It’s every team’s first goal when they start the long season in October.
The Canadiens clinched their berth in the Stanley Cup show with five games remaining in their season. Who would have predicted that six weeks ago?
Think about the state of the Canadiens in mid February. The team was struggling. They were psychologically insecure and showing the same kind of mindset that kept them out of last year’s playoffs. After their Feb. 12th 4-0 loss Boston, the Canadiens had again put themselves in a precarious playoff position. Marc Bergevin saw it and two days later made his coaching change.
There may be not a lot that’s technically noticeable about the way the Canadiens are playing for Claude Julien compared to his predecessor, but they are clearly a different team. In the final days of Michel Therrien the team was psyhologically damaged. They were tentative. Hesitant in their own end. Afraid of making a mistake. The Canadiens lost 12 of Therrien’s final nineteen games. They were giving up over three goals a game and scoring only two.
Forward to the next 19 games. Under Julien they’re 13-5-1. The defense has settled down and most nobably, the team is not depending on Max Pacioretty to score all of their goals. As happens on so many levels of life, including hockey, it’s all about attitude.
The Canadiens have seen a ton of it in the last two weeks. the game’s first star Brendan Gallagher piled up three points in the span of 5:55 of the first period to pretty much cement the 6-2 win over Florida. He then scored a third period goal.
Tomas Plekanec finally has two wingers he can depend on seeing on a consisent basis, and as a result seems to be finally getting his season together. His left winger Paul Byron scored his 22nd goal.
The fourth line even showed signs of offensive life although they came up empty on the scoresheet.
STILL WORK TO BE DONE –
The pieces seem to be falling together with the exception of Alex Galchenyuk who again seemed like a lost soul on the line with the hardworking Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen. Of the Canadiens twelve forwards, Galchenyuk was the absentee. This has been a constant story line for five seasons now. No one seems to be able to find a consistently productive role for him either as a centre or a winger.
….The Canadiens have scored four goals or more in five of their last nine games. Carey Price has given up two goals or fewer in six of the nine games. Hence they are 6-2-0 on their march to the playoff berth.
….While Galchenyuk might have the weak link on the line, Andrew Shaw won eleven of fourteen faceoffs and Artturi Lehkonen contributed with four shots on goal and three excellent scoring chances.
….On defense, Julien had Brandon Davidson paired with Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin with Nathan Beaulieu. They all had pretty good nights. All four of them got 18 minutes ice time.
LOOKING AHEAD –
No practice Friday. The Canadiens will use it to travel to Tampa for their Saturday night game against the Lightning. Al Montoya won’t travel with the team which means we might see Charlie Lindgren get a start sometime during their road trip. Off his play at St. John’s he’s earned it. Jordie Benn, who missed the Florida game, will be making the trip and is considered day-to-day. Five games in eight days to wrap up the season. At Florida and Buffalo Monday and Wednesday. Home to Tampa Bay Friday and then the season finale in Detroit next Saturday.]