After an eventful day at the trade deadline, it was back to business for the Canadiens as they began their western road swing against the San Jose Sharks. The lineup had a bit of a different look to it, a byproduct of new acquisitions, some players being assigned back to the Hamilton Bulldogs, and the return of a healthy P.A. Parenteau to the squad. In particular, Habs fans all over would be looking to see what Jeff Petry, the team's big deadline acquisition, would bring to the team's blueline.
Image credit: HockeyStats.ca
The ever tiring story line of the Habs being slow to start reared it's ugly head once again on Monday night. For the 32nd time this season, Montreal gave up the first goal of the game, with Ben Smith wristing one past Carey Price to open the scoring just over six minutes into the game.
Whether it was your typical slow start or some difficulty adjusting to the changes to the lineup, there were a lot of turnovers and it was all Sharks in the first. If not for Carey Price coming up big against a Logan Couture breakaway, it could easily have been 2-0 before the game had even reached the 10 minute mark.
After killing most of a weak two minute minor against Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller took a tripping penalty, giving the Sharks a short 5-on-3 opportunity. While the Canadiens were able to kill off the two man advantage, shortly thereafter, Joe Pavelski extended the lead to two, getting his stick on a Brent Burns point shot to redirect the puck behind Price. The goal would be reviewed, but it stood, and the Canadiens went into period two down by as many goals.
The strategy for San Jose, if it wasn't apparent in the first period, it certainly was in the third. They were making every effort to shoot from the point for screens and redirects, something that should be read as a sign of respect for how hard it is to score on Carey Price. As good as Price was in the first and the start of the second, those screen shots just kept coming and Matt Irwin upped the lead to three, on the eighth Sharks shot of the period to the Canadiens' zero.
Just as Score effects began allowing for the Canadiens to dig themselves out of their shot differential hole midway through the second, Michel Therrien decided to break out the line blender. They finally began generating some opportunities at the other end, but certainly weren't able to boast the level of absolute control that the Sharks held for most of the game to that point.
In fact, the offensive attack was being stymied by itself all night. They struggled in particular at zone entries, resulting in a ridiculous amount of off-sides and turnovers at the opposing blue line. I'm usually the first person to jump on the linesmen for bad offside calls, but it really was quite a mess of a transitional game from the Canadiens. Definitely not what most were hoping to see after what by most accounts was an encouraging deadline day.
It is at this point that I'll spare you the rest of the brick by brick recap of their demise in this game. They were scarcely able to generate any offense at all, never mind goals, and San Jose won the game four to zero. Carey Price stopped 33 shots, but if the team doesn't show up in front of him, he can't do everything.
A few observations
-Jeff Petry rocked a 58% even strength CF in his Habs debut. It's not much to get overly excited about after a game like that, but definitely somewhat of a silver lining.
-Most cell phones that I have owned would provide a clearer shot of pucks that nearly cross the goal line in NHL games. They can strap a ridiculously high quality go pro to Sidney Crosby's face for a commercial, but the Motorola Razr I had in grade nine is shooting the damned goal line. I digress, this goal probably wouldn't have righted the wrongs with the Canadiens in that game, but WHY IS THIS HARD TO FIX?
-More about Price because it's insane that he actually looked amazing in a 4-0 loss. On every goal, Price had at best a snowball's chance in hell of stopping them, and he made a number of ridiculous saves to keep the score out of total blowout territory. It might be the tenth time I've said this, but if not for Carey Price this could have been a 6-0 game by the end of the second. He stopped 32 shots and still lost 4-0, he absolutely deserved better from his teammates, although he'll never admit it.