1. That was less than ideal
There’s no real way to dress this game up: the Montreal Canadiens came out and got knocked out in the first three minutes of the game.
It’s very hard to recover in a game where the opposing team has the most dominant scorer in modern history, and one who seems to be the most determined he’s ever been in his career. Alex Ovechkin was so locked in that even a prime Carey Price would be hard-pressed to deny him his goals. It was a perfect storm of bad things waiting to happen for Montreal.
The defence had some extremely bad turnovers, and the Washington Capitals feasted on every early chance they got.
Not every team is going to have Ovechkin playing for them, and it’s rare that Price takes such a beating early in the game. Slow starts, especially with the poor decisions like we saw last night, need to be addressed early in the year.
2. A dominant second period wasted
Against Buffalo, Montreal struggled badly in the middle frame, getting overwhelmed on the shot clock and not mounting much in the way of offence in response. While trailing badly, they turned on the offence and put the Capitals on their heels for most of the second period last night.
In one span the Canadiens owned a 15-2 shot advantage, but they had no luck on their side to help launch a comeback. Score effects are one thing, but this was a lopsided domination in the second period.
The Capitals are a very good team, so being able to put on a performance like that is something that should be praised. It’s difficult to shake off a devastating first period and turn in that type of showing.
3. Carey Price is going to be locked in tomorrow
When he was pulled in favour of Al Montoya between the first and second periods, it was widely assumed that Carey Price would occupy the net in New York tomorrow against the Rangers. That speculation was correct and Price will indeed start at Madison Square Garden. Whether it be against Ondrej Pavelec or Henrik Lundqvist, who also got replaced on Saturday night, remains to be seen.
Normally Price is always at his peak against the Rangers, especially in the regular season, and that usually puts fans at ease. The last time Price was pulled, in a 7-1 loss to the Wild last year, in his next game (against the Rangers) he came back and led the Habs to a win.
The offence in that game came from up and down the lineup, and chased Lundqvist from the net after five goals. Price’s teammates, knowing he’s going to be fired up and locked in for the game, will need to do the same and help their goaltender out like he’s done so many times for them in the past.
4. The penalty kill is highly aggressive
For the second straight game the Canadiens scored a short-handed goal, and not just out of pure luck or mistakes by the opponent. Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher got in heavy on a forecheck tonight, created a loose puck situation and cashed in quickly.
Paul Byron hustles to a loose puck, sets up Brendan Gallagher for the shorthanded goal pic.twitter.com/XywCXAUMFu— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 8, 2017
The aggressive nature of this penalty kill is a welcome sight, the Canadiens have players who can get down ice in a hurry. Changing the system to allow them to be heavier on the forecheck isn't a bad way to create chances.
The downside is that the penalty kill being more aggressive in puck pursuit opens up more looks for the opposing team. Finding the balance between wanting to pressure down ice and keeping the workload off their goalie is something the Habs will have to work on going forward.
5. It’s still early, but changes need to be made
The silver lining in a loss like this is that it happened early in the year, and it points out where changes can be made to improve the team going forward.
The biggest issue last night was that Mark Streit did not look like an NHL player. On the Capitals’ fifth goal he sprawled out on the ice to block a lane, which is fine, if he didn't stay there for far too long and allow the Capitals to score another goal.
I have absolutely no idea what Mark Streit is doing here, but it leads to the Caps fifth goal pic.twitter.com/A0Bp0lrwob— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) October 8, 2017
Last years incarnation of Jordie Benn might have been able to keep the Swiss defender afloat. This year with Benn struggling, Streit has been a noticeable weak spot.
Thankfully, this is just game number two in a long season, and there are options that can be slotted in on the third pair as needed. Brandon Davidson and Joe Morrow are the most likely candidates as they are with the team right now. Behind them are likely Jakub Jerabek, who had a successful first game with Laval on Saturday night, and Brett Lernout who has grown greatly as a player in his time in the AHL.
There’s not a massive cause for panic. These are changes that can be made easily by the coaching staff. The forward core is extremely deep, tuning up the defence to be more mobile, or more responsible in their own end can yield better results.
The team rolls into New York against a reeling Rangers team, they have every reason to come out and dominate them. Coming out flat again might raise some concerns about the team’s construction.