Actually the Canadiens start to their season wasn’t the problem, it was those middle three months that their fans on edge and cost the head coach his job. Now the Canadiens are finishing the season in the same fashion as their early 16-4-2 start. The 4-1 win over Florida Monday night was their 5th in a row and 14th in their last 18 games, leading to the night’s clinching of first place in the Atlantic Division.
This was far from the best of their current five game win streak but it was a win thanks to a tenacious third period that made up for a horrid second period in which they were outshot 15-6.
Six games ago, Claude Julien made Andrew Shaw a centre and kicked Alex Galchenyuk over to the wing. Julien kept preaching patience as all of watched their nearly invisible offensive presence, especially that of Galchenyuk. Patience proved once again a virtue. . They were very much in evidence in this game with members of the line accounting for all three of the important goals.
Mostly it was youth that was served in this game. The first two stars were rookies. One of them, is about to complete his first season on this side of the Atlantic. One way or the other, he accounted for all three of the game’s important goals. The other rookie was playing in just his second NHL game and first in a year.
A BRIGHT FUTURE –
The two goals and an assist for Artturi Lehkonen marked his second career three point night. Based on the quality of his work through his first seventy NHL games, it seems to me Lehknonen would have earned more than the sixteen goals he’s credited with in his first season. He certainly has produced the scoring chances but what has been missing is the scoring touch, something that I’m sure will arrive in time and when it does he will be closer to scoring thirty goals a season rather than the twenty he’s approaching this season.
The Canadiens farm system depth has some holes in it., Goaltending is not one of them.
Carey Price was slated to get a couple of games off this week. With Al Montoya injured it fell on Charlie Lindgren to replace him against Florida. He may be inexperienced but Lindgren is not overmatched.
Last March, when the Canadiens talked free agent Lindgren out of heading back to St. Cloud State for his senior NCAA season they promised they would give him an NHL start before last season ended, thus burning a year off his years to free agency. Eight days after signing he let in a goal on the first NHL shot he faced. Since then he has allowed only two more, one of them in the 4-2 win over Carolina last year and the other against Florida in this game and that goal came as a result of Nathan Beaulieu preventing from getting over to handle the Jonathan Marchessault shot in the second period.
Between Price, Lindgren, Zach Fucale and Michael McNiven in junior hockey, the Canadiens are set in goal for years to come.
The Canadiens had their brilliant start to the season thanks to a balanced attack that featured steady contribution from all four lines. That balance disappeared in December, January and February. It’s returned at a perfect time thanks to Julien decision to solidify his units over the last seven games. The first few games of the current win streak it was the Danault and Plekanec lines carrying the load. In this game the Shaw/Lehkonen/Galchenyuk did the offensive grunt work in this one. And, although the nobody expects them to fill the net, the fourth line wasn’t too shabby either.
….Along with his improved offense, Tomas Plekanec is showing up in the faceoff circle. He won 10 of 12 faceoffs against Florida. That’s 21 of 29 faceoff wins over the two games in Florida. Plekanec also shared the team lead in shots-on-goal with Pacioretty at five.
….Dwight King had a better night on the fourth line than we’ve seen recently. I’m still liking what Andreas Martinsen brings to the fourth line.
….Using his size to advantage, Brandon Davidson had a good night on defense.
….His defense partner Nikita Nesterov didn’t have the same kind of game but at least give him the benefit of a doubt. It was his first game since February 27th.
….With Shea Weber out, Julien entrusted Alexei Emelin and Nathan Beaulieu to handle the Panthers top line of Jagr/Trocheck/Huberdeau. They kept them off the scoresheet which is all you need to say about that.
On to Buffalo for Wednesday night and the conclusion of the road trip. We’ll probably see Carey Price back in the nets for that one. After that there’s a home game against Tampa Friday and the season final in Detroit on Saturday. We’ll see either Lindgren or Montoya in one of those two back to back games. The question is; will we see Shea Weber or will the Canadiens give him a full week off before the playoffs start against the Rangers next Wednesday or Thursday at the Bell Centre.