Canadiens vs. Penguins 10 Takeaways: A fresh start
It would be impossible for one night to make you forget the 2015-16 season but the Habs sure tried
1. A fresh start for Shea Weber
When Shea Weber came out for the home opener last night, I legitimately don’t think he knew what to expect. I think he was worried. In his first media availability after the trade, he said that he wasn’t P.K. Subban. It wasn’t so much as a statement of fact as it was a tempering of fan expectations.
What happened last night, I think, exceeded even his best expectations. When he came out to a standing ovation, you could see so much emotion from the often stoic Man Mountain.
All the talk was how the trade affected Subban, or how the trade made the fans in Montreal feel. No one talks about how it would burden Weber. Even a man who portrays as much toughness and is as fierce as Weber would get affected by the shock. Subban could see the writing on the wall and could prepare himself. Weber never did.
He knew how much Subban meant to the city. He knew he could have been seen as the villain despite having nothing to do with it.
As the crowd cheered, Weber was blinking back tears, swallowing hard. Weber didn’t choose to be traded for Subban. He knew he could have been caught in the crosshairs. In the end, however, he saw how amazing Montreal fans could be.
2. A fresh start for the team - and captain
The only person who had a tougher off-season than Weber was Max Pacioretty. From being blamed for the Subban trade, to being the personification of a perceived leadership failure, to maybe, perhaps being called the worst captain in team history by his coach, to playing for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey, Pacioretty didn’t have a great summer.
When he took the torch from Jacques Demers (in one of the more touching - and surprising - torch passes in recent memory), it was like he was turning a page. The symbolism in him scoring on the first shift of the game was strong.
It’s a new team. It’s a new season, and these guys are just getting started.
3. Jeff Petry is playing the hockey of his life
After the Subban trade, a lot of the talk was how Jeff Petry needed to step up his game. Well, he has. He was the best Habs defenceman in the two games he has played and he’s not only scoring and making key plays with the puck, he was the best Canadiens player in Corsi differential at even strength last night.
He made two incredible passes that led directly to goals. Here’s the second of them to David Desharnais.
Petry is playing like a No. 1 defenceman, plain and simple.
4. We got the off-season shuffle all wrong
The Canadiens making the Lars Eller and Andrew Shaw trades at the same time threw us off the scent. Shaw wasn’t the guy that would replace Eller. That would be Artturi Lehkonen.
Lehkonen has exceeded even the highest expectations for him coming into camp. He’s pulling his weight with Tomas Plekanec and Alexander Radulov. He’s creating scoring chances and shots. And he’s getting relied on shorthanded and excelling at it.
In the first minute of the game, the shift after the Canadiens took the lead, Al Montoya made a great save (more on him later), and someone made a huge clear in front. It was Lehkonen.
Lehkonen also was hard on the Penguins forwards on the forecheck and stole the puck more than once from Evgeni Malkin. This kid will be alright.
5. Goaltending depth is so nice
When Al Montoya signed on July 1, many people were confused. Many people figured that the backup battle would be between Mike Condon and Charlie Lindgren and that would be fine.
Marc Bergevin, for all of the criticism he has taken, wasn’t OK with fine. He went out and got a veteran goaltender. He wasn’t going to suffer through another season making the same mistake. The question coming into the season was could the Habs limit Carey Price’s workload to ease him back into a full season of health.
I don’t expect Montoya to save 96 percent of his shots for the entire season, but the answer to that question is still a resounding yes.
6. Goaltending, part two
The Canadiens won the game 4-0, but it wasn’t that lopsided. Montoya needed to make some really big saves, and none was bigger than the one in the video above. The Penguins had several opportunities to make the game 1-1 in the game’s first 10 minutes but Montoya was there, and made the big save that was so often missing last year.
The night started and ended with two well deserved ovations for a Canadiens goaltender.
7. The curious case of Mikhail Sergachev
In his second NHL game, Mikhail Sergachev played only 8:30, and had two shifts in the third period. After the game coach Michel Therrien said it was because the game had so many penalties, and Sergachev only played even strength.
Now it’s obvious the team is easing Sergachev into his NHL career and that is fine. He wasn’t being benched for any specific error or anything like that which is also nice. I still don’t think he is one of the team’s best six defencemen but I also don’t mind him getting some NHL time and seeing what he needs to work on.
I think that he will be in and out of the lineup for the next month or so and continue to practice in the NHL. I still think he’ll be sent back to the OHL, and if I had to pick, I’d probably see it happening before he plays nine games.
Sergachev will be a star in this league but playing 10 minutes a game - even at the NHL level - is not best for his development and probably not best for the team.
8. Alexander WOW-dulov
Radulov was due. He was getting chances, creating chances, and when forwards do that, especially ones as skilled as Radulov, you know good things will come. And they did.
The goal by Radulov was skilled as can be and shows that he is the type of player that can make something happen on his own.
(An aside: How amazing is it that the goal stood upon review? I mean, I think it was the right call but when Brendan Gallagher is involved you just assume the reputation call is coming.)
But are you truly a Hab until you've had a goal called off because Gallagher was getting feisty in the crease?— Eyes on the Prize (@HabsEOTP) October 19, 2016
9. A brace from Davey
David Desharnais actually shot the puck. Twice! And they both went in!
In all seriousness, Desharnais was misused and complained about for so long that I feel he is one of the most underrated players on the team. In his current role, on the third line, he is perfect. He seems to have great chemistry with Andrew Shaw and their styles mesh pretty nicely.
You can complain about his use on the power play or in the shootout, but he’s a solid contributor for this team whether you want to believe it or not.
10. 4-0. Against the defending champions. Seriously
Now, it was clearly not Pittsburgh’s best game. It was their second game in two nights in two different cities. They were missing the best forward in the world.
However, the Canadiens, a team that missed the playoffs by a wide margin and had the worst stretch of any team in the league from January on, played with the Stanley Cup champions and had more scoring chances.
The shot differential/Corsi numbers aren’t great but compared to the two first games of the season, you saw how this team could be a contender. Especially in the game’s final 50 minutes.
I still think they are adjusting to a new system, and this game was not perfect by any stretch. However, the signs are encouraging and I think, while we shouldn’t be planning a parade yet, there is reason for optimism.
But as last year showed, it’s not how you start...