The Montreal Canadiens are dealing with a bevy of injuries as a condensed season enters its home stretch. Already without Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, and Tomas Tatar, then for good measure also lost Shea Weber against the Winnipeg Jets.
So before the puck had even dropped, the Canadiens were up against it without their captain, in addition to missing two top-line forwards and a starting goalie.
Despite the limited roster, Montreal controlled the flow of play through most of the opening 40 minutes or so. Even so, they found themselves trailing by a pair of goals. In recent games we’ve seen the team fold at that point, packing it in and struggling to figure out what they need to do in order to climb back into the game.
Against the Jets, Montreal stuck to their guns, kept chipping away and got themselves back into the game, then into the lead, and then to within four points of the Jets in the standings. Every time the Jets tried to put the Habs down, Montreal stood up and just kept pushing back. Sticking to a game plan that had them in full control of the run of play is a testament to what this team can be going forward.
At five-on-five, the Canadiens piled up 31 scoring chances, while the Jets managed just 12 of their own. Even if the Jets converted at a higher rate on fewer chances, the Canadiens’ lopsided domination of the offensive zone is an impressive feat given the firepower they were missing. Their goals weren’t incredible feats of talent; both Nick Suzuki’s first goal and Joel Armia’s tying goal came from being in the right spot to cash in on broken plays, and that’s alright because they were in those spots all game long.
We’ve seen Montreal collapse a lot recently when goals started going in on Jake Allen against the flow of play. On Friday night they showed they can overcome those hurdles if they don’t abandon their strategies. As the team tries to secure their playoff spot, the Habs are now closer to the Jets for the third seed in the division than they are to falling to fifth, and they’ll need to finish the season with the mindset they had on Friday.