1. A complete effort
Last night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche was a perfect chance for the Montreal Canadiens to get back on the right track after a disastrous week. The Avs played last night in Toronto, while the Habs had been off since Saturday, giving them a great chance to jump all over a tired team.
That’s exactly what they ended up doing right from the outset of the game. The forwards were flying and making plays, while the defence limited the Avs to just 22 shots.
Even with a scoreless first period, the Canadiens put their foot down and started piling up more chances, and the goals followed soon after. Nicolas Deslauriers was Johnny-on-the-spot with a rebound goal to open the scoring. Then a nifty bit of interplay from Paul Byron and Jonathan Drouin made it 2-0. A flawless penalty kill kept the momentum firmly in Montreal’s corner, and a late goal from Drouin helped seal a well-executed win.
They dominated from start to finish. Even if they don’t always win them, seeing this sort of execution is a good sign going forward for this team.
2. Jeff Petry shows his mettle
Montreal is going to be without Shea Weber for a little while longer, and that’s if his injury heals up properly and he can play his heavy minutes like usual. In his stead, Jeff Petry has stepped up big time as the Canadiens top defender, and last night played arguably his best game of the season.
He had just one assist, on a gorgeous play where he wove his way through the Colorado skaters and then fed a perfect pass to Drouin, who tipped it home for his seventh goal of the year.
Not only was he great offensively, his physical play in the defensive zone set a tone for the entire game. Not even halfway through the opening period he flattened an Avalanche forward behind the Canadiens net, and then later in the game upended Nathan MacKinnon who was trying to speed by him in the defensive zone.
He led all defencemen on the Habs in Corsi-for percentage at 65.4%, while playing nearly five minutes more than the next closest defender. Weber is clearly a pillar of the Canadiens team, but Petry is doing his best impression of Atlas to help shoulder that burden in the meantime.
3. The fourth line fumbles
With Deslauriers bumped up to play with Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk, and Daniel Carr inconceivably in the press box, the Canadiens’ fourth line has been floundering as of late. Logan Shaw, Byron Froese and Jacob de la Rose were given fairly easy zone starts at home, and responded by being the three lowest possession players on the team.
With Carr available and healthy there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in the lineup for Claude Julien going into the next game. He provides a good offensive pedigree that made the Canadiens’ fourth line so difficult to contain a few weeks ago. Not only that but he’s a responsible defensive forward, so getting him back in the lineup should be the only change happening heading into the next game.
The roster is thin right now due to injuries, but when Andrew Shaw returns for injury after the All-Star break, Froese needs to be headed back to Laval to give the Rocket a much needed boost in the forward corps, and open up an NHL spot that should be given to someone else.
Merriam-Webster defines schadenfreude as “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.”
Last night Habs fans got a chance to bask in an Olympic-sized pool of schadenfreude as Mikhail Sergachev was made a healthy scratch in Tampa Bay due to a run of poor play. Coupled with this was Drouin registering three points on the night, including the game-winning goal for Montreal.
The trade has been analyzed so much since the day it happened that it’s likely going to get a Warren Commission style report before too long. Drouin hasn’t had the best start to his Canadiens career, though it’s not like anyone in Montreal has blown the doors off the league this year. So just for one night, it’s nice to see Montreal’s end of the trade come up big, and for that to be celebrated.
A good run to the end of the season is just what Drouin needs. He’s exceptionally talented and hopefully he can have more games like this as the year goes on.
5. Live like Deslauriers
Seriously, is there anything better than watching this madman celebrate goals every few games?
Every single celebration is like a giant burst of energy, and it’s almost inspiring, to be honest. I didn’t think much of Deslauriers’ call-up, and through the early going I still didn’t. He’s likely riding a wave which will come down at some point, but as it stands he’s using his physical game to create space for his linemates, and he’s getting to the right places to make plays happen.
On Tuesday he did just that, getting to a dangerous area on the ice, pouncing on a rebound and giving Montreal a much-deserved lead. He may not have stuck the landing on the goal celebration, but if he can keep his game simple like he has in recent weeks, he’s going to be just fine in the Habs lineup going forward.