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Canadiens vs Penguins Top Six Minutes: Is this Kessel's time to shine?

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The Habs face their first true test of the season against the high-flying Pens offense.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For our new readers and members, the Top Six Minutes is a continuation of the discussion in the game thread. We try to keep it light and entertaining. Full recaps are up the morning after every game.

The Habs are 3-0 heading into the fourth game of the campaign. Historically, it's been pretty good when the team goes 4-0 to start the season - the Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup all four times that's happened - but then again, the Habs never had to play that fourth game against an offense quite this terrifying.

The addition of Phil Kessel has yet to yield major dividends for the Pens, but it's also only been two games. The Habs' season-opening tour of home openers around the league continues tonight, with the Pens returning to Pittsburgh to welcome their home fans this season. Let's hope they don't choose this opportunity to ignite their scary offense, get that 0-7 powerplay going, and have Sidney Crosby do what Sidney Crosby does.

This is my first ever Top Six Minutes for Habs EOTP. Let's hope I'm good luck.

First Period

  • I'm more frightened of Sidney Crosby when he's in Montreal. He seems to kill the Habs at the Bell Centre, so at least that's a positive to start this road game. Ditto Fleury. And every other Quebecois goaltender in NHL history.
  • Plekanec tried the same shot on Fleury that took O'Connor by surprise in Ottawa. It almost worked, too. If it's the playoffs I bet Fleury lets that in.
  • I love how much the elite centres in the East hate Plekanec. The man is great at his job.
  • Kessel passes on a 2-on-1 over to Malkin. It scares me to type that, but the shot is high. Pittsburgh is buzzing with lots of space up the middle, whether they are using a stretch pass from the defensive zone or passing into the slot from behind the Habs net.
  • Goal! Great hustle by Gallagher to gain the zone. He maintains control of the puck after he's rebuffed, and passes to Patches for a low shot through Flower's wickets. 1-0 good guys.
  • Carey Price is one of the best passers on the team. If you made the argument that he was the best, I'd listen to you for a while.
  • The SEGa line comes out flying, narrowly missing a goal because Markov and Eller couldn't sort out who should take a weak, toddling pass through the slot. Maybe just shoot it as hard as you can, fellas. Just spitballing here.
  • I don't want to overstate things here, but I really like the way the Habs are playing and I guarantee you they will win the Stanley Cup the next five years in a row.
  • Of course, as soon as I say that, the worst thing possible happens: Montreal goes on the powerplay at 10:01 of the first.
  • Thankfully, Desharnais has the good sense to take a penalty forty-four seconds later. 4-on-4.
  • Now it's Crosby's turn to miss on the 2-on-1 with Kessel. Man, I almost want Pittsburgh to score on these odd-man rushes so Montreal realizes allowing them isn't the best strategy.
  • Sure, the first period isn't over yet, but how much fun would it be if the Habs played like this all season and met the Pens in the playoffs? So much fun is the answer. So. Much. Fun.
  • Now the period is over. Habs are stealing the possession game but Pittsburgh has had some good looks, too. 1-0 at the intermission.

Second Period

  • The Habs are doing a great job keeping the Pens to the outside, especially Crosby, save for occasional lapse in slot coverage. I know this because Sportslogiq told me so.
  • I live in PEI. Pens F Daniel Sprong played for the Charlottetown Islanders last year, and there were a lot of surprised people when he made the Pens this year out of camp. He doesn't look a bit out of place. I didn't realize what we had here, and I don't think many did. 
  • Pens score. Guess what? It was a 2-on-1. Guess who? If you said Beau Bennett, you probably cheated.
  • Fleury gets a quick whistle in a scramble, but the puck didn't go in anyway. I'm curious about what might have happened if it did. Can a coach challenge a quick whistle?
  • I would fill my pants if I was a goalie and Phil Kessel got free in the slot in front of me.
  • Hey, another Montreal powerplay! I am 100% confident this will work out perfectly. For Pittsburgh.
  • Habs goal! Patches rips one from the half wall. THIS IS WHAT SEMIN SHOULD BE DOING FOR THE 1ST UNIT: SHOOTING.
  • Letang ties it up within a minute. A broken play sees him find the puck and let a wrister fly. I don't want to see him scoring against the Habs all the time, but it's great to see that guy healthy and back to himself. Hope he gets a full season in.
  • RDS just showed a 1978 pee-wee tournament photo of Marc Bergevin, Mario Lemieux, and JJ Daigneault on the same team. I'm curious as to how that powerplay was run.
  • Momentum - which I will refer to as Big Mo from here on out - is now clearly on the side of the Penguins. The game is starting to look more like I feared it would from the get-go.
  • Habs have started doing something they didn't do much last year. They're shooting from everywhere, hoping to get a weird bounce or to catch Fleury off guard. Fleury is a tremendous athlete, but he does have a tendency to allow those weird ones, so I wonder if that's part of the Habs game plan going in.
  • Pittsburgh wins the second period on the scoresheet, the Corsi chart and the eye test. I'm not saying that I don't want the Habs to win in regulation, but the potential matchups in 3-on-3 are making my mouth water. Let's hope Big Mo comes back to Montreal's side for the third.

Third Period

  • Fleury just made an astounding split save to rob Dale Weise with his pad. Big Mo likes that. Liam does not.
  • Smith-Pelley has been an entirely different person this year. I wonder if that is literally the case. At any rate, I'm slightly less angry about the Sekac trade, even though he's playing on a line with Perry and Getzlaf. *sobs uncontrollably*
  • Goal! 3-2 Habs. A broken play at the Habs blue line sends Desharnais on a breakaway, but his little legs can't propel him fast enough to catch the pass. He gets control behind the goal line, and the Pens are mesmerized. He passes to a wide-open Flash, who pots it short side for his first as a Hab.
  • That line (15-51-22) has been the fourth line tonight in terms of ice time. I wonder if Therrien saw the Flynn-Mitchell-DSP line miss that big chance a few plays ago and suddenly remembered the DD line.
  • Who are you working for, Big Mo? WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR!?
  • That's a weak penalty call on DSP. On the upside, the Pens have no PP goals this season. On the downside, the Pens are due for a PP goal this season.
  • Guys: I think I've found a PP worse than Montreal's. How is that even possible?
  • Semin just got dumped trying to wheel around the side boards. He hasn't looked great this game, but that line is still working well.
  • Carey Price does not care who Sidney Crosby is. Not one whit. Ho hum, best forward in the world, one-on-one in tight, sure, whatever. Yawn.
  • Five minutes left with a one goal lead? That's Carey time.
  • Price with another crazy save on Crosby. Sid is going to have Carey Price nightmares. I am going to start writing "Liam Price" on all of my notebooks, surrounded by little hearts.
  • Mitchell, Flynn and Eller out to take the defensive zone draw with two to go. Zone cleared. Good call Therrien.
  • Well, Montreal is 4-0, and you know what that means: we're winning the Stanley Cup this year, as the prophecy has foretold.
  • Also, the Habs are 1-0 when I do the TSM. #fancystats
EOTP 3 Stars

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2. The horror!
1. Perfect.



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