Dominique Ducharme’s team played a near tactical perfect game Friday night as the Montreal Canadiens held on to a 1-0 win in Game 2 and took a 2-0 series lead back to Montreal.
This while rolling four forward lines, with Phillip Danault, Nick Suzuki and Joel Armia being the only forwards playing over 16 minutes. However, Ducharme kept playing his top four defenders around the 25-minute mark, leaving the bottom two players, Erik Gustafsson and Brett Kulak, around the 10-minute mark. This is something Ducharme started in the fifth game against Toronto and he has continued the same way over the last five games. So far the top defenders have been able to hold up their part of the foundation, but how long can that go on?
The defence was secure last night, keeping the opposition on the outside for most of the game, and the defence was not only reliant on a goalkeeper but was a defence that worked as a unit. There is chemistry in the two top pairings and it can only be a good thing going forward. The problem is the usage. Can Ducharme really keep using the defence in the way he currently does?
It is impressive to see the four pillars of Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson stand tall and keep the lines clear for Carey Price to do his usual playoff magic. This team is built for the playoffs, but is the team build for a playoff run while only playing four defenders? Right now it seems that way.
With the last change that Ducharme has at home, the coach has an opportunity to match up the pairings and could potentially use his bottom two defenders a bit more. This would lead to cutting some of those heavy minutes for the top four defenders. The other option would be to close out the series against the Winnipeg Jets relatively fast in order to save some of the stamina of the big four because the way that the defence is playing at the moment you don’t want them to lose any steam.