1. Mark Barberio should not come out of the lineup, period.
In his short stint as a Hab, Barberio has done more than impress this blogger. His skills are exactly what his coach needs to be taking advantage of. His ability to transition from defense to offense is an advantage Michel Therrien can't afford to waste and yet he sits in favour of players who can't play the position as effectively as he can.
Barberio boasts a 58.84% shot attempt-for percentage at even strength this season. That is incredible. He also boasts a 60.78% high-danger scoring chance-for percentage (a plus-22 in that regard). In terms of shots, he has a +51 shot differential.
The stats alone tell part of the story but by watching the games you can see just how good he is. He is often first to the puck, and is able to scope out the best way to turn defense into offense. That is where Barberio thrives, that is what his coach needs to take advantage of.
2. Paul Byron is much more important than people think he is.
His speed is a weapon and he never stops moving his feet. His skills suit Therrien's system perfectly. He allows for 200 foot play and this really enables him to get to those chip-ins that Therrien loves. I watched him closely and noticed that he is an expert at weaving through the neutral zone with and without the puck. That's key for three reasons:
- He finds open ice for passers.
- He gets to loose pucks.
- He is evasive while entering the zone with the puck.
I like Paul Byron.
3. The Habs' response to going to down early was a responsible one.
It was the only good aspect of their game, those two minutes after the Coyotes scored their first goal. The Habs have collapsed too many times after going down early, mainly because they've been down early more often than they've been up. As they try to salvage their season, they need to find way to fight back when down. They did it against Buffalo to an extent, and they did it last night as well.
They seemed unfazed. They didn't change anything about their game, and went right back to the offensive. Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Sven Andrighetto had a great offensive zone shift without a shot on net (and drew three uncalled penalties) followed quickly by the goal.
Jacob de la Rose finished off a strong shift from a fourth line that looked good for a shift or two. It was a great finish by Weise who was right in his wheelhouse. He played it simple and got rewarded, that's how he's going to earn a contract.
4. More on the fourth line.
I thought that this was the best a Habs fourth line looked in months ... and it only last a shift. Maybe it has something to do with actual bottom six NHLers playing on it instead of replacement level skaters - no disrespect to Brian Flynn. No comment on Devante Smith-Pelly.
They were active in their cycle and strong on the boards. I've grown accustomed to the Habs' fourth line chipping, losing the board battle, and hustling back to try and defend after losing possession. Weise playing in his actual role makes a huge difference.
5. Something changed after the Coyotes scored their second goal.
I complimented the Habs for their strong response to getting scored on first, because it was merited. It was the truth. Something changed with their mindset that defies logic.
I don't know what happened. Their response after the Coyotes' second goal was the exact opposite of their response to the Coyotes first goal. They couldn't do a thing. They were disorganized in their own zone. They couldn't execute a breakout. They turned routine plays into difficult ones. They had zero offensive pressure. It was tough to watch.
6. They got incredibly lucky due to some poor goaltending from Louis Domingue.
That Gallagher goal should never have happened, and it gave the Habs the breath of life they needed to get back into the game. I'll take being lucky over being good if it means the Habs resemble something like a hockey team.
7. Mike Condon should have been pulled
The Habs didn't give him much to work with but four goals on 14 shots (after the Coyotes scored their fourth) cannot happen. I miss Carey Price. A lot.
8. The Habs were just plain bad.
They had 13 shots on net with four minutes left in the second. They were terrible after the Coyotes scored their second goal.
9. They are not fun to watch anymore.
It's pretty painful. Watching them seems like a chore.
10. It may be time to sell.
Michel Therrien seems unwilling, or unable to change his strategy without Carey Price providing him with Vezina level goaltending every night. Their playoff chances have dropped below 10%. They remain a mess defensively, and cannot get anything going offensively. Anything can happen, but I'm not exactly inspired by the hockey I'm watching.
They played 2 good minutes of hockey last night. That just isn't enough.