Okay, are we done with the joke now, Habs? The Canadiens are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games, which is absolutely awesome and we should all be really happy, yet they've been getting outplayed constantly.
And Saturday, they were outplayed by Buffalo. Buffalo isn't just your run of the mill terrible team, they're quite possibly the worst team since possession statistics began to be recorded consistently in the 2007-08 season. Coming into the game, they had outplayed their opponents while the score was close three times in 29 games. The Habs made it four.
There's literally no excuse possible for the Habs to play that poorly, and if it weren't for Michel Therrien recognizing that he had captured fire in a bottle on the 4th line, they actually would have let the Sabres win.
The line of Travis Moen, Ryan White, and Brandon Prust was fantastic, controlling the puck through sheer determination and willpower. Their strong forechecking set up the first goal of the game on the first shift of the second period, and the second goal for the Habs when they held the offensive zone for a whole shift, allowing White to change out for Tomas Plekanec, who snuck in to fire home a pass by Prust.
Prust was the first star of the game, and deservedly so, which was great to see given how much he has been struggling. It may finally be time for Therrien to realize that Prust can't play top six minutes right now, and you can see this clearly when looking at his last five games played.
In three games off the fourth line, Prust has a 14.3% Corsi at even strength. In the two games he's played on the fourth line, he has a 68.8% Corsi. That's the difference between league worst and league best possession numbers. We're dealing with small samples here, but the difference is striking. Prust is an impact player on the fourth line, and a black hole off of it.
In order to get the Plekanec line going, Therrien promoted Alex Galchenyuk to that line, which resulted in the game winning goal. It also resulted in Lars Eller being stuck with Danny Briere, which meant he watched most of the game from the bench. We've talked before about Eller being a victim of his own versatility, but with both Brendan Gallagher and Galchenyuk taken away from him, it's getting tough for Eller to get anything done.
A lot of focus is going to be on P.K. Subban over the next few days, who has made multiple visible mistakes after being the only guy aside from Price who showed up against New Jersey on Monday. Subban was beat by Zemgus Girgensons on Buffalo's second goal of the night, which since it's Subban, obviously got people talking about how he's a "defensive liability". Watching Subban whiff on pucks and fail on stick checks at an alarming rate lately, combined with 24CH showing his wrist being taped up, I'm going to guess that he's playing injured.
With that said, Subban is still the best defenseman on this team, and he would be looking better if he had some support. Unfortunately Andrei Markov has also picked this time to struggle. Markov has been a giveaway machine this week, and often getting caught on bad pinches. Subban is going to be the one to be ripped for the Girgensons goal, but there was a reason he was all alone there.
But even with his struggles, Andrei Markov is still the second best defenseman on this team (notice a pattern?), and when he got tangled up with Tyler Ennis late in the third period and fell on his knee, wincing in pain, you could hear the air go out of the entire city of Montreal. When he went down, I looked at the group of friends, and I could see the expectation of it all being over for Markov. But somehow, his surgically repaired knee took the brute force of that fall, and was okay. Markov came back out, and was on the ice in the dying seconds of the game.
Carey Price won his seventh straight game, and completed his 10th straight quality start. I'm not even sure what to say about Price anymore. We need to start making up new platitudes because we've used them all. He's the best goaltender in the NHL. But he can't do it alone forever. WIth the powerhouse Kings coming to town on Thursday, this 19 shots on goal garbage isn't going to fly. If these are the real Habs, enjoy the wins while they last, because they'll stop coming soon.
Check out reaction from the losing side at Die By The Blade.
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