The Montreal Canadiens bucked their season trend last night, and not only scored the first goal, but added two more on their way to a 3-0 victory versus the Winnipeg Jets.
The story of the night had to be Carey Price's stellar play, which was good enough to earn him his first shutout of the season, the 26th of his career. With the 29-save shutout, Price raised his save percentage to .918 on the season.
The Habs seemed to have scored an early goal, although upon further review Brendan Gallagher was miles offside. Following the waved off goal, the Jets took over the play, and were unlucky to finish the period tied. Winnipeg had several breakaway opportunities, all of them stopped by Price, who seems to be doing much better this season when it comes to shootouts and breakaways.
The man of the hour, Jiri Sekac, was the catalyst of the first Habs goal, once again displaying the skill set that should have ensured he never got benched in lieu of a weaker player in the first place.
Capitalizing on some hesitation by Grant Clitsome, Sekac stripped the Jets forward of the puck, and immediately drove to the net. His goal drive resulted in an easy tap in for Lars Eller, who has arguably been Montreal's best forward in this current stretch of games.
Eller's line was, once again, the best scoring threat Montreal had all night, and even though they were absolutely hammered in terms of defensive zone starts, they managed to create several scoring opportunities. Eller and Prust were both treated to 9% offensive zone starts, whereas Sekac had to deal with 20%.
Essentially, Lars Eller seems to have taken over Tomas Plekanec's regular defensive duties, and is doing so in style. Eller has played well all year, he just wasn't getting the bounces, and had questionable line mates. With this new found chemistry between Sekac, Prust, and himself, he seems to finally have found his groove, and pucks are going in.
Lars Eller's 4 even strength goals has him 1 behind Pacioretty for the team lead. Also second in goals per 60 on the team.— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) November 12, 2014
The good news is that the Lars Eller line wasn't the only line that played well, as we saw Alex Galchenyuk break a four-game goalless drought, thanks to a very simple play.
Instead of looking for the perfect shot, Tom Gilbert simply put the puck on net, where some strong work from Galchenyuk in front of the net afforded him a rebound opportunity, something the Canadiens haven't gotten much of this year. Galchenyuk's quick hands gave the Habs a 2-0 lead, which is usually enough for Carey Price to take home the win.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news on the forward front, as Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and whoever is placed on that line, are still struggling. They're getting butter-soft assignments, and showing very little in terms of quality scoring chances. Michel Therrien has been juggling his right winger on that line, to no avail. I really don't think the right winger is the issue on that line; and even though it may not be realistic, I would love if Michel Therrien would finally bite the bullet and split up his not-so magnificent duo. Adding a player like Weise won't do it, as we've seen from their very poor 30% possession numbers.
Who could fit with Montreal's best goal scorer? Tomas Plekanec comes to mind. As it stands, on most nights Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty create more scoring chances during the penalty kill than other lines produce at even strength. All right, that was a hyperbole, but it's not all that far from the truth. It's not far-fetched to project that their chemistry would extend to 5-on-5 play.
The powerplay continues to struggle, and there seems to be no answer in sight. If Subban doesn't deke three players, it's unlikely the Canadiens get anywhere near the net. This has resulted in Subban focusing on highlight plays, rather than simply trying to put the puck on net with the hope that the man-advantage would yield a profitable rebound. Subban probably had his worst game of the year if we're being honest, but then again the majority of the defense struggled, except for Tom Gilbert and Nathan Beaulieu, who were very strong.
This was Montreal's third win in a row, which once again catapulted them near the top of the league's standings, although unfortunately they're still in the lower half of the league in terms of possession numbers.
The Habs will be back in action on Thursday night, when they'll take on their biggest rivals, the Boston Bruins. Say a prayer for Dale Weise.
(gifs via @myregularface)