After losing three straight to divisional opponents, the Canadiens have rattled off three straight wins, last night's in convincing fashion.
Going into yesterday's game, I was a little nervous. The Philadelphia Flyers, in spite of their injury woes, were a 54.05% Fenwick tied team on the road, and the Canadiens hadn't been dominant on possession over the last few games.
But you can't engineer a blowout when you can't get a shot on net, and through half of the game, the shots were 17-5 for the Montreal Canadiens.
By the end of the game the Flyers had trimmed that margin to 29-19 for the Habs, but the shots at even strength were 21-13 for the Habs.
The Canadiens likely played their best defensive game of the season, holding the Flyers to just 4 even strength shots through the first two periods.
And it was a good thing too, since Peter Budaj started the game extremely shaky. I'm not sure what's up with Budaj this year, but he was definitely a lot better towards the end of last season. The comments section of the game thread last night accurately described him as a spaz.
On one save Budaj made, the puck sat right in front of him while he frantically looked in the air for it. Luckily the Flyers couldn't put home the rebound. Flanders did manage to look a lot better in the second half of the game though, including making two spectacular saves at point blank range in the third period.
It wasn't the only amazing defensive play of the game for Subban. In the third period he lost his man at the Habs' blueline (Sean Couturier I believe), but turned quickly, caught up to him and knocked the puck off his stick to avoid a breakaway. Maybe sometime soon the NHL media will realize just how excellent Subban is.
The tone was set by the Canadiens early, as Max Pacioretty was all over the ice, shooting and setting up teammates. The new line of Pacioretty - Desharnais - Gallagher seemed to have instant chemistry, and Gallagher's quick mitts were the beneficiaries of Pacioretty's newfound playmaking in leu of scoring.
Brendan Gallagher's opening goal showed just how well he's adjusted tot he speed of the NHL game. His fifth goal of the season ties him for 3rd in the NHL among rookies with Nail Yakupov, and only Jonathan Huberdeau has more even strength goals.
Gallagher's 8 points in 13 games ties him with Alex Galchenyuk for 5th place among rookie NHLers. Where Gallagher really shines though is in shot production. He was leading AHL rookies in shots when he was called up to the NHL, and he's currently leading NHL rookies in shots for per 60 minutes of ice time at 12.42 shots per 60. Alex Galchenyuk ranks 11th in that category at 7.91 shots per 60, ahead of Nail Yakupov.
Unfortunately, all this positivity around Gallagher has to be put on hold for now, as he's out with a concussion due to a dirty boarding hit by former prized prospect of the Leafs and current shitty player, Luke Schenn. Gallagher did not have the puck when he was boarded, and somehow the refs missed the call somehow, but hopefully Schenn hears his phone wring with Brendan Shanahan on the other line at some point soon.
It was Pacioretty driving the net again that produced a two goal lead for the Habs. He couldn't get the goal himself, so he maintained control of the puck while going behind the net and centered it to Gallagher. Gallagher was covered but managed to tap the puck into the slot, where a trailing David Desharnais displayed poise by chipping the puck past Brian Boucher, who was late in coming out to cover the angle.
I kind of felt bad for Boucher in this game, as he was in no way the weak link on the Flyers, but he was serenaded by the Bell Centre crowd from before the puck even dropped. Then I remembered he was a Flyer and I stopped feeling bad and joined in.
On one of Philadelphia's two shots of the period, noted idiot Danny Briere whiffed on a shot that banked off of Andrei Markov's skate and slipped by Budaj. It was the only real sign of life the Flyers had in the first 40 minutes.
Of course after scoring in a game the Flyers were never really competitive in, Briere proceeded to celebrate like he'd just scored in overtime. I have a running joke with a friend of mine that Briere would do the same thing if the Flyers were down 7-0 and he scored a completely flukey goal, only to go high five his teammates and be ignored.
Not satisfied in sitting on a one goal lead, Tomas Plekanec continued his excellent play with a goal to open the third period. At first it looked like he has wasted his chance, but Plekanec's smarts and patience with the puck resulted in a second shot attempt and he roofed it past a sprawling Boucher.
After the two goal lead, the Canadiens predictably sat back a little bit, but somehow the Flyers never really looked dangerous.
The standout among the Flyers for me was Jakub Voracek, who got three shots on net during the game and was the driving force on his line, but he's not a stand alone talent to do everything on his own.
Unfortunately for Voracek, he couldn't stop a break down by the Flyers with their net empty as Brian Gionta sent Rene Bourque on a breakaway. Voracek hung off of Bourque and prevented a shot, but in taking a penalty while the net was empty, Bourque was awarded an automatic goal.
Bourque now has 10 points on the year, 5 goals and 5 assists. It's tough to imagine a more impressive turnaround than what he's accomplished thus far this year.
Unfortunately there were still questions after the dominant win, as the to-this-point remarkably healthy Canadiens were dealt a serious blow. By the end of the game, Carey Price, Pacioretty, Gallagher, Alexei Emelin, and Colby Armstrong were all out with injury.
We've since learned that Pacioretty suffered a deep cut to his ribs, but the Wolverine will be fine. Armstrong and Emelin's injuries seemed to have been very minor, so they're okay, and Price has been okayed for back up duty in Monday's game against the Hurricanes.
Gallagher however, has suffered the second concussion of his young career, the previous one was two years ago right before the WHL playoffs while with the Vancouver Giants. He returned quickly from that one, but struggled to produce.
More bad news came today that P.K. Subban is suffering from the same illness that Price is, and may mis the game on Monday. Michel Therrien put Subban's chance to play at about 50/50. Hopefully he's feeling better by tomorrow.
For reaction from the losing side, check out Broad Street Hockey, the lair of SBN - NHL's big boss man.