Against Vancouver early this month, the Canucks star players managed to shine in an overtime victory over Montreal. Since then, the Canadiens have made it their mission to erase the Canucks’ top players from the game, and on Monday night they succeeded again.
While many of Montreal’s main options were quietly very good, namely the trio of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Brendan Gallagher, along with the Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot pairing, the real shine in the game went to Montreal’s second and third options on offence and defence.
Jeff Petry continued his incredible start with three more points, and next to Joel Edmundson they absolutely hammered the Canucks’ top line. When J.T. Miller was on the ice against the duo, the Canadiens controlled 94% of the shot attempts, and they had at least 80% when matched up with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson. That’s pure dominance against the Canucks best offensive weapons.
This sort of play wasn’t limited to just the defensive group however, as the Canadiens’ third line was up to their old trick. As they attacked the zone it was Corey Perry who pulled out a bit of magic, dangling Hughes out of position and setting up an easy tap in for Petry.
Artturi Lehkonen had arguably his best game of the season as well. A hard forecheck forced Adam Gaudette into a mistake that Lehkonen took advantage of, sliding a short-handed goal by Braden Holtby to put an emphatic start on the game for the Habs. He linked up with Paul Byron to set up Jeff Petry’s first goal of the night, too.
Getting these sorts of contributions while the incumbent top line is limited offensively is a huge positive for the Canadiens this season. Their depth and their starts are helping them win games by huge margins. Teams like the Canucks don’t have a Plan B for when their top pieces get held in check and it shows. The Habs did similar things to the Oilers earlier this year as well; if you’re not prepared to match four lines and three defensive pairings then Montreal is going to shut you down one way or another.
With six games remaining in the season series, the Vancouver Canucks have already shown that they don’t have an answer, but Montreal has plenty more potential to tap as the season goes on.