After the previous two games against the Florida Panthers where the Montreal Canadiens were thoroughly shellacked, there wasn't much positivity going into last night matchup. With Carey Price getting the start over Peter Budaj, a few thought that holding on for a tight, low scoring win was a possibility, and that's what we got in the end, even if it wasn't representative of the flow of play.
Florida had the edge at the beginning of the game, until the Canadiens scored on their first shot on goal, a pretty little recovery from a flubbed shot by David Desharnais that fooled Tim Thomas, after which the Habs took the Panthers to the woodshed whenever the line of Brad Boyes, Aleksander Barkov, and Sean Bergenheim wasn't on the ice.
Montreal shredded the Panthers to the tune of a 60% even strength Fenwick through two periods, but were held to just a one goal lead, scoring only two goals. However in actuality it should have been 4-1 instead of 2-1, but as is the case nearly every Habs game of late, two legal goals by the Habs were disallowed for sketchy reasons.
The first was a Rene Bourque tally that saw an official blow the whistle before the puck crossed the line, for... no reason whatsoever. The second was a Travis Moen special, with him getting taken down on a breakaway but flipping the puck to the net, then getting pushed into Thomas, with the puck sliding through him and in. That one was called off due to goaltender interference, even though it was Barkov who knocked Moen into his own goalie.
After 40 minutes, the Canadiens pulled their typical third period collapse, giving up 16 shots, with Therrien seemingly double shifting Douglas Murray, to near-cataclysmic results. The Habs were outplayed so severely, that they ended up being outpossessed at even strength by the end of the game.
With that being said, it was the first time the Habs were able to put up a 60% or higher Fenwick close with any significant sample size since the 1-0 overtime win over Long Island on December 14th, almost a month ago.
Stringing together a couple of games like the first 40 minutes against the Panthers is a must for the Habs, who since the 20 game mark have been playing at a level closer to the Buffalo Sabres than the Boston Bruins.
Up until recently, Carey Price had been keeping the Canadiens in it, and although he was fantastic in the third period last night, he hasn't been able to do that recently. Last night was Price's first quality start in 4 games, and just his second in his last 7 starts.
This drop in play has seen Price draw criticism from the usual suspects, but with how terrible the Canadiens have been, can we really blame him for a drop in play over a couple of weeks? If the Habs were actually playing well, that drop in play may not have even been noticeable, but when they're relying completely on goaltending to win games, it becomes the focus of criticism.
It's often said that if you point to a great coach you'll find a great goaltender, but that doesn't really hold up to the modern game. What's probably more accurate is if you point to a bad coach who's job doesn't seem to be on the line, you'll find a great goaltender. If you're going to criticize Price for anything, it should probably be keeping Michel Therrien employed.
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