Ask twenty people you might get twenty different opinions as to why the Canadiens are a much different looking hockey team than they were three weeks ago. But very high on every list will be Claude Julien’s name.
His system was again very much in evidence in Vancouver Tuesday night.
Timing is everything and co-incidental to Julien’s hiring, or perhaps because of it, we’ve seen the offensive rebirth of players from the bottom nine forwards. Torrey Mitchell was only the latest to end a long scoring drought in this game.
Even when they couldn’t put two wins together the Canadiens played with speed. It’s what they’re doing with their speed that has ben the difference maker. . Remember those frequent nights when opponents dominated the ‘possession’ statistics? That hasn’t happened a lot during the Canadiens six game winning streak.
This was a goaltender’s game.
Torrey Mitchell got to Ryan Miller early in the first period on the Canadiens first shot and then stopped the next 36 in regulation time.
Carey Price stopped the first 24 before Marcel Chaput deflected a shot past him with just over seven minutes left.
Again it’s about timing. Price saved some of his best work down the stretch as Vancouver started to ramp up it’s game in the seven minutes after they scored their goal. Two of Price’s best came in the final 1:15 when he first stopped Alex Biega and then with a second remaining stoned Brandon Sutter to force the overtime.
I have been up and down about the play of Alex Galchenyuk this season. He has had good moments offensively. Defensively there were games he was a mess. Michel Therrien could never find a way to get him to pay attention to his system. Whatever Julien has told him has taken hold. This could have been his best two-way game of the season. He was very active on the back check and in front of this own net and on offense he took seven shots, four on goal. And how about that move along the line to set up the shot that deflected off Paul Byron for the game-winner?
It might be the company he kept in this game, but I doubt it. Brendan Gallagher moved up to replace Alexander Radulov on the first line and he had a monster of a night. But a game like this one has been coming for a week or so.
The way he played this game, he could have had fourth liners as his linemates and played a dominant role. Three breakaways; seven shots on goal. He missed the net only once. Fifteen of the Canadiens 38 shots in the game came off that line. Pacioretty had six and Danault with two.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING –
….To catch you up on Carey Price’s last three weeks – he’s given up 11 goals in his last eight starts for a 1.35GAA and a glittering .951 save%.
….Brandon Davidson became the fourth member of the trade deadline arrivals to make a start. In fact all four were in this game. Davidson had a good night paired with Jeff Petry. He was minus-1 but it was Petry who fouled up the play that led to the Canucks only goal. He also wasn’t afraid to involve himself in the offense. Julien reacted by giving him over 14 minutes ice time.
….It will require some time and research but I can’t remember the last time a member of the Canadiens took 28 faceoffs in a game let alone that somebody won 20 of them. Philip Danault wound up winning 20 of 28 which was 71%.
One thing that is different about this Western Canada swing compared with most of the others. The Canadiens have days off between all three games. They’ll practice in Calgary Wednesday and play the Flames Thursday night. Then it’s two days before they play the Oilers Sunday at Rexall Place.