1. Brendan Gallagher cannot be stopped
The Montreal Canadiens’ resident pest has been on another level for the entirety of this season. When other players have struggled, Gallagher has been there to pick up the slack and drive the offence in the right direction.
Last night he tallied a pair of goals doing what he does best: getting in the dirty areas and directing pucks at the opposing goaltender. Not only is he driving the net, as is custom for Gallagher, he’s showcasing some extremely soft hands in the slot and in front of the opposing net. Both of Gallagher’s goals came on deflections with him in motion in front of the net.
Even when he didn’t get the goal, he was crucial in setting one up, as his shot in close led directly to Charles Hudon registering his third goal of the year, and the Habs tying the game after a disastrous opening period.
While Jonathan Drouin led the team in points heading into tonight, Gallagher took that lead with his performance, and it’s well deserved for the alternate captain.
In his best professional season, Gallagher’s is threatening to smash his career high of 24 goals.
2. Even Price has his “off” nights
Since Carey Price returned from injury, he’d let in a total of two goals over the course of three games, while looking nearly unbeatable in the process. Last night he let in three goals, and still earned the win. He didn’t have to be flawless like in other years when the Habs had few offensive threats.
In fact outside of a few occasions that required his elite skills, it was a rather boring night for Price in net. He stopped 28 out of 31 shots, and got some major help from Jakub Jerabek late in the game to keep the Canadiens’ lead intact.
His best save of the night came in the second period when Gustav Nyquist redirected a puck on net. Price stayed on his feet to make a blocker save on the shot, and quickly reacted, sealing off the bottom of the net, and not allowing any follow-up chances.
Nice save by Price here, puck is redirected last second and he still makes the save pic.twitter.com/OlLPA1jzxc— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 1, 2017
He’s looking like the best goalie in the world, but right now the Habs are starting to clear up their issue of giving up too many shots in the slot. While he’s arguably the best, if things keep improving he won’t have to play like it every night, and having an off night won’t be a death knell for the Habs.
3. Immediate impact for Daniel Carr
The Canadiens’ lineup changed dramatically in the last 24 hours. Daniel Carr was recalled, and Victor Mete went from healthy scratch to getting the nod just before game time in Detroit. Jacob de la Rose was promoted to Galchenyuk’s line with Jonathan Drouin out with a minor injury, and shocked everyone by setting up Alex Galchenyuk’s eventual game-winner.
Carr went from the AHL top line to the second wave of the power play in the first period, and was the driving force in the opening goal. Carr drove into the Red Wings’ zone, forcing the defence back, before dishing off to Max Pacioretty. Gallagher ends up tipping the puck home, but the whole play started with Carr using his skills and bringing a scoring touch to a team that could very much use that depth.
It’s been shown in the past Carr is capable of being a useful tool for the Habs, and keeping him around can only prove beneficial going forward.
4. The quiet play of Jeff Petry
Shea Weber is the backbone of the Canadiens defence. It’s been that way for the past two seasons, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a disagreement. However, there needs to be a large amount of praise directed at Jeff Petry for his play as of late, especially with Weber out nursing an injury.
Since Weber exited the lineup six games ago, Petry has stepped into the top pairing role with aplomb. While averaging over 26 minutes of ice time a game, Petry has turned his game around almost entirely after struggling for a portion of the season. Petry not only eats the major minutes at even strength, he also has first-wave power play duties, and heavy penalty-kill time to not recognize the play of the de facto number-one defencemen right now.
His play isn’t always flashy, but Petry is playing like a star for the Canadiens right now, and even when Weber is healthy, he can take some of that pressure off the top pairing if Claude Julien so chooses.
5. PLAYOFF SPOT Y’ALL
At the start of the year the Canadiens and their fans did their best impression of Jim Mora when asked about potentially playing themselves out of a playoff spot.
Things were admittedly bleak after winning just one game, and looking generally like a disheveled mess of a hockey team. Then something funny happened: the team found some confidence, between the strong play of Charlie Lindgren, an outstanding first start by Antti Niemi, and then the return of Carey Price.
And now, as the calendat turns to December, the Montreal Canadiens received an early Christmas present: they now occupy the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
While it’s true that the Atlantic is a mess right now, the Canadiens went from the NHL’s worst team to being in a playoff spot. Even if they fall out of it due to a Bruins victory this upcoming weekend, they’re still only two points behind both Metro teams in the wild-card spot.
Things are looking up. With another game against Detroit on Saturday and Carey Price likely in net again, the Habs can dig in a little bit further with another victory. It’s an 82-game season, and the Habs are going to be thankful for that as they get over the hump following their awful start.