Carey Price was back in net for his first start since Marc Bergevin decided to axe his goalie coach earlier in the week. Could a new voice and new methods get us a rejuvenated Price? Well, honestly that is still to be decided, considering the fact that Sean Burke will be in coronavirus isolation for a fortnight before being able to join up with his new disciples. This meant that the question for Saturday’s game essentially was: What changes could Laval Rocket goaltender coach Marco Marciano implement in his first few days as an interim coach? Could he, in any way, restore Price’s confidence this soon?
Whether it’s Burke, Marciano, or Dominique Ducharme in charge, the best thing the whole coaching staff could do at this point is try to decrease the quality of chances the opposition is allowed near the Montreal net. During the early part of the first period, the Canadiens did so in an admirable fashion, perhaps not creating much offence themselves, but efficiently preventing Winnipeg from getting their skates set in the offensive zone.
After a power play that saw some promising looks from both Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jonathan Drouin, Montreal got a first-class opportunity to take the lead. Brendan Gallagher delivered a pass to the aforementioned Drouin, which cut like a knife through butter on a hot Sunday morning. Unfortunately, Connor Hellebuyck proved once again why he is considered a goaltender of the first degree.
There would however be one goal scored in the opening period. Josh Anderson, back from a three-game absence and effectively replacing Artturi Lehkonen in the lineup, received a pass from Kotkaniemi which bounced off the wall behind the net. Grade A smartness there from the young Finn, since his obviously deliberate pass tricked the entire Jets team, including Hellebuyck who went out to clear the puck from behind his own goal, thereby leaving the net wide open for Anderson to score from the slot. This was Anderson’s 10th goal of the year.
Both teams started the second period having problems stringing together quality scoring chances. Instead, the puck went quickly from one zone to another, without there seeming to be a cohesive idea behind either team’s offensive gameplay.
Thankfully, you are not as dependent on a continously working offensive gameplan if you have functional goal-scorers on your team. Seven minutes in, Tyler Toffoli went bar-down for his 15th goal of the season. This means that the two wingers who were brought in to Montreal this autumn to primarily aid the team’s scoring problem have combined for 25 goals during the opening 23 games.
Another guy who has always had a knack for scoring goals is Brendan Gallagher. This night he moved even further up the Canadiens’ all-time scoring list with two eerily similar goals during a three-minute span. Assisted by Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar, commonly known as his usual partners in crime, Gally batted them home to make it 10 on the year for him as well. We have to give extra credit here for Danault’s sublime dual no-look, behind-the-back passes on the latter goal. They were icing on the delicious cake which was the Habs’ second period.
That was all she wrote for Hellebuyck. The normally formidable Jets goalie surrendered after letting in four goals in just 19 shots and was replaced by Laurent Brossoit. Would Brossoit then provide an immediate spark for the struggling Manitoba side? No, he did not.
Drouin lasered a pass cross-ice to his newest linemate, Joel Armia, who banged it home from a distance. Montreal went to the locker room with a five-goal lead and a fine possibility of the year’s first shutout for Carey Price.
Winnipeg tried to get something going, but as they were buzzing around Price’s net, a shot took a detour off Trevor Lewis’s hand and ended up in Jake Evans’s possession. Evans flicked it downfield, looking for either a breather through an icing call or a potentially lucky bounce off of Brossoit. In the end, he got the latter. Skating phenom Paul Byron pounced on the rebound and scored the Canadiens’ sixth goal of the evening.
Why stop at six when you can get seven, thought Jeff Petry, and fired a sneaky wrister from the blue line exactly four minutes later. Lots of traffic in front of the net aided Petry and fooled the netminder.
If he wasn’t already in there to replace the starting goalie, I am sure that Brossoit would have enjoyed seeing the rest of the game from the bench. Up until this point, the Jets’ two goaltenders had missed seven out of the home team’s 27 shots, giving them a combined save percentage of .741.
Unfortunately, there would be a small dent in the otherwise shining effort by the Montreal Canadiens. With 10 minutes left to play, Alexander Romanov took a tripping penalty. On the ensuing power play, Drummondville native Mathieu Perreault would score to implode Carey Price’s possibility of a well-deserved shutout.
The final minutes of the game flew by as both teams just wanted the game to end, although for entirely different reasons. The Canadiens took their 11th win, by a score of 7-1, in a way that will instill confidence in the entire team, as they now move back out west for a 12-day, six-game streak away from home.