1. A great homecoming
The Habs once again showed that they are very comfortable playing in their home arena. After a road trip that had them struggle to get the results they wanted even though they mostly played well, returning to the Bell Centre did wonders for the team. Against the Devils, they excelled on both ends of the ice.
They did not give their opponents much ice to play with using their intense forecheck, and their sound defensive game frustrated New Jersey's offence. It all resulted in a season-high 48 shots for while limiting the shots against them to 21. The next two weeks should ease the effect of losing two centres with six out of seven games at home, including this one.
2. Intense effort
With the injuries to key players piling up, the Canadiens would have to depend on their depth and putting in that extra effort in order to score enough goals in the absence of firepower. With a lot less skill in their lineup compared to just two games ago, the Canadiens were able to play one of their best games all season through intense pressure on the opposition. It was an example of a good offence being the best defence, as New Jersey had difficulty creating a decent number of offensive opportunities for themselves.
Yes, the Devils are not among the more offensively gifted teams in the league, but the formula that Montréal used against them will work well against everyone. It's a philosophy that the team had since the beginning of the season but they displayed it best during this game.
3. Philippe Danault and Torrey Mitchell step up
It is very easy to believe that there is no way to replace Alex Galchenyuk within the Habs' lineup. His offensive production will obviously be missed, but the Canadiens will look to their other forwards to take on more of that responsibility. Against the Devils, that is exactly what happened. They may not be able to open up ice as skillfully as Galchenyuk or make passes as cleanly as Desharnais, but Danault and Mitchell have the drive and determination necessary to score big goals in key moments, as they combine to score three and secure the victory.
4. Artturi Lekhonen's net-front presence
He is still adjusting to the North American style of hockey, but Lekhonen is doing all that he can to find success. This hard work paid off twice in this game. The first time was on the ice during Canadiens' first goal, in which he and Philippe Danault made Cory Schneider's job close to impossible as the puck found the back of the net.
He then added a goal in the second period, as he stationed himself right beside the net to find the loose puck and put it in. He may not be the most physically imposing player on the team but he definitely understands what he needs to do in order to create scoring chances and be successful.
5. Revitalized offence
The Canadiens showed that they did not lose any of their confidence despite tough losses in Anaheim, San Jose and St. Louis while scoring only four goals in those three games. Last night they played a high-pressure transition game rather than focus on sitting back, defending and relying solely on their goaltender to win games like they might have in years past. How much of this will be sustainable remains to be seen.
6. Extended edition
The first period went on for a little longer than we expected. With two great goaltenders featured in this game, some of the goals would require traffic in front of the net and fortunate bounces in order to beat talents of Schneider's and Price's calibres. As such, both teams' first goals went under review with the coach's challenge, as the benches deemed that their respective goaltenders needed to be hit in order to allow a goal in.
This caused the first period to go on for about an hour long which could have easily ruined the rest of the game's tempo. Luckily, the Canadiens were able to find a way to pick up their pace immediately, while the Devils struggled to ever find their game for the rest of the night. However, that was not the only consequence.
7. Paying the Price
Speaking of making life difficult for goaltenders, there was a point where enough was enough for the usually calm and collected Price.
Late in the first period, Devils forward Palmieri slid into Price, resulting in the goaltender attacking him with several right jabs. It was clear that he wanted to send a message to let others know that he sick and tired of being run three times per game. He made it clear that if the officials don't protect the league's goaltenders, then they should be open to defending themselves.
8. A Beau-lieu return
Nathan Beaulieu had a heck of a game. There were several moments where he wonderfully displayed his abilities. He held the puck for long moments of time, confidently carrying it up ice and skating around with it in the offensive zone. He made good things happen all night long, an encouraging sight for at team that desperately needs a quality puck-moving defenceman on the roster. The main knock against him is that he is unable to play that good of a game on a consistent basis; the hope is that he can remedy this issue with a little more experience and responsibility.
9. Another power-play goal against
The penalty kill seems to be having problems lately. They rank fifth last in penalty kill since October 19, which has caused them to lose some close games, such as in Anaheim and San Jose. Other good teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins have been worse in that regard so it is not something that should worry fans too much, at least not yet. If this trend continues however, it could hurt them come playoff time when special teams can be the difference in the result of not just an individual game, but an entire series.
10. Zack Redmond's impact
After a strong training camp and several weeks of injury, defenceman Zack Redmond finally got his opportunity to play an official game with the Canadiens. He had a very strong first game, replacing Greg Pateryn, the most recent player on the team to suffer a long-term injury.
Redmond is almost a more mature and experienced version of Pateryn. They are both strong players with a decent ability to drive the offense up the ice, and quickly. If Redmond can continue to give solid performances such as this one, he may remain in the lineup even when Pateryn returns.