1. The line-up
With Alex Radulov sick and sidelined, it was time for Michel Therrien to get creative with his lineup. Brendan Gallagher was shuffled into Radulov’s spot on the first line alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Byron, while the only line in tact from Sunday’s game in Chicago was Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw.
No matter how ugly it looks on paper, it seems like Michel Therrien is pressing the right buttons on his blender. Last night his makeshift changes yielded production in a game that the Canadiens ultimately dominated in shots and possession, with Brendan Gallagher making the instrumental play on the game-tying goal and players from three of four lines finding their names on the scoresheet at the end of the night.
2. The powerplay continues to produce.
The Habs scored their 12th powerplay goal last night, pushing their NHL rank to sixth place with a 23.6 percent efficiency. They’re are on the lower end of the league average in terms of getting opportunities, with 51 powerplay chances over 17 games.
The Habs have powerplay goals in 11 of their 17 games played so far and have tallied four in their last four games. The powerplay is definitely working right now, and is turning into a reliable stream of offense, something absent from this team for quite a while.
3. Carey Price does not look happy after he lets in a goal, like he’s telling himself “you can do better than that”.
A look seems to inhabit his eyes, as if he can’t accept that he’s just been beat. Seeing this competitive side of Carey Price even the face of being beat is one of the many reasons he is the best. He never stops believing, and this has made him into the goalie he is today.
Going back to a comment he made in the Habs’ last playoff appearance, he thinks he should stop every shot he faces, even the ones that go off broken sticks or bounce twice before hitting the net. In his post-game comments last night he said if he had made a couple more saves his team would have won, and when questioned if he remembered what it felt like to lose he said “It’s not fun”.
4. Michel Therrien is giving David Desharnais every chance available to succeed.
Desharnais was used for 16:19 tonight, including 3:12 of powerplay time. Comparing this usage up against Alex Galchenyuk, who logged 16:08 and 2:22 of powerplay time, I can hear people ripping out their hair from here.
But it worked last night, with Desharnais playing one his best games of the sesaon and registering a goal and assist. In the long run, it’s Galchenyuk that will need to lead this team as the most used centerman, but for the time being it’s important to create secondary scoring.
5. In case you forgot Alex Galchenyuk’s stick handling is excellent.
6. Roberto Luongo played a great game in Montreal once again.
One of the first times I saw Roberto Luongo play was on Hockey Night In Canada when I was fifteen. It was November 17, 2001 and the Habs were at home against the Panthers. Luongo only allowed one goal on 45 shots with Karl Dykhuis the only one to beat him to give the Habs their eight win of the season.
Over the years, Luongo tends to play his best when he visits his hometown, and last night was no exception. His last regulation loss in Montreal was February 6, 2014. Since then Luongo has posted a record of 3-0-1 in Montreal along with a .929 percentage. Last night was the best player on the ice last night, with 34 saves on 37 shots, including a glove save on a patented Shea Weber point shot that had the top corner written all over it.
7. The Habs had to fight back in this one.
Even though the Canadiens ended up dominating possession in this game, the first period was not in their favour. They trailed in possession and on the scoreboard, outshot 12-6. It looked like it could be one of those games where the Habs leaned heavily on Carey Price and somehow eaked out a win.
Instead, the opposite happened, and even though the Habs didn’t get the win it’s hard to be disappointed at a game where the Habs showed the ability to turn it around after getting off to a rough start.
8. Paul Byron is taking advantage of his opportunity
Since being moved up on the first line on November 8 against the Boston Bruins five games ago he has four goals. He’s playing well enough to have earned his position on the first line, and has shown he belongs there right now, which he will have to continue to do to remain in that position. Byron’s career-high in goals was last year when he scored 11 in 62 games. Having scored his sixth last night, there’s a good chance he surpasses that total this year.
9. You need a stick to play.
That’s one of the first times I’ve seen someone break their stick in the defensive zone on a three-on-three, and it was probably Alex Galchenyuk’s first time too. He seemed lost, stuck between two worlds and in the end, his indecision made him ineffective. It was a lack of action while facing a tough situation that had a poor result, and it’s the kind of mistake you only make once.
10. Carey Price the leader.
Carey Price was not happy after the game. His answers were curt and centered around demanding a better game from himself, a better result. Losing a game is not a feeling he’s had to deal with in over a year, with his last loss coming on October 29, 2015 and the way he spoke after the game, it seemed like a feeling hew wanted to shake off immediately, and that’s exactly what makes him such a great leader.