As Michel Therrien continues to search for his ideal configuration in the wake of the trade deadline, the Canadiens took to the ice in Anaheim with yet another new look to the lineup. Deadline acquisitions Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn got their first taste of hockey in the tricolore, suiting up on the team's fourth line. Of course, one of the trades Marc Bergevin made prior to the deadline was that of Jiri Sekac for Devante Smith-Pelly, as both players got their first opportunity to play against their respective former teams.
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After a very weak outing against the Sharks on Tuesday, the Canadiens were looking to rebound against another strong Western Conference team. If that was the idea, they may have wanted to start with the transitional game, which was somewhat of an issue in San Jose. They were rather sloppy in that regard, looking too often for the long breakaway pass, leading to several icing calls and endless changes of possession.
The transitional issues would eventually come back to bite them in short order. Some sloppiness in the neutral zone allowed for Kyle Palmieri to gain the zone on a partial 2-on-1 with Francois Beauchemin, who was able to beat Carey Price on the far side and put the Ducks up 1-0. This is a shot Carey Price probably stops most of the time, but it was an excellent release by Beauchemin that beat him while he was moving, so it seems fair to give him that one.
The best Habs chance of the first would go to Alex Galchenyuk. A great forecheck by Tomas Plekanec left Galchenyuk all alone in the slot, but he couldn't get it over the shoulder of John Gibson, who wound up needing to be pretty solid in the first period following the Beauchemin goal. The Canadiens picked up the pace considerably after the Beauchemin goal, out-shooting the Ducks 15-10 by end of the period.
What most teams would love to have to turn things around when down a goal would be powerplay time. But the Canadiens aren't most teams in that regard, and their performance on the powerplay last night was a special kind of bad. They had two powerplays in the first half of the second period, the first of which they managed only one shot on goal, and it was actually the better of the two.
On the second one, the Ducks at one point were actually playing keep away, and when they finally did dump it in, Andrew Cogliano forechecked hard and nearly got a scoring chance after taking the puck from P.K. Subban. At the tail end of the powerplay, Francois Beauchemin got a breakaway out of the box, but Carey Price luckily stood tall. It was without a doubt one of the worst powerplays you will ever see from any NHL team, and they were lucky to have not surrendered a goal, never mind score one themselves.
Sure enough, Anaheim would extend their lead shortly after the second epic fail of a powerplay. Rickard Rakell banged home a rebound in tight, and wouldn't you know, the assist went to former Hab Jiri Sekac. After the second brutal powerplay, it felt like a matter of time before they would score, and it was just insult to injury that Sekac got involved in the goal.
You really do have to give John Gibson credit for his performance in this game. He stopped Max Pacioretty on a breakaway late in the second, and though he wasn't ridiculously busy with great chances, he was solid when he needed to be and played a well positioned game. Had he not played as well as he did the game could have been much closer in the third period.
With a late powerplay, Michel Therrien pulled Price to get the 6-on-4, but Cam Fowler floated one from his own zone for the empty net goal. It was nearly a second straight shutout against the Habs, but Andrei Markov threw one out front late, and Alex Galchenyuk tapped it in with no celebration to avoid a second straight scoreless game for the Canadiens.
Much will be made of the fact that the team nearly spent six consecutive scoreless periods on the west coast. The San Jose game was a stinker through and through, but the Ducks game last night was nowhere near as bad overall. They held their own in terms of puck possession and out-shot one of the top teams in the Western Conference 38-33. This wasn't a game where they were walked all over by any stretch of the term.
The transitional game and the powerplay were definitely the two worst things you could point to in the game. That said, it should be noted that at the morning practice, there were an absurd amount of line combinations being tested out. It is entirely possible that the issues with the breakout at least, had something to do with Michel Therrien still trying to find his optimal lineup.
Certainly, a better result is desirable against the Kings. But, if they can simply find some better shooting luck while playing a similar game, it isn't out of the question that a replica performance could get them two points. Keep your ears open throughout the day, as one should not be surprised to see some more changes to the lineup before tonight's game.