.K.] Subban. The bigger the moment, the more P.K. Subban wants that spotlight. Those guys are winning hockey players. On the ice, in the heat of battle, they do things that drive you absolutely up the wall, and you want to strangle them. But there’s a respect factor. As long as they don’t cross the line and do stuff that ends up in a serious injury. These are winning hockey players.”

Subban has become the poster child for Bruins fans’ distaste for the Canadiens’ style. Melnick said Subban “takes a lot of abuse ‘€¦ behind the play” and it’s not always visible to fans.

“I’m not trying to defend him. He’s still learning. He’s still a kid,” Melnick said of the 24-year defenseman. “He’s doing things that he won’t do a year from now, or two years from now. But it’s a growing process. And he feels that he gets so much abuse that once in a while he’s got to put some mustard on it.”

Melnick insisted the reason the Canadiens draw so many penalties is the team’s style of play.

“You guys have bought into this whole conspiracy thing,” Melnick said. “Their whole game, it’s a transition game. They’re fast. They have as good a transition game as any team in the league. They use their speed effectively. And when you use speed, teams are going to take penalties. Just because a guy goes down doesn’t necessarily mean he’s embellishing.

“Believe me — as I try to be as objective as possible — there’s a lot of calls, the Canadiens get a lot of penalties, a lot of power plays, because they create a lot of power-play situations with their speed. But you can count the number of times a penalty could be called on a Canadiens player and it’s not called simply because the referees get a little tired of putting their hands in the air.”

Melnick predicts the Canadiens won’t have enough to get past the Bruins.

“I don’t think they’re winning this series,” he said. “The Bruins are as good a team as I’ve seen in the NHL all season. I expect them to win.

“What do the Canadiens have to do to win? They have to hope that Tuukka Rask plays against them the way he’s played against them in his career. He’s 3-13. Head to head against Carey Price he’s 1-7. It’s incomprehensible the way he plays against everybody else in the league, his play against the Canadiens is just not at that level. If he continues to play the way he’s played against the Canadiens and Carey Price can raise the level of his game even more — even though he’s not a finalist, he’s had a Vezina Trophy-caliber season. The Canadiens have to score on their power play because they’re going to get opportunities. They kill penalties extremely well. They haven’t seen [Zdeno] Chara in front of the net, though, as a weapon on a consistent basis.

“So, those are the factors, in my opinion. Carey Price wins the goalie battle with Tuukka Rask, the Canadiens power play, which has not been good down the stretch, gets better. And their penalty-killing unit stays about the same as it’s been over the last two or three years, and that’s among the best in the league. But otherwise I see Boston winning.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Carey Price, Mitch Melnick, P.K. Subban
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