After an opening night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one thing media and players alike remarked was that the Montreal Canadiens lineup was not what they were expecting. They played with tenacity, and speed for days to put defences on their heels and against the Pittsburgh Penguins they did that once again.
After a rocky start, the team began to find it’s legs and once they did they punished the Penguins for any slight mistake they made with the puck. Phillip Danault jumped all over a sloppy pass and sent the play immediately the other way, where Tomas Tatar easily set up Brendan Gallagher for a goal.
Paul Byron caught the Penguins defence flatfooted on a re-directed pass by Artturi Lehkonen, broke in and scored on a breakaway, before adding another goal in the following period that was caused by them being unable to handle the speedy Canadiens forecheck.
Joel Armia and Paul Byron connected for a brilliant shorthanded effort that happened because of a smart breakout pass, and catching Pittsburgh entirely unprepared.
Armia took a feed from the lower corner and speeds off out of the zone with just one Penguin back. Even Evgeni Malkin back-checking can’t keep up with the speed of Byron or Armia. This gives Byron all the time he needs to flutter in a perfect pass for Armia who has a step to the net to score a gorgeous shorthanded goal.
This speed and counter attack is serving the Canadiens well through two games. They don’t have the elite scoring talent of Toronto or Pittsburgh, but their timely plays and speed are making life hard on the opposing defences. It’s not just Paul Byron using his wheels, it’s every single player making the most of opposing miscues.
As it stands this team is going to have it’s struggles, but they’re proving to be a much more dangerous team than many people expected, and that will serve them well going forward this season.