Not that you can blame them. There was absolutely nothing to be gained one way or the other by the final result of this game.
I thought the work ethic was there. What was missing was the thoughtful playmaking and tight defense that has marked the Canadiens since Claude Julien took over the team.
I can’t imagine anyone in the Canadiens dressing room was truly upset over the 2-1 loss. The only concern anyone might have is that playing the way they did in Buffalo doesn’t become habit-forming the way it did in the months of December and January. Under Julien, it doesn’t seem likely.
We’ve seen Alexander Radulov play some very good games since he joined this team. This one has to be at the top of the list. Problem was, for most of the night he seemed to be alone on the ice, which was more an indication of the head space of his teammates than of his all-out effort. He had the puck all night and Radulov made one of his extraordinary passes to Tomas Plekanec to set up the Canadiens only goal. The only other Canadiens forward with any presence in this game was Brendan Gallagher .
STILL ON TRACK –
Carey Price did his level best. The Canadiens might have developed some momentum after they narrowed the game to 2-1 still nineteen minutes to play. Didn’t happen. Only two minutes after Plekanec scored, the Canadiens defense allowed Tyler Innis to get in him on a breakaway and thirty seconds after that he had to deal with Nikolas Deslauriers on another breakaway. That kind of night. At the end of it, no thanks to his defense, the Sabres managed only two goals. Not much more Price could do.
The Canadiens defense had a dreadful night. With the absence of Shea Weber and Jordie Benn it was a piecemeal setup at best. Add in the fact that Alexei Emelin was out of the game late in the second period and nobody was having a good night and you get what you got. At least Julien thought enough about the way Beaulieu was playing that he doubled him up with both Jeff Petry and Andrei Markov. Beaulieu wasn’t much better than the rest of them but he wound up leading everyone on the team with 23 minutes icetime. Only member of the defense who seemed to have his skates under him was Andrei Markov.
QUESTION MARKS –
It’s always a good thing to hold praise or criticism until there’s a body of work on which to judge. Benn and forward Andreas Martinsen weren’t in this game, but they’ve been positive additions.
There have been things to like and dislike about the play of Brandon Davidson in his six games with team. This was not one of his good efforts. I have seen nothing to like about what Nikita Nesterov brings to the team. Rumours are he’s headed for the KHL next season. Might be the best thing for him.
….Markov and Gallagher led the Canadiens with 4 shots on goal each.
….The Canadiens recorded only nine hits, another indication that their heart wasn’t in the game.
….For the third straight game on this road trip, Tomas Plekanec was good in the faceoff circle winning 8 of 10. Canadiens centres won 64% on the night.
….Another lost effort from Alex Galchenyuk. The difference was, unlike some of his recent games, his lack of production was covered by that of the rest of his teammates.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens wrap it up with back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. The season home finale will be Friday night against Tampa. Saturday it’s the Joe Louis Arena.
Still no word on the first round playoff schedule. All we know is it will be the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre either Wednesday or Thursday for game one. Game two will be Friday or Sunday. The Dixie Chicks will take up the Bell Centre on Saturday night