If you have the goaltending it’s possible to commit hockey highway robbery. The Canadiens got the goaltending and survived a dreadful on ice performance with two goals from totally unexpected sources in a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators.
Before we go to deep into how badly the Canadiens played this game, we should remember that, since the New Year the Predators have been one of the top five teams in the entire league. At times, especially in the neutral zone, they made the Canadiens look downright amateurish.and the fans were getting very restless and vocal as they witnessed pass after pass failing to work.
But, a win is a win no matter whether it’s Alex Galchenyuk scoring in overtime or Paul Byron ending a 14 game goal scoring drought with a last minute game winning goal.
That’s six outstanding starts in a row for Carey Price. He’s won four of them, three in overtime. In those six games he’s allowed a total of nine goals. His goals against average in that stretch is 1.47 and his save percentage is .947. He made this win look easier than it really was. But that’s the way it is with Price when he’s playing well.
OUT OF SORTS –
The Canadiens have played quite few stinkers over the last three months. This one reached a new kind of level. We’ve seen games where the team simply wasn’t skating. We’ve seen some sloppy defensive work. There have been bad nights from the goaltenders. One thing that we hadn’t seen until this game was an inability to accurately pass the puck. It started in the first period and ran right through to the end. It had the fans booing even after the Habs had finally tied the game up halfway through the third period. It wasn’t an isolated thing. This was team-wide problem through all three periods. Credit the Predators for creating some of the chaos but the Canadiens have to take the lion’s share of the criticism.
PLAYING FOR THE TIE –
The Canadiens won this game in regulation because of a major mistake against the wrong guy at the Canadiens blueline. Paul Byron checked the puck loose and nobody ever wins a footrace against him on a breakaway. At that point both teams were playing for at least the ‘loser point’. The Canadiens tied the game at 10:55 of the third period. Over the next nine minutes leading up to the winning goal each team produced only one shot. We’re seeing far too much of this stuff this season and it’s time for the league to get real about their system of awarding points.
There was nothing special about either goal, but that’s the way it so often goes when long scoring droughts are halted. Brendan Gallagher threw the puck blindly in front on a wraparound that went off Matt Irwin’s leg in the crease. The last time Gallagher had scored a goal was December 29th.
I still am having problems figuring out how Pekka Rinne screwed up on the Paul Byron goal. Yes, Byron had a breakaway, but Rinne seemed to have it stopped and then it trickled through.
They all count and this one was his first in 14 games.
ALSO WORTH NOTING –
….Nice presentation before the game to honour the time P.K. Subban spent with the Canadiens. The fans gave him his due and then predictably considered him an opponent the rest of the night. Subban set up the Predators’ goal on a power play.
….Shea Weber simply went about his business. Three shot attempts, none of which hit the net. Three hits, two blocked shots and he was on the ice when the winning goal was scored for a plus-1 night.
….Two of the newcomers played. Dwight King was given 10:37 ice time playing on the fourth line with Mike McCarron and Torrey Mitchell. He registered 5 hits, one fewer that game leader Alexei Emelin.
Lots of confidence shown by Julien in defenseman Jordie Benn. Playing with Nathan Beaulieu he logged 15:54 and was used on the penalty kill. Actually I thought Benn played better than his defense partner on this night.
….One noteable difference is coaching styles. Under Michel Therrien in a game like this we would have seen Shea Weber logging something in the neighbourhood of 26 minutes and Andrei Markov in the neighbourhood of 24. Julien manages his defense differently. Weber put in 22:22 and Markov 21:20.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens remain six points ahead of the Senators who also won Thursday night. The Senators still have their three games in hand. TheHabs will face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden again Saturday night and then they head for that annual Western Canada graveyard with games in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. At least this time the Western games are nicely spread between next Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Next home game will be Tuesday March 14th against Chicago.