1. The fourth line looks good.
Early on, the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell, David Desharnais and Sven Andrighetto looked very good. It was used as an exploitation line, where the speed of Andrighetto and the skill of Desharnais really came into play. Against teams lower orders this might be something useful for Montreal in the long run. They got some chances in the game, but what needs to change the most for them and their teammates is that...
2. Bounces needs to start going Montreal’s way at one point or another.
Puck luck. It’s not happening at the moment. The first goal from Auston Matthews was proof of that. The puck took three different deflections off Canadiens defencemen after he had released his shot, then between the legs of Carey Price who couldn’t have possibly followed all the changes of direction.
Just a few minutes later, Max Pacioretty came close on a shot that when through Andersen’s legs, hit his skate, then the post, before a mad scramble by the goalkeeper smothered it in the crease. It was typical of the difference between the teams’ luck at the moment.
3. The play is good. The shooting percentage is not.
With regard to the above, Montreal controlled the possession, matched the Leafs scoring chances through two periods, but little goes in. Julien has the team playing a possession game, and the zone exits and entries are very much improved, the problem is that the shooting percentage still is about five percent.
The good thing is that Julien has a five-year contract, so the shooting should change before Montreal changes coach next time and he has already vastly improved one of their most glaring issues.
4. Special teams
While one of the special teams has improved within one week of Julien taking over behind the bench, the other is still a source of frustration. The penalty kill is good, with good movement and pressuring the other team’s players, limiting passing lines as well as time for opposing players to control the puck. It seems that even though they practise ways to shut down a power play, the knowledge doesn’t transfer in the opposite direction to learn how to create opportunities against a proper setup.
Even if one goal was scored on the power play, it was a carnival of failures before that, with zone exits that were bad and zone entries that were atrocious to say the least. The penalty kill has improved, no doubt, and it’s logical for a coach to limit goals against first. It will just take a bit of time to get things at the other end to improve to a similar level.
5. The Weber pairing
Who should Weber play with? It will become the eternal question. Last night he played with Andrei Markov and I was surprised the pair didn’t do better. Weber needs a puck-moving player next to him, but I didn’t think Markov was the solution. It will be interesting to see how this will develop further. Will Sergachev be ready to step into that role at the beginning of the next season? And where does that leave....
6. Nathan Beaulieu
In another game he gave us an emotional rollercoaster, from one shift to another he went form a solid puck-moving player that controlled the game in the offensive zone, to a player that gave us all a heart attack at the other end. Is this because he hadn’t gotten confidence in Therrien’s system and now needs more time to adapt in Julien’s? He should begin to feel more comfortable with the new coach as there were have been few benchings nor shifts up and down the order.
7. No blender in Julien’s kitchen.
The lines were intact for most of the game. Artturi Lehkonen took an interference penalty at the start of the game and the rookie never missed a shift on the second line. Beaulieu had his ups and downs, he didn’t end up in Julien’s Locker. Even after Alex Galchenyuk scored when he was on the ice with Pacioretty he continued on the LeGG line.
The coach values chemistry and wants each line to find their own. Some might not agree with this, but it must be good for the players to see this and not fear the constant in-game shifting of the lines.
8. What to do with Alexei Emelin?
Playing away from Weber, Emelin sank like a ship, and the question is how to handle the Russian’s play. At certain points he seemed almost too eager to impress the coach and pinched high in the offensive zone, leaving some gaps in his defensive coverage.
He is supposed to bring physical play and in the end he was still beaten clearly by Matthews right at the top of the crease on the second goal. There is no room for him on the two top pairs, and to get him to bring the best of his ice hockey skills might be Julien’s biggest headache.
9. The Price is back!
During the second period Toronto had a power play where there was no doubt who was ruling it. It was Carey Price.
There was despair as the Leafs threw everything they had toward the goal, including the kitchen sink, and Price had it all under control. While it’s easy to say that Montreal lives and dies by the play of Price, let’s remember it was a power play with the Habs skaters outnumbered. The saves he made were similar to what we saw before the injury. Price is back after the five-day rest, and that’s the main reason we can look forward to the...
Because that’s where this team is going, I don’t think it will be a magical Stanley Cup run. But when you are in the playoffs anything can happen, and when you combine a new focus on possession play over all four lines with a peak-form Carey Price in net, then you are also allowed to dream a bit.