The focus of the narrative so far this week has largely been the trade deadline, where the Montreal Canadiens will likely be in the unfamiliar position of sellers, rather than buyers. The names most frequently mentioned in the media as rental trade targets for Marc Bergevin include Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, Lars Eller, and even Alex Galchenyuk.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
These players, in particular Galchenyuk, acquitted themselves unbelievably well against the Capitals. They were each partly responsible for the Habs orchestrating an upset win over one of the best teams in the NHL.
In the early goings, the team certainly didn't look to be trying to win the game. The Capitals predictably danced circles around the Canadiens, reminiscent of a Harlem Globetrotters game against the Washington Generals. It was a Washington penalty that stunted their momentum.
Although the Habs failed to convert on the ensuing power play, they used it to flip the script on their opponents. Galchenyuk intercepted a puck near the blueline, slid the puck over to Weise, then went to the net and buried the latter's rebound to open the scoring.
Galchenyuk played a tremendous game, showcasing his next-level stickhandling abilities. He got a second scoring opportunity in the first by cutting into the middle of the ice and getting a clean shot on net, but Braden Holtby was there to thwart him.
The Habs scoring woes have been well-documented this year, and Holtby figured to be a big challenge for them. Enter Brendan Gallagher, who made good on his team's second power play of the night by banging the puck home from his office; right in front of the net.
They say a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, and another trade bait player decided that he couldn't abide that lead. Early in the second, Tomas Fleischmann pounced on a rebound right by the faceoff dot, and fired a seeing-eye shot to make it 3-0. That was the end of the night for Holtby.
Holtby was replaced by Philipp Grubauer, and that seemed to spark the Capitals. Not long after the Fleischmann Goal, Jason Chimera was able to get a hold of a loose puck near the net, and fired it past a sprawling Mike Condon to make it 3-1. Game on.
Unfortunately for Washington, Alex Galchenyuk was on fire. He found himself heading into the Caps' zone on a two-on-one with Lars Eller, who streaked down the wing and fed a perfect centering pass to Galchenyuk. Just like that, it was 4-1, and the Canadiens were in complete control.
Complete control be damned, let's not forget that the lowly Canadiens were up against a formidable team. They began to start pushing hard to get back into it, and that push would force Mike Condon to put up a save of the year candidate. It was absolute insanity.
But what Condon giveth, condon taketh away. Well, almost. In the third, the Capitals came out and displayed why they were the best team in the League, and Montreal's 4-1 lead felt rather unsafe as play went on.
First, Condon gave up a bit of a weak goal via a far-side floating shot from a bad angle by Dmitry Orlov. Five minutes later, Andre Burakovsky fired a shot from near the top of the circles that fooled him and went straight through the five-hole. Just like that, they were within one, and the game looked to be slipping away.
The Capitals would pull Grubauer for the extra man, but it was all for naught, as the Canadiens held on for just their second regulation road win since December first.
- The underlying trend in Galchenyuk's success during this game was his play down the middle of the ice. The fact that he remains relegated to a winger position remains one of this season's most baffling coaching decisions. He needs to be moved back to the middle, yesterday.
- P.K. Subban may have failed to find the scoresheet on the night, but he was a juggernaut nonetheless. When he and Andrei Markov were on the ice, the Canadiens controlled well over 50% of even-strength shot attempts. Subban's personal mark was 58.14%, and the pair only started 28.57% of their shifts in the offensive zone. It was a tour de force for them.
- Andrei Markov played an 11th consecutive game of over 20 minutes. It's safe to assume that this trend will continue, given all the injuries on the Habs' blueline.
- The Canadiens have lost 184 man games to injury thus far this season. That's 85 more than last season, and the largest jump between seasons in the League.
- Sven Andrighetto showed some promising signs of an offensive forward, but failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities. If given the opportunity, he should develop into an offensive asset for the Habs. That may be what is happening, as he started the night on the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly, but finished the game alongside Eller and Galchenyuk.
The Canadiens now sit five points out of a Wild Card spot, but with four teams between them and said spot. General Manager Marc Bergevin has five days to decide whether to sell off his assets, or stock up for a Cinderella playoff run.
Perhaps he'll be putting a lot of stock in the team's next game on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.