If you will, think back almost a year. The Canadiens already had lost Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher and they were down and on their way out of playoff contention as more injuries started to pile up. The Canadiens morale had reached depths I hadn’t seen in decades.
Now forward to a year. The Canadiens injury situation is even worse than it was last January. Six regulars gone, three of them centres if you want include Andrew Shaw in the group. Andrei Markov gone plus Brendan Gallagher .
Last year the Canadiens re-action was to lose 18 of 21 games from early December to January 19th. W
With six out of the line up this season, the Canadiens are 10-4-4 in the eighteen games since December 4th and that includes 5-0-2 on the road since Christmas.
We’re starting the hear the word “leadership” often repeated these days. Those using the word have a valid point. The leadership is clearly coming from Shea Weber and dare I say Alexander Radulov, both of whom have taken part of what was the heavy load of borne by team captain Max Pacioretty last season. The other major factor is depth, something not in evidence as the Canadiens desperately searched for help.
The increasedAdd that list Atturi Lehkonen who has crossed the Atlantic for the first time. They have all depth comes from Radulov and Weber of course, but some of the players who saw action in last season’s slide are now have another year in professional hockey under their belts. They were all prominent in the Canadiens 7-4 win in Winnipeg Wednesday night. I refer to Carr, McCarron, Andrighetto and Scherbak.
Add to that list Artturi Lehkonen. Very quietly Lehkonen has put together a very successful rookie professional season. Two goals and an assist in the 7-4 win over Winnipeg playing on another one of Michel Therrien’s makeshift lines with Brian Flynn and Paul Byron. That’s ten goals just past the midseason point. And he’s plus-5, which is special from a rookie.
PROTECTING AN ASSET –
The Canadiens got away with placing Sven Andrighetto on waivers at the beginning of the season. Since then, the Canadiens front office has turning itself inside out to make sure they don’t have ask waivers on him again something that could come abou if the ask waivers after he has been on the roster for 30 cumulative days. In a ten day period leading up to his most recent rccall, Andrighetto was bounced back and forth to St. John’s six times. It’s hard to develop any kind of game under those circumstances, but he had his best game in Winnipeg and was rewarded with his first goal plus an assist.
So is it because he’s playing with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov that is making Phillip Danault so good over the last month or is Danault making Pacioretty and Radulov good. Probably s0me of each. He scored twice including that unassisted end to end rush for what turned out to be the winning goal Everything is chemistry. We’re within days of bringing Alex Galchenyuk back into the lineup. He may have to find new linemates.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING –
….The all rookie fourth line of McCarron, Scherbak and Carr wound up with over ten minutes of ice time. McCarron had three shots on goal and two good scoring chances. And no complaints were heard about their overall effort.
….Max Pacioretty had seven more shots on goal and an assist on the first goal in the game’s first minute. The saves of the night came on Pacioretty’s breakaway early in the third period when Michael Hutchinson stopped the initial shot and then somehow managed to handle Pacioretty’s attempt at the rebound.
….And Tomas Plekanec. We’ve been bemoaning his lack of production for two months now. There are signs he’s pulling out of it. Lehkonen set Plekanec up for his second goal in two games. Over the last 17 games he has 4 goals and 12 points. Still not the production you would want from a 6-million-dollar man but at least there’s some progress.
….Best we don’t talk about the goaltending. Nobody is going write a textbook about what they saw in this game at either end of the ice. We can say, Al Montoya stopped five shots in the final three minutes after the Jets pulled their goaltender.
….A good night for Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin who were both plus-3. Weber assisted on the last two goals. Not so great for Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Petry who were caught running around in the first period on the two goals that brought the Jets temporarily back from a 2-0 deficit. Beaulieu did record two assists.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens go for their second straight sweep of back-to-back games on the road when they face the Minnesota Wild Thursday night. Carey Price will be in goal. The Canadiens lost to them at the Bell Centre just before Christmas. The Wild swept the season series last year. Then the Canadiens come home for the Rangers on Saturday,