Thursday, October 26, 2017

Habs Find Their Stride Against Florida

Date: 24/10/2017
Opponent: Florida
Location: Bell Centre
Win: 5-1

Montreal Goalie: Price (W)
Florida Goalie: Reimer (L)

Montreal goalscorers:  Galchenyuk, Weber (2), Gallagher, Pacioretty
Florida goalscorers: Yandle

Pre Game

I had pointed out some changes I had wanted to see in the lineup.  I wanted Galchenyuk on the top line with Drouin and Gallagher and I wanted Pacioretty dropped to the second line with Plekanec and Byron promoted to play alongside them.  I wanted Mete and Weber split to distribute the better defencemen throughout the lineup.  I also wanted a better distributor on the point on the power play and allow Weber to creep in for his shot.  I hoped I'd see some of these. 

I wasn't optimistic, though, of Montreal's chances and how could I be?  We, as fans, have been battered this young season as we watched our beloved team wallow in less than mediocrity.  I certainly hoped that Montreal would break out against Florida, as I've hoped in every game proceeding it,  but I was preparing myself for another loss and even another blow out.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Alex Galchenyuk

Alex Galchenyuk has been a scapegoat so far this season.  He didn't play great, no one did, and found himself down on the fourth line where he lost his drive to play for a while, but still not the only player playing without heart and intensity.  It's more than this year though.  It's been a couple of years of being jostled around.  I'm sure he hoped for a fresh start under a new coach but doesn't seem to have gotten one.  Despite playing with a couple of AHL call ups, Chuky made the most of his opportunity.  Finding himself on the ice on the power play with the two players I'd like to see him skate with full time, he made the most of it.  Following up a shot from Gally he got just enough of it to chip it over Reimer scoring his second this season, an important power play marker, tying the game, and instilling enough confidence in the rest of the team to wake up their offence.  Not bad for a fourth liner.

Jonathan Drouin

That was a fantastic pass to Gallagher streaking up the right wing on Montreal's first goal.  He's been pretty good this season considering how awful the team has been and he was a level above tonight.  He also looks good as the new quarterback of the power play.  Weber needs a good passer to put it in his wheelhouse so he can just blast it and not be responsible for distributing the puck.  Galchenyuk would benefit from Drouin's passing ability if he ever makes it back up to the top unit.  Drouin showed tonight the kind of play maker he can be.  He needs a shooter and if Pacioretty isn't a fit, and he's not, the only other option is Galchenyuk.  I hope both these players get what they deserve at some point this season.

Brendan Gallagher 

He's been pretty consistent all season and looked good on the first goal.  He found the space, he drove to the net, and he got off a tough shot that forced a rebound and an opportunity for Galchenyuk, and if you thought that shot was tough his goal was a piece of athletic brilliance.


Shea Weber - Game Puck 

I honestly think this guy should be captain.  After Montreal went with four alternates, not one of them being Max Pacioretty, I was shocked to see Max awarded the C.  He's never struck me as a leader whereas Shea was born to lead.  Another night where Shea made life in the wrong jersey miserable and fired home two goals to boot.  It was a good piece of coaching to put Drouin back on the point on the power play and it paid off dividends tonight.

Jordie Benn

Benn got a good chunk of time with Weber tonight.  I'd personally like to see more of this.  This is the second time Benn has responded positively to playing alongside Weber.  We need his confidence back because he can be a solid defenceman when he has it, and if this is what it takes to get it back, it needs to be done more.  Crisp passing to get out of his zone and some gritty defensive play is why Benn is in the dome tonight along with chipping in an assist on Max's goal.


Carey Price

He kept Montreal in the game early when they come out into the first period a little disorganised.  I think he could have had Yandle's goal but he made some good saves and gave the Canadiens a chance to win which is better than a lot of the outings either goalie has had this year.

