Habs Goalie: Condon (W)
Opposition Goalie: Schneider (L)
Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty, Mitchell
Opposition goalscorers: Henrique
Max PaciorettyThat was a deft deflection to break the ice and give the Habs that all important first goal. Max was solid all night and has been playing well since Tampa Bay.
Tomas PlekanecMax's deflection wouldn't have been possible without this man putting the puck exactly where it needed to be. Tomas, more than anyone, seems to be thriving from the return of Brendan Gallagher.
Paul Byron - Game Puck
That toe drag/pass combination was just amazing. Nice to see him mixing in that kind of skill with his already blinding speed.
Jeff PetryPetry was terrible last night. Tonight he was a man reborn. Solid in his own end with some good PK minutes to boot.
Mark BarberioYou could certainly argue for Beaulieu to be back in the dome tonight but tonight more than most nights I really noticed that a lot of Beaulieu's on ice success is dependant upon the opposition focusing on PK. Nathan benefits from the extra time and space created by Subban's presence and since Subban isn't in the dome... that's not to say Mark didn't have a good game. Another player who did a 180 from the night prior. Mark was also solid in his own end and is showing some offensive upside to his game as well.
Mike CondonNothing special tonight. He made the saves he needed to make and his team played much better in front of him.
CommentsThe good news is the Habs decided to play defense. I only saw one massive defensive breakdown that left a Devil open in a quality scoring position. In our own zone, we had active sticks, we were quick to close down and pressure attackers and there was awareness of where dangerous players and space was. Good positioning and a general consensus to simply be better in their own end seemed to be the motto of the Canadiens tonight. It was definitely necessary after the abysmal effort in our own zone last night. That game, and how it was played was important for Montreal coming off such a terrible road trip and month of December in general. By simplifying the game and getting back to basic hockey maybe Montreal can begin to rebuild some of their pre-December swagger.
The bad news is that shutting down the New Jersey Devils offensively is nothing to write home about. They're not exactly an offensive juggernaut. Still, other than some first period pressure that looked worse than it was (no real scoring chances created). What's perhaps more impressive is that Montreal finally got their PP going against a very stingy Devil defense. New Jersey are a team committed to team defense and Montreal dented the twine twice tonight.
One of the stories I heard pregame was that Michel Therrien was feeling the heat. You don't say. He should be feeling the heat. Every member of that team (save Carey Price who was lucky enough to be injured all of December) should be feeling the heat. There shouldn't be one person, Pacioretty and Subban included, that shouldn't be looking over their shoulder wondering if management is going to shake things up and ship them out. To Therrien's credit, he's gone back to his basic forward lineup. I liked the look of them going into tonight and they worked. I'm still not quite sure what he's up to with the defensive pairing but tonight they worked as well. What was important is that he and the players got back to simple hockey tonight. When things aren't working you need to cut out as much as you can so you can focus on essentials. It's usually a recipe for success on the road but for Montreal right now coming off the worst month in franchise history, they need to simplify a game that they are making look very difficult.
Jonathan Drouin had been sent down to the minors (he's since been recalled). The former QMJHL MVP and CHL Player of the Year, first round third overall NHL draft doesn't seem to be happy within the Tampa Bay organization. His agent came out a couple of days ago and made public their request for Jonathan to be traded. He's a young man, still an RFA. He ain't going anywhere unless Steve Yzerman says he is, but the Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, QC native is just the kind of player who would fit into Montreal's line-up seamlessly. He line up brilliantly next to Galchenyuk and Eller and I think (hope) he'd thrive playing in Montreal's high tempo offensive system in front of a home crowd, but who to give up in return? It seems Andrei Markov has been set up for a move. No longer needed on the first pair, with Beaulieu now seeing time with Subban and Petry/Emelin already proving to be a solid second pair Markov is a complete waste on the third pair. If Tampa Bay is looking to make a serious run at the Cup this spring, a puck moving veteran defenseman like Markov would be a key asset. Let's hope management doesn't do something silly like moving Galchenyuk for Drouin.
We still need to shoot more, especially Subban from the point. What happened to his big bombs from the blue line anyway? We need to get more of our shots on net too, but last night was a great step in the right direction. They were solid in their own end and had good looks at scoring positions on their powerplay. Tonight was an important step in the right direction but they'll need to be even better Saturday night when they host the Penguins and a Sidney Crosby who seems to be waking up.