Coming into the game against Florida all that dominated the forefront of Habs discussion, was the ongoing slumps of several star players. Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and Shea Weber all erased some of the fans’ unease by scoring four of the night’s five goals.
The narrative has long been that Max Pacioretty is “a streaky scorer.” In previous years when Pacioretty started slowly his first goal, whether it be in an empty net, or a game winner, it always seemed to open the floodgates for him. The captain getting hot and starting to fill the net on a regular basis is going to be a huge boost for an offence that has been rather anemic to start the year.
Weber uncorked a pair of absolute lasers on net as well, re-establishing himself as a major threat in the offensive zone. Forcing teams to try and defend against multiple hot options is going to open up more chances for players like Artturi Lehkonen or Charles Hudon to cash in going forward.
2. Carey Price was decidedly Price-like
Speaking of narratives, Carey Price played his part tonight to dispel the one surrounding him so far this year. Price has not been himself to start the year, that much is extremely clear, but he’s also not a sub .900% goalie. Against the Panthers Price was sharp right from the outset, having to come up with a crucial save just seconds into the game.
For a team that’s been lacking confidence in recent games, seeing your biggest star come out and make a statement early in the game is a huge boost. Price allowed just one goal, and for the first time in awhile the team rewarded him by scoring a bunch of their own. We all know Price can steal games. Under Claude Julien he hasn’t had to as often and he didn’t have to last night. If Price is back into his groove after this game, he can allow the offence to open up a but more, as he’ll hold the fort down at the back.
3. Scherbak is all business
The pre-season was not kind to Nikita Scherbak, the Canadiens struggled, and as a high end prospect he took the brunt of abuse in losses. He looked a bit lackadaisical, or disinterested at times and was eventually returned to the AHL’s Laval Rocket. He was recalled for one last game in the preseason, and it was like a switch had flipped on in his head. He looked involved, getting into plays physically, using his speed to stretch defences, and looking to make plays in the offensive zone.
Even when he was returned back to the AHL to start the regular season, Scherbak forced his way right back to the NHL, with nine points in the young season, and spearheading the Rocket and their high powered offence to a great start. Tonight we saw more of that Scherbak. He had a shaky start, as did everyone else on the Habs. Then he found his feet, using his long strides to get by defenders and forcing them to take penalties in the process. This version is the best we’ve seen from the former first round pick, and if his play continues like this the Canadiens have no choice but to find a spot for him in the line up every night.
4. The power play provided a spark
In addition to the losses, which at some point would come to an end, the Canadiens power play might have been the biggest issue with the team. There’s a surplus of talent, and night in, night out the man advantage looked stagnant and basically awful. For a team struggling to generate any offence at even strength, the power play could be, and should be a launching pad to reignite a team.
Last night Montreal did just that, using two power play goals less than two minutes apart to bury the Florida Panthers in the second period. Jonathan Drouin shined once more, as his dynamic ability with the puck set up space for his teammates to finish plays off. For all the talk about Mikhail Sergachev’s season, Drouin is doing just fine in Montreal, even with a rough start to the year by the Habs.
The Habs focused heavily on their special teams in practice this week. If their adjustments continue to pay dividends, the lack of scoring should dissipate quickly. Especially if they continue to draw penalties by using their speed to stretch defences like they did last night.
The Habs needed to win last night. After a disastrous effort in three games on the West Coast, anything less than a dominant win wouldn’t be enough. The Canadiens did just that, not only scoring five goals on the night, but not giving their opponent a chance to get back into the game themselves. It’s a huge confidence booster to put together a performance like the one against Florida, and the key now is to carry the momentum into their upcoming games.
First up, is a rematch with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. The two teams had a closely contested affair through 40 minutes last week. Then the Kings took over and dropped four goals on the Habs in the third period and walked away with a win. LA got tripped up by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, and were taken to a shootout by the Ottawa Senators. There’s no reason why Montreal cannot do the same. If the Canadiens can get their power play clicking again, and tighten up their defence a bit they could very well hand the Kings another defeat. Just carry the momentum from this win forward.
There’s more than enough talent in the line up to beat the Kings. Now is the time to start stringing wins together, Montreal has some very winnable games coming up and need to get the proverbial snowball rolling. We’ve seen this team string together record setting streaks, no reason they can’t do it now too.