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Habs vs. Blues 10 Takeaways: Tomas Plekanec snaps funk at the right time

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Plekanec found the back of the net, his groove back, and may soon find himself as the interim top centre for the Habs.

Montreal Canadiens v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
  1. Tomas Plekanec snaps funk at the right time

The turtlenecked assassin has been quiet in terms of goal-scoring, though he hasn’t been invisible. Nonetheless, Plekanec snapped a scoring drought dating back to November 5th when he helped the Habs defeat the Philadelphia Flyers.

It wasn’t simply a goal tonight, though it’s worth noting his goal was of exceptional caliber, but Plekanec seemed to find some energy and drove some scoring chances for Montreal. He was originally thought to have scored the opening goal when he fired a hard shot at Jake Allen, but Paul Byron ended up with credit for putting the puck in on the rebound.

2. Paul Byron and Plekanec find chemistry

Byron was a bit part of what helped Plekanec on Tuesday. Like Brendan Gallagher accomplished last year, Byron seems to be able to get moved in the lineup and maintain a positive impact on his linemates, regardless who they are. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Habs fans saw Byron moved up and down last year and he kept up a relatively steady production.

Against the , St. Louis Blues, Byron and Plekanec appeared very much at ease together. Let’s say it’s also worth mentioning that Artturi Lehkonen fit right in with the two, and should be given a lot of credit for the Byron goal, as he caused the crucial turnover in the neutral zone which eventually sent Plekanec in shooting.

3. Desharnais hurt, which normally isn’t a big deal, but right now it’s an issue

Until we know more about David Desharnais’ status, we shan’t panic. Without Alex Galchenyuk in the lineup, Desharnais was tapped to take first line duties, but he was unable to finish the game, leaving with an injury and not returning. Desharnais is not irreplaceable, but with Galchenyuk currently awaiting more news and Charles Hudon recovering from an injury, losing another centre is going to take a toll.

4. Habs will need to find some depth at centre

Plekanec is a logical choice to step up into a top line role should Desharnais miss further action, and Michel Therrien will have little choice but to scramble some utility players into the middle to play centre. Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron can play pivot, as can Torrey Mitchell, so if there’s a call-up required it might not have to be a centreman. The Canadiens could opt to promote a winger while shifting a current winger into the middle until some healthy bodies return to the lineup.

5. Good thing Price wasn’t playing this game

Al Montoya was the subject of much traffic and contact in the crease, and while it’s unfortunate that it happened to anybody, though I suspect most would agree we’d rather see Montoya picking himself up off the ice than MVP candidate Carey Price.

Rushing the net and getting in a goalie’s face can be extremely effective, but for a team who is facing a bit of adversity after a hot start, protecting their all-world talent is key. After a tiring California swing, Montreal rested Price for the last game of the road trip before heading home, where we hope things will start to look more like they did in October and early November.

6. The Habs continue to struggle with faceoffs

One issue which didn’t help the Habs against the Blues was Montreal claiming only 43% of the draws. This is a stat which can’t be blamed on the absence of one Alex Galchenyuk, who boasts a lacklustre faceoff winning percentage of his own, clocking in at 39.5% for the season. Plekanec is winning half of his faceoffs, but the Canadiens will need more support in the dot if they’re going to maximize on their possession game.

7. Lack of Discipline can take a toll on Montreal’s ability to take over a game

Tuesday’s game saw a pretty regular parade of players from both squads heading to the penalty box and both teams combine for 0/9 on the power play. While the Habs and Blues both have better power plays than what we saw, neither team was able to score, and instead having players in the box served to break any building momentum in the game.

Montreal’s style has them playing very well when they on the edge and being opportunistic with the man advantage, and getting the power play back online can help, avoiding sitting our own players in the box should also become a priority in order for Montreal to reclaim its winning ways.

8. Wins and losses matter, but don’t tell the full story

Shots on net in this game were very close, though a look deeper will show that St, Louis had to block more shots, and Montreal took the advantage for high-danger scoring chances 15-11 over the Blues. Since the Habs had a 2-0 lead, St. Louis should really have ended up with a higher number of shots and scoring chances.

The Habs held on until overtime, claiming a point against a very strong, very well-coached team. They also did so without their biggest offensive weapon not named Radulov.

9. Home Sweet Home

Montreal now returns home and will begin to mend its wounds. This road trip ended as many feared, with the Canadiens having lost more than they’ve won, though collecting three points in the last two games. After resting Carey Price in St. Louis, fans should see their All-Star back in the crease when the Devils visit the Bell Centre on Thursday.

This will also mean that injured players can also be back home, which can help expedite recovery a little. The good news is there isn’t a long delay and the Habs will have a chance to keep adding points to their league-leading total. The earlier wins this season have given the Canadiens a cushion, and their PDO has been unsustainably poor. Despite injuries, there is still lots to be hopeful for with this team.

10. The Canadiens did not get dominated in California and Missouri

Traditionally, the Habs get run out of the rink when facing the St.Louis Blues or teams from California, but that was not the case this year. Despite only securing one win in that stretch, it has to be said that the Canadiens put forth a very solid effort during the road trip.