The Canadiens returned home after a 1-0 shutout at the Joe to face the reigning Cup champions for the 3rd final time this season. On the other end of the goal-scoring spectrum, the Penguins were coming off a wild 8-7 overtime win vs the Capitals Monday night. It was anyone’s guess what kind of game this might be. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a ...
For two fast and skilled teams, this game was a bit of a yawner as both teams tried to focus on defensive plays and turnovers abounded. Even the flashiest of the flashy Penguins were kept relatively quiet, with goals coming from screened shots and deflections rather than jaw-dropping Crosby-esque plays. It can only get better next game against *checks schedule* .... oh.
2. Shooting the puck
Quite a few times in this game, the Habs missed out on scoring chances by taking the other option vs shooting the puck and either attempting to pass one too many times through opposing defencemen or simply just running out of real estate as they rushed towards the net. Sometimes the best play is the simplest and the Habs may be better served by simplifying their play as the press through this mini-slump.
3. (Lack of) Andrei Markov
Boy do the Habs ever miss Andrei Markov. Thus far, they’ve managed to limp their way through all of their injuries, but this is one area where the bandaid might be starting to slip a bit. Without Andrei Markov in the lineup, the Canadiens are up one Goal Against per game, from 2.19 to 3.25. Markov out also means shifted defensive pairings and, with Pateryn also injured and St. John’s call-ups filling the gaps, fewer minutes for the 3rd pairing and more pressure on the top two pairings. Those shifted pairings have also been leading to....
4. Poor Communication
Whether it’s been the defensive pairings, or backchecking forwards, there seems to have been a spate of blown coverages lately. Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Petry were the two who demonstrated this most frequently in this matchup, most notably on Maatta’s goal where Petry gave up the puck behind the net and Beaulieu had a good view of the puck sliding past Price.
5. The Price is Okay
Carey Price happens to be going through a bit of a rough patch right now. Price has allowed three or more goals in 8 of his last 10 starts. His save percentage slipped below .900 for December and was sitting at .866 for January at the start of this game. Price didn’t look bad on any of the goals scored which were screened shots or deflections, but he also didn’t look up to the extraordinary level to which we’ve become accustomed.
Price’s go-to in discussing saves is that he just “tries to be big” in his net; Price is not looking very big in net right now. He’ll figure it out; I’ve no doubt of that. But as was much discussed last season, the Habs aren’t currently getting that one big save to build from and Price isn’t getting a whole lot of help in front.
6. Plekanec and the kids
Tomas Plekanec, still centering a line of Sven Andrighetto and Artturi Lehkonen, was buzzing early and often in the game. They held the puck in deep on the Penguins and managed a few scoring chances as well. There’s some nice chemistry building there and a great chance for some offensive kids to learn the nuances of being a great two-way player. And speaking of Andrighetto...
7. Is Sven here to stay?
Andrighetto now requires waivers, should the Habs decide to send him down. Until recently, he hadn’t managed to make much of a case for himself to stay. The last few games, however, he’s become much more engaged and involved and has shown some defensive responsibilty that can only endear him to his coach. Add to that a couple of goals recently, including...
8. A goal!
Solid effort by Andrighetto down low and not giving up on the puck. Just what you want to see. And the Habs weren’t shut out!
9. Captain Max
Max Pacioretty’s effort tonight won’t look very spectacular on the score sheet, but the Captain was involved at both ends of the ice tonight. Tough on the forecheck and fast on the backcheck, Pacioretry looked to be the same steady, solid presence that he has since recovering from a broken foot, which is exactly what the team needs. No panic, no pressure, just solid, steady play.
The Canadiens have now played 12 games in the last 22 days, bouncing between away games and home, while missing up to 7 regulars from their roster. They’re tired and beat up. They were not outplayed by the Penguins. The Canadiens are good. Slumping but good. As long as they (and we) remember that, the team should be out of this slump sooner rather than later.