1. Look what Hu made me do
Charles Hudon and Brendan Gallagher have been the two best players on the Canadiens for the last little while, and it isn’t even particularly close.
Hudon has been outstanding no matter what line he has been placed on, and with the line of Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, and Alex Galchenyuk struggling, it might be wise to start treating Hudon like a top line player, and provide him with more opportunities to score.
He led all Habs players in shot attempt percentage at five-on-five, and that is not an uncommon occurrence this season.
Another player I noticed throughout the game was Phillip Danault. He was winning puck battles and winning races to loose pucks.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the second power play unit, which includes both players and Gallagher, was consistently more dangerous than the first unit.
2. P.K’s cheer captain and Shea’s in the bleachers
Don’t worry this won’t be a commentary on the trade.
For the second time in three meetings since the trade, one of the figures was out with an injury. It was P.K. Subban who missed the first game in Nashville, and last night Weber missed the game with a lower-body injury which must have been awfully tough for him to handle.
Subban was awfully good and was understandably engaged both physically and with the puck. He found himself out of position on Jordie Benn’s goal, but then made an incredible zone entry to lead to Nashville’s first goal and one of the best secondary assists you will see.
A lot of people will also point out the giveaways he had when the puck is on his stick which leads me to my next point.
3. This is why we can’t have nice things
Like Subban, and other puck moving defencemen, Jeff Petry gets a lot of criticism for when he gives the puck away.
It is one of those things where the eye-test (seeing him give the other team a chance) gets more attention than him breaking up a play or making a nice breakout pass or zone entry.
It’s the plight of the puck moving defenceman. And it’s why a lot of people will say that Jeff Petry is a bad defenceman, or that he had a bad game yesterday.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Petry has struggled at times this season. But last night was not one of those times and, under the circumstances, it was one of the best games a Canadiens defenceman has played all season.
Petry played 29:03 last night. No other Canadiens defenceman played more than 19:01. Petry’s 19:39 at even strength was more than any Habs defenceman played overall. He was a workhorse, and he was great.
At even strength, the team controlled almost 60% of shot attempts when he was on the ice.
The Habs with Petry on the ice tonight controlled 59.38% of shot attempts. With him off the ice? 34.1%. Stopped an EN goal that allowed the Habs to tie the game, stopped a sure goal in OT. But yes he's bad.— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) November 23, 2017
Just because he got beat on one play doesn’t mean he had a bad game. We need to look at the big picture and yes, players who have the puck more often will give it away more often. But just them having the puck is a good thing.
4. Begin again
Understandably, people were concerned going into last night’s game with Antti Niemi as the starting goaltender. Niemi has had one of the worst starts to a season than any goaltender has had and it led to him being put on waivers twice.
But the reason he was claimed twice was not just because a team needed a goaltender but because Niemi has a track record of being a successful NHL goaltender.
Sometimes, you just need to start over with some familiar faces, and Niemi in coming to Montreal can work with Stephane Waite, who helped Niemi when he won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
So it’s possible that helped him last night when he was not just good but great, but more likely it’s just that there was no way he could have remained as bad as he started the season.
Niemi made 31 saves, including several late in the third period and in overtime when another goal would have sunk the Canadiens games. He helped earn them a point and if the Canadiens can get play like that from their backup goaltender, that is great news.
Who knows how long Niemi will remain with the Canadiens, but if he puts in performances like that while he’s part of the team, that’s a big help to the Habs.
All credit to Niemi tonight, he's been extremely sharp. pic.twitter.com/pQmzplNJ0x— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 23, 2017
5. Are we out of the woods yet?
Last night was positive in most aspects, especially when you consider the Canadiens were without their top two goaltenders, their top defenceman, and a forward who was on the first line before getting injured (Artturi Lehkonen, not Ales Hemsky in case you were wondering).
And they did get a single point. But it was still a loss. Things do not look great for the Canadiens, but if they can put in efforts like they did last night with the reinforcements and get contributions from the offensive players who are supposed to contribute, they can get back on track.
Yesterday was a pretty good road game from the team. Another positive was the play of Jakub Jerabek, who played more minutes than Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson (and outperformed them) and only five seconds less than Karl Alzner in his NHL debut. He quickly earned the trust of the coaching staff and I doubt he will see the AHL again this season.