A lot of people, myself included, were complaining a lot last night about the Habs being boring. But honestly, a win in which they were the better team by far is something I'll take any day. When I talked to Mike on the radio earlier, I said that I wanted more than a win against the Isles, I wanted a strong possession game. And I got it.
The Montreal Canadiens played a very, very good game last night. It didn't look like much due to a complete lack of finish, but the fact that they played the entire game to a tie makes that game have a very large impact on their possession statistics for the season.
From a possession standpoint, it was the Habs' best game since October 15th against the Jets. That's a really, really long time. The New York Islanders aren't a good team, but Montreal has been outplayed at even strength by bad teams like Buffalo and Philadelphia lately, so let's not underestimate the positive impact a game like that can have. Just take a look at a game by game breakdown of the Habs' Fenwick close performance this season:
Looking at the Canadiens' last 10 games, that huge spike against the Islanders is something we should really focus on. Even better was the Habs' 73.2% even strength Fenwick with Douglas Murray off the ice. However, let's ignore the negatives for now and focus on the most positive result possible. Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin had a whale of a game, both above 72% Fenwick, and matched against John Tavares for most of the night.
Emelin had one brutal giveaway right to Tavares, but it didn't result in a scoring chance and he actually went +7/-2 in scoring chances on the night according to Olivier. That is a huge turnaround from what we've seen since he returned from injury, and although one game isn't something to be too crazy about, if this is a sign of how that pairing will trend, all of a sudden the Canadiens might look okay again.
Also excellent was the play of Lars Eller, who for the third straight game was among the Habs' best forwards. He hasn't been rewarded for it, but he's doing the right things and he's sparking the team consistently. His hit on Tavares last night was called as a bogus penalty, but was actually a devastating clean hit, which Tavares agreed with after the game.
The best player on the team though? For my money it was Alex Galchenyuk. Every game it seems like Galchenyuk is moving one step closer to being the player we all know he's going to be. He was a zone entry machine last night, and creating scoring chances with both playmaking brilliance and net drive. When he fully realizes his shooting potential, what are we looking at here? A 30 goal scorer? More? He's already on pace for 22 this season and it's very obvious that he hasn't figured out how to tame his shot at this level. The kid is unreal.
The game winner in overtime came off of a strong forecheck by David Desharnais, who forced Thomas Hickey into a mistake below the goal line. Desharnais then beat Hickey to the loose puck, eluded him, and found a streaking Max Pacioretty on the goal mouth. Given that Pacioretty had recently been hurt in the game, he obviously scored, his team leading 12th of the year.
Another effort like that against Florida today, and maybe the Habs can get back on the right side the possession game.
Don't forget to check out reaction from the losing side at Lighthouse Hockey.