How badly have the Habs dominated the new Jets? When Randy Cunneyworth isn't scratching two of his best players, the Habs are 7-0-0. During those games the Canadiens have scored 27 goals and allowed 10, and with P.K. Subban in the lineup that goes even further, outscoring the NuJets 23-7 while rattling of 6 wins and no losses.
The only loss the Canadiens have against the Jets came when Cunneyworth needlessly scratched Subban and Lars Eller.
Before the game several Habs players mentioned that they wanted to set the tone early, something they hadn't been able to do effectively this season. They held true to their intentions and began the game with a simple zone entry, and kept the Jets hemmed in their own zone while rolling through four lines, until Danny Briere one-timed a Francis Bouillon pass off the back boards that Brandon Prust pounced on and tapped in.
After failing to score on a powerplay, Montreal struck once again at even strength as David Desharnais exploited some blown coverage by the Jets that left P.K. Subban open, and he wired his patented one-timer through Ondrej Pavelec.
At the time of the goal, Montreal had generated 10 even strength Fenwick events to the Jets' 2, a crazy amount of possession dominance, but that wouldn't continue. Normally in a game where you're on the puck that hard, you keep pushing and it becomes a blowout, however it seems that Therrien prefered to play it safe and sit on the lead.
That it was the final game of a road trip through Western Canada, it makes sense to play it safe, but sitting on a lead is not necessarily safe. Thanks to the superb goaltending of Carey Price, everything worked out, but this is not a strategy we should be looking forward to Therrien deploying again.
Perhaps another reason for the conservative approach though, was the injury to Max Pacioretty. After starting the game with a new set of lines that looked solid, Therrien had to mix everything up again to get some balance. It's hard to know how well that actually worked with the score effects distorting the the game's data, but at the very least the kid line of Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk seemed to immediately recapture its chemistry, though they didn't manage to finish on this particular night.
There was no update on Pacioretty after the game, but I think it's fair to assume that he won't be in the lineup against the Blue Jackets on Thursday. This means that Briere's demotion to the fourth line only lasted about half a period, though I still don't believe he deserved it in the first place.
Briere's line with David Desharnais and Brandon Prust was the most effective trio the Habs iced last night, involved in all three goals and owning two thirds of possession while on the ice.
The most surprising thing about this season so far for the Habs? How about the fourth line? Travis Moen is leading all Canadiens in even strength Fenwick at 71.1%. The rest of the fourth liners so far this season sit at 69.1% (Brandon Prust), 67.6% (Michael Bournival), and 63.8% (Ryan White). They aren't being used in extreme tough minutes like last year, but even without that usage those kinds of numbers from a fourth line is an extreme luxury.
Also inspiring has been the play of Josh Gorges and Raphael Diaz. Diaz is never going to be a physical defenseman, but he and Gorges have found ways to keep shots and chances down. The emergence of those two as a solid second pairing is music to the ears of Habs fans, and bridges the gap created by the injury to Alexei Emelin. When Emelin returns, we may even see Francis Bouillon as a healthy scratch, but let's not count on it.
And don't forget to check out Arctic Ice Hockey for reaction from the losing side.
More from Eyes On The Prize:
- Canadiens at Jets - Top Six Minutes - Habs end road trip on a high note
- Pierre McGuire and taking the easy way out
- How did fights impact the Montreal Canadiens last season?
- Catching the Torch: October 7-13 Edition
- Max Pacioretty injured, helped off the ice