1. That wasn’t a good start, but that’s okay
Against Ottawa on Sunday, the Canadiens bolted out to a lead in less than one minute thanks to Tomas Plekanec. This game was the exact opposite, as Nathan Beaulieu took a penalty, and then Justin Abdelkader scored to make it 1-0. Typically this set the tone for the rest of the game, with it knocking the proverbial wind out of the Habs sails. Under Claude Julien the team pushes back and is never out of a contest until the final whistle. It’s no longer a massive fear for fans to see the team fall behind, and that’s the way it should be.
2. Doesn’t matter had Lehks
Last week in a tightly contested affair against Chicago it was Artturi Lehkonen who was the standout forward. Around this time last year the young Finn was setting fire to the Swedish league playoffs, and right now he’s showing that same fire once more. His strong play was finally rewarded when he uncorked a ridiculous wrist shot to tie the game late in the third period. The Danault/Shaw/Lehkonen line is on fire right now, and the rookie is a driving force in making that happen.
Lehkonen's 13th goal of the year comes off a great individual effort. Assist to Beaulieu on the play. pic.twitter.com/hZQrYpHR7X— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) March 22, 2017
3. Al Montoya held up his end
It’s not an easy life being the back up to the best goalie in the NHL. Carey Price plays a lot so there’s often long stretches between starts for the backup goalies. Al Montoya isn’t Price, and no one expects him to be. What he is, is an extremely reliable second goaltender. It’s been a long time since the Canadiens had a number two they could rely on to spell their starter. Tonight Montoya overcame an early goal to shut the door afterwards, and in overtime did everything to try and earn the extra point. His only fault in this game was being unable to stop a ridiculous goal from Anthony Mantha, and if that’s the only problem, so be it.
4. Paging the power play
Hello...is this thing on?
Yes, if you can hear me, it’s time to sort this out immediately. The power play has been so stagnant and awful it’s been mistaken for a rotting smoked meat thrown on the ice for a few weeks now. Shea Weber hasn’t been able to utilize his devastating shot, Max Pacioretty isn’t put in a spot to use his wrist shot. Kirk Muller was brought in to help correct these issues, and he did well early on, but once more it’s time head back to the drawing board and rethink the man advantage. Although it’s worth noting that Andrei Markov’s role as the director on the powerplay needs to be set in stone. While Pacioretty was in that spot last night the Habs struggled to set up. Once Markov took over they immediately started creating chances.
5. Playing down and emotional exhaustion
The Canadiens played two physical, exhausting games this weekend against divisional rival Ottawa. There’s no denying that back to back games played at the intensity of those two will have a lasting effect. Tonight was plodding, with absolutely no flow to it whatsoever, and the emotional comedown after the Senators series could be to blame. Montreal has also had the longstanding issue of playing down to their opponents, often struggling with the Sabres and Coyotes of the league. This game was more of the same. The Canadiens did manage to earn a 69-59 shot attempt advantage.
6. Galchenyuk’s absence in overtime...until
The Habs lost right after Alex Galchenyuk finally got on the ice, and in all nine seconds he ended up on the highlight reel for all the wrong reasons. Although at least he forced Mantha to make a move around him, whereas Shea Weber halfheartedly swiped at the puck. Essentially it was bad defence all around.
Claude Julien decided to ride the hot hand of Danault, Shaw and Lehkonen in overtime instead of relying on Galchenyuk, and that’s fine. Coaching is about playing hunches in-game to give your team and edge, those players have been at their best lately so it’s easy to see why they got the ice time. Galchenyuk ended up with over 17 minutes of ice time, although both he and the coach would probably agree it wasn’t his best game.
#Habs Julien on Galchenyuk: "He didn't have a good game tonight and he'd tell you the same thing." Possible line-juggling at Wed practice.— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) March 22, 2017
7. Stop shoving players into your own goalie.
We’ve seen Carey Price take matters into his own hands this year following an opposing player hitting him at full speed, but it has to be said that it wasn’t Mike Green’s fault he barreled into Montoya. Paul Byron was to blame for the shove which could have injured his own goalie. Thankfully Montoya was fine after the massive contact.
8. Time for McCarron to shine
I’m all for giving Steve Ott a game against a former team, the opening faceoff, and all that jazz. However, the time is now to keep Michael McCarron in the lineup, there’s no downside to it. McCarron brings all the physicality of Ott, just with the talent to be a good possession player with offensive upside. There’s still plenty of important games against teams chasing playoff spots in Florida and Tampa Bay. These would be a great measuring stick to see where McCarron is at in his development, especially right before the post season starts. As it stands, both Dwight King and Ott are the two worst players on the Habs rosters in terms of relative CF%.
9. A point is a point
With how tight the race at the top of the Atlantic is, a point in a game where the team trailed for 95% of the game is a win. At this juncture in the season, any point is a good point when you’re protecting a division lead. Whenever a playoff spot is locked up, which shouldn’t be too far off, it might be time to rest players like Andrei Markov and the like to keep them fresh for the playoffs. Much like with McCarron it’s a good time to see what Brandon Davidson and Alexei Emelin are truly made of when they’re being leaned upon.
10. Not the best game, but...CROSBY!
For about 57 minutes this game was like watching paint dry in a room with no sound, while the mid-2000’s Devils showed highlights on a TV. The good news, however, is that Sidney Crosby scored one of the most incredible goals you’ll ever see. Sure, it didn’t happen in the Habs-Wings game, but technically it happened during the game, so we’re going to include it. Remember when people claimed Crosby was no longer the best player in the league?