Monday, October 16, 2017

Habs in Unfamiliar Territory

Date: 14/10/2017
Opponent: Toronto
Location: Bell Centre
Loss: 4-3 (OT)

Montreal Goalie: Price (L)
Toronto Goalie: Andersen (W)

Montreal goalscorers:  Petry, Galchenyuk, Drouin
Toronto goalscorers: van Riemsdyk, Matthews (2), Marleau

Pre Game

They are improving.  Despite the media and a large portion of the fanbase's impatience, they have steadily built upon their terrible performance in Washington.  I wondered how the needless, yet quickly mounting pressure will affect their psyche going into their game against Toronto.  Thankfully it was Toronto.  If there was ever a team that Montreal needed to face in order to get out of a slump it's the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Unbeaten in their last 14 games against the Leafs I was hoping the trend would continue.

But these aren't the Leafs of the last 3 seasons.  Mike Babcock has them playing much better and the addition of Auston Matthews makes them one of the most potent offences in the league.  Despite their previous success this would be no easy win for Montreal.

Dome hockey team

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


Alex Galchenyuk

Alex Galchenyuk got the monkey off his back and in the process got the monkey off the power play's back as well.  He also happened to tie up the game.  I feel like, generally speaking, Alex has been playing better all around hockey.  He's been physically engaged and back checking as well or better than most players on the team right now.  He deserves better than fourth line duties and, while I'm not optimistic, perhaps management will search for a new scapegoat.

Jonathan Drouin

He earned his money today.  You can't ask for much more than a goal and an assist from our number 1 centre.  Consider he's playing with a uninspired former 30 goal scorer on one side and a revolving door on the other and he's doing better than okay.  For all the experiments being attempted by the Canadiens' management this season, he looks to be one that might actually work.

Artturi Lehkonen 

The Canadiens still don't have enough consistency up front to make choosing the dome tough for the right reasons.  Still, Artturi played well on the top line and chipped in an assist.  He didn't get shots on net or connect on any hits (and I need to give honourable mention to Charles Hudon and Paul Byron for doing just that) but he has good awareness in both zones which was especially important while playing on the first line considering how lousy Pacioretty has been. 


Victor Mete 

The young man was paired off against the Toronto phenom, Auston Matthews, for most of the night.  It's worthy to note that Mathews' two goals were scored with Mete off the ice.  Victor proved tonight that he can shut down top offensive players in the league which will be important for Montreal moving forward.

Jeff Petry

Petry was sound defensively tonight.  Were it not for the passive play of his defence partner (why Alzner didn't put Marleau on his behind is beyond me) he would have had a clean sheet defensively (not to mention the Habs winning the hockey game) and also seemed more comfortable jumping up into the play, another important piece of the Canadiens having success this year, as evident by his goal.  It's good to see a chunk of the defensive burden slowly being lifted from Weber's shoulders.


Al Montoya

Yet another game and Carey isn't playing up to his potential or worth.  Despite the quality shot from Matthews on his second goal, Carey overplayed it and left the far side wide open.  You cannot allow four goals and expect to win many hockey games.  We're putting Montoya back in the dome on account we want to win and Al won't do much worse. 

Play of the Game

On a power play that wasn't looking so good, a broken play on Toronto's blue line saw Alex Galchenyuk gather the puck and accelerate quickly toward the net.  He did well on a close play to ensure that the puck got over the line quick enough to keep everyone onside. From there he put the blinkers on and saw only red... the red of the goal light.  Just over Andersen's pad, under his blocker and off the post.

This goal was so important as it was not only the first Montreal power play goal of the season, but it was his first goal as well.  You need only look at the reaction of his teammates to know just how important that goal and his success is to that hockey club.

Post Game

The Canadiens came out flying again and took the early lead thanks to Drouin and Petry.  It's good to see intensity and drive to still compete and win still with the Canadiens.  The bane seems to be keeping focus after the initial energy dissipates.  It happened against the Rangers, then the Blackhawks, then the Maple Leafs.  All good starts followed up by lulls in which the majority of the team stopped moving their feet.  Losing to the Maple Leafs is always a tough pill to swallow but the Maple Leafs are playing good hockey right now and the Canadiens did well to get a point, the first since Buffalo.

The Good News is that the Canadiens are slowly improving.  A great start against the Rangers where they were two called back goals away from a win.  An even better start against the Blackhawks that saw them take an early lead thanks to Plekanec, and most recently a point on the backs of goals from two of our best offensive players and a defenseman having enough confidence to jump up into the play.  The game is coming back to them and patience will be everyone's friend in this regard.

The Bad News is they're still not consistent enough.  It took a couple of goals from the Maple Leafs tonight for them to shake out of their funk.  It might have cost them a point.  This just seems to be a focus issue and something I believe this team will eventually get their heads around.  They're almost there.  Some more bad news is that their next three games are in California, in four days no less, where the Canadiens have never known great success.  I fear the record they will have coming back and I fear our panicked GM may do something rash because of it.

The ugly that is our number one player and starting goaltender is not playing up to his potential; not ugly but not good enough for the Canadiens to win, and with Carey Price only playing average we can truly see how ugly the Canadiens are defensively.  We need Carey to pick up his game, and fast, or need some personnel changes that would favour guys who are more responsible in their own end. 

When Thomas Plekanec was obviously the most consistent forward playing for the Habs in this young season, Claude Julien made some adjustments and brought him up from the third line.  Good on him.  Nothing wrong with getting a player who is skating well to match up with some players who are struggling to find their way.  He's also been patient with some players who you just know will find a way to snap out of their funk.  Max Pacioretty has been uninspiring in the offensive zone and absolutely brutal in his own, but he still plays on the top line because you just know he's going to break out of this slump and when he does hang on.  Then there's Alex Galchenyuk, not afforded the patience of Pacioretty and not rewarded for good play like Plekanec.  Despite Alex's attempts to say the write things in the media scrums, I wonder how much more of this inconsistent treatment he'll put up with before he starts mailing it in.

The Canadiens are still looking for a way to break out of this slump and a trip to California is definitely not what the doctor ordered.  Anaheim and San Jose aren't playing very good hockey right now and, just like Toronto was due for a win against Montreal, Montreal is long overdue for some success in California.  It's got to happen sometime, why not now?  Fingers crossed


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