Play of the Game

Florida had killed off the penalty well up until this point and was in the process of changing up when Drouin gathered the puck in his own zone.  It was a text book pass to catch Gallagher in stride just as he crossed the Florida blueline allowing Brendan to keep the speed he had built up and get behind the Florida defence.  He got a good shot off that Reimer saved but couldn't control the rebound.  Galchenyuk outworked his mark, getting to the puck first and getting enough of it to get it over Reimer and in the net.

Another important goal scored by Galchenyuk.  First of all, it tied the game before players got their heads down and let another game get away from them.  It also got the power play going which, up until that point, didn't look so good, failing to score on the previous 2 opportunities and not really looking threatening.  It was a workers goal too.  No one who knows hockey can doubt Alex's skill but the mark against him by Canadiens' brass is his work ethic.  It also showed what he can do when played with the best on the team.  

Post Game

The Canadiens didn't come out great in either period and were a little fortunate not to be down by more.  Thankfully, Carey Price looked to be back in form.  It was a tale of two teams; the team before Galchenyuk's goal and the team after it.  Before Alex scored to tie things up they had trouble maintaining pressure, especially on the power play and were icing the puck a lot, largely due to poor passing selection and execution.  It didn't look like this game would be any different than how this season had gone up until this point.  After Galchenyuk scored things changed and it ended up being the best minutes of sustained quality hockey the Canadiens have played since last season.

The Good News is that they got a win and looked good doing so.  Crisp passing, good offensive zone pressure, the power play got going, Price looked good, good energy and effort from the entire team, and better defensive coverage.  All good news.  We've been waiting a while to write some positive about this team so let's not mince words.  This was a treat to watch.  We also saw some intelligent line tweeking and we've been waiting YEARS to see that.  It's nice to see Julien give his original hunches on line combinations a solid chance and not panic just because the Montreal media has gone mental.  It's also nice to see him recognise some things simply not working and make adjustments accordingly.

The Bad News is there was a very different outcome that was quite possible up until Chuky scored and everyone exhaled in relief.  The Canadiens exhibited many of their bad habits until 16:44 of the second period.  They weren't skating hard, they weren't winning the puck battles, they weren't passing well, offensive puck possession was limited with long gaps of mediocre play, and the break outs from their own zone were plain painful to watch.  I really don't know which team we have now, the team that got outscored 16-5 in California or the team that danced around Florida and seemingly scored at will.  I, personally, don't think this team has turned the corner just yet.

The ugly?  Our captain's lack of scoring.  After scoring the first goalof the season and after having countless opportunities on the first line and first power play unit, he hasn't scored a meaningful goal since.  Even he knew the 5th goal in a 5-1 trouncing was insignificant.  We need him to score.  We need someone to score.  I do like him being put with Plekanec and Gallagher.  That's a good line that's had chemistry in the past.  I believe this change will see Pacioretty turn things around in the near future.  How Galchenyuk has been treated is a close second.  4th line duties?  2nd power play unit?  He might be saying the right things to the media but his play tells of a disgruntled player and I don't blame him.  It's to a point where I'd like to see the kid traded for his own career's sake.  He won't get anywhere in Montreal, I don't think, and that's a shame because he had the potential to be better than Pacioretty.  I think that potential has been wasted.  If I'm right, that's beyond ugly.

I still think Drouin would benefit from playing with Galchenyuk and vise versa.  Lehkonen OR Byron on the top line, sure, but Drouin needs a reliable scoring talent and while both of those players have attributes making them a useful linemate, neither of them is a legitimate scoring threat nor do they have the talent to ever be one.  Galchenyuk does.

Knocking on the Canadiens door are the Los Angeles Kings.  In L.A. the Canadiens were playing the second game of back to back games and played solid hockey for 2 periods before they, seemingly, ran out of gas and got embarrassed by the Kings.  No excuses this time.  They've had a night off and had a game where they looked to have sorted a few things out, albeit against a relatively weak Florida team.  This is a good test to see if they've got things figured out enough to play with the league's elite.  I'm really looking forward to praising my beloved Habs for a second game in a row.


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