He finally did it. David Desharnais scored a goal, ladies and gentlemen. It doesn't count on his stats page, and he's still only managed a single point in 18 games this season, and none in 12 games, but Desharnais put the puck in the net, and in doing so won the game for the Montreal Canadiens.
I'm pretty glad he did too, because I predicted he would publically about a minute before the shootout began:
Desharnais will score in the shootout. GWG. Book it.— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) November 16, 2013
And you know what? He had a good game too, though it didn't start out very well. The first thing Desharnais did on his first shift was embarrassingly misplay the puck, creating a scoring chance for the Blue Jackets in the process. Watching it unfold I thought "Here comes another one of those games from Desharnais", but he turned it around.
A big reason for that was Max Pacioretty, who had an amazing 8 shots, at least half of them scoring chances, an was a force the whole night. Of Montreal's 11 starts in their own end, 7 times Michel Therrien elected to use Max Pacioretty. Add to that his consistently excellent work on the penalty kill, and you get an idea of what Therrien expects from him. When his shots start hitting twine, it'll all be gravy.
Also solid was Peter Budaj, who's sitting pretty with a 3-1-0 record and a .945 save percentage after four games. He would have looked even better if it wasn't for the most consistent problem the Canadiens have had this season; Douglas Murray.
Murray's defenders constantly talk about his physical presence and how "clears the crease", but this is what he actually does:
If that was the first time Murray had taken out his own goaltender this year, it would probably be forgivable, but he does it every game, and he's been caught for it twice in two games, but the last one was waved off. Murray's lucky he didn't blow out Budaj's knee in the process.
Murray finished the game with a sterling 9.1% Corsi, the worst of any player to play in the NHL last night. But you know what? It's okay, because Alexei Emelin is back tonight.
Murray wasn't the only hole the Habs were dealing with though, because the top line of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, and Michael Bournival had a really rough night, and they weren't even matched up against Columbus' best. Derek MacKenzie, Blake Comeau, and Mark Letestu tore them apart.
Montreal did control the flow of play though, with the kid line leading the way in spite of one of the kids not being available. With Brendan Gallagher out, both Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk stepped up to score the Habs' 2 goals, Galchenyuk's being a beautiful deke on a breakaway he created himself.
Eller matched Pacioretty's 8 shots on goal for his part, and led all Habs forwards in ice time with 21:20. Remember the days when Eller couldn't even get 15 minutes a night? WIth the way he's played this season, it's the first time since Koivu was around that someone other than Plekanec could be in contention for the number 1 center distinction. But he's just a career third liner, right Mr. McGuire?
What was a little surprising about the game was how quickly Therrien demoted Danny Briere, who is still catching up after missing half the season so far with a concussion. Briere did play more on the powerplay, and set up Lars Eller's tying goal, but Therrien seemed to have little patience for his even strength play. The adjustment worked, and gave Therrien two lines to work with offensively.
Don't look now, but the Habs have outplayed their opponents in 3 of the last 4 games, and have a record of 2-1-1 over that time. It's not fantastic, but it's an improvement.
And don't forget to stop by The Cannon and say hi.
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- Hamilton Bulldogs early season report: The good, the bad, and the Lefebvre
- Why the rumour that Max Pacioretty will be traded for Evander Kane is nonsense
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