Losses are a fact of life in the NHL; no team wins every game. What matters the most is that the team learns from what happens in their losses. Against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a few things stick out, and the good news for the Montreal Canadiens is that they aren’t crippling issues, but just small errors that can be corrected in practice.
Above all else, the Canadiens went blow-for-blow with the Lightning, one of the best teams in the NHL, and the difference was Andrei Vasilevskiy playing out of his mind after a tough opening period.
And that’s okay.
Sometimes you just run into a hot goaltender, even if your offence is playing well. The Canadiens struck first, and almost scored multiple times before the first period was over, but Vasilevskiy came up with some amazing stops. It happens, and the Canadiens shouldn’t panic or flip things around in any major way. If they play like they did to open this game, they’ll beat most teams on a given night.
The young team also learned one of the harsher lessons in the NHL: sometimes your mistakes end up buried in the back of your net. Against a team like Tampa Bay, the margin for error is absolutely razor thin, because one slip up can lead to disastrous consequences.
Last night that happened. A poor breakout pass by Charles Hudon was intercepted, and then sniped past Carey Price for what stood as the game-winner. An ill-timed Nicolas Deslauriers penalty sucked the wind out of the Canadiens’ sails, and the Lightning scored soon after.
These are all just small things, and against a team like Tampa Bay that was projected to run roughshod over Montreal at the beginning of the year, it’s not the worst thing in the world. This team responds to adversity and losses well, and on their upcoming road trip you’ll likely not see them make the same errors twice.
The 4-1 loss on Saturday night stings after the thrilling win against the Washington Capitals, but it’s early in the year and the team as a whole will use it to improve what has already been an incredible start. The New York Islanders should be on the lookout Monday, because they aren’t the Lightning, and Montreal will be looking to storm through them after last night’s lessons learned.