1. Focused Andrew Shaw is good Andrew Shaw
Andrew Shaw has had a few good games in a row, showing determination, excellent tracking of the puck and the game’s flow, and has found himself in good positions on the ice. The points are starting to come, and he has now scored three goals in the Habs’ last two games, racking up seven points in his last eight.
Shaw is the type of player who plays on the edge from an emotional standpoint, and when he teeters the wrong way he can be undisciplined and ineffective. As the season rolls on, however, his positive play has even seemed to cause referees to slow down their quick or questionable calls on a player who used to have no leeway.
Behind Artturi Lehkonen (61.0%), who is a monster for shot generation and suppression, Shaw ranks as the second-best possession forward this season, with an impressive 57.7% Corsi-for percentage. He’s also, like Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher, a familiar face near the opponent’s net.
2. Power plays pop pucks past posts
The power play has scored five times in the last four games, including the game-winner in Winnipeg. For a team that struggled to score both at even strength and with special teams, this is an encouraging trend.
Montreal isn’t even drawing more penalties than usual, they’re simply connecting more often on the power play. Relevant to takeaway number one, Shaw picked up his first two power-play goals of the season and got noticed on every PP shift he took.
Unfortunately on this same topic, the Winnipeg Jets, also a bottom-half team for power-play success, managed to ace their night against Montreal, scoring on all three of their opportunities. The Habs, who came into Winnipeg with the 27th-ranked penalty kill of 31 teams, dropped the ball against the Jets, and if it wasn’t for the Canadiens’ three power-play goals of their own, this game could’ve been another in a list of special teams disappointments.
3. Don’t stop believin’
The Habs kept Winnipeg from even getting an attempted shot on net until just beyond the five-minute mark, and yet still found themselves behind 1-0 halfway through the frame. The way the season has unfolded, many of us watching felt the house of cards was ripe for tumbling once more.
Montreal, however, kept their foot on the gas, kept firing shots from good space, many coming from between the faceoff circles. When the Habs were rewarded with two goals and ownership of the lead, they actually turned up the heat and increased their shooting rate, while effectively neutralizing the Jets’ offence.
By the end of the second period, the Canadiens held a 56-22 shot attempt lead, with actual shots on net being 33-12, but had lost their grip on the lead with a deflating late-period goal by Andrew Copp.
When Winnipeg scored consecutive powerplay goals to take a 4-2 lead, the Habs could have given up and stopped trying, feeling the sheer weight of their bad luck, which only seems magnified when playing on the road against a Western Conference team. Instead, they kept laying it on and it paid off. It seems, at least for one night, Gallagher’s plea for mental toughness has been heard, and responded to.
4. Scoring is the new black
Since returning from a nightmarish trip to California, Claude Julien’s team has pumped 26 goals into their opponents’ net in just six games, averaging just over four goals per game. Monkeys have come off backs and PDO is slowly regressing — slowly. The problem is these good games are sprinkled around two ugly losses, a 4-0 shutout at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings and a boring 6-3 beatdown in Minnesota. These unconvincing losses leave doubt in the minds of fans who have too often been let down.
Saturday night’s game was a nice reminder that this team can and will score. They surely will lose more games before the end of the season, and some may be bad ones, but this team is not devoid of scoring talent, and is finding its groove.
5. Jeff Petry is underappreciated
There are many fans out there who don’t get what Jeff Petry brings to the table. He’s not as flashy as P.K. Subban, he doesn’t have the cannon shot of Shea Weber and he doesn’t grow beards like Brent Burns, but Petry keeps pucks away from his goaltender. Last season, the Ann Arbor native led all Habs defencemen in CF% with 54.4%. Saturday in Winnipeg, Petry’s possession game earned him a 78.8%, leading all Canadiens.
Petry topped off his shot-suppression game by scoring the goal that sent the game to overtime. His Movember moustache is back, and it’s working already. If you consider a defenceman’s job to be stopping the opponent’s offence, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Jeff Petry isn’t one of the team’s best blue-liners. If you don’t see it that way, your judgment is probably based on the few cases when his plays go awry, or he gets tripped by his own defence partner while defending a rush.
Bonus takeaway: Max Pacioretty is more clutch than many think
Speaking of underappreciated.... Max Pacioretty has scored more goals than everyone not named Ovechkin, Stamkos, Pavelski or Tavares going back to the 2011-12 season. He’s not a flash in the pan — he’s a five-time 30-goal-scorer. The captain still gets a lot of heat for either not scoring enough, not being a good leader, or not scoring enough when it counts.
Max Pacioretty now co-owns the all-time franchise record for regular-season overtime goals, with nine. He shares the feat with legends Howie Morenz and Aurel Joliat. While we’re giving some love to Jeff Petry, let’s also lay off of Max. He’s not a problem, he’s a blessing.