Canadiens vs. Sabres Ten Takeaways: Too little, too late

The Canadiens fall 2-1 to the Sabres and have their winning streak snapped at five games.

1. For a game that meant little to either team in the standings, it was hard fought and aggressive.

It was the Sabres’ last game of the season at home, so it made sense they wanted to put on a show. Still, it made for some nervous moments, such as in the first period when Carey Price seemed to have dinged his hand and was shown checking on his blocker hand a couple of times, after he fell during a scrum in his crease.

2. Dwight King is cursed.

3. The Canadiens actually play puck-possession hockey now.

It used to be that the Canadiens would constantly be in pursuit of the puck, either on defense, or when on offense, dumping the puck to open ice and trying to win the one-on-one battles. Now, the Canadiens like to exit the defensive  zone with speed and have players in position to receive and distribute short passes to increase likelihood of being able to carry the puck into the offensive zone. No more puck pursuit. Last night was probably not the best example of this, but at times the Habs showed flashes of what they are trying to achieve with consistency by next Wednesday.

4. Andrew Shaw is gearing up for the playoffs...

Andrew Shaw’s game can be very effective when he’s nasty with a purpose. It seems he’s identified his purpose, and of late has been effective at the rough stuff, not going over the line and acting as a nasty presence in front of the net. At the very least, Shaw has found his identity, and this is a hopeful sign for the playoffs. While his line still needs work, having a nasty presence in front of the net with two great shooters on the wings sounds like a recipe for success.

5. Not a great game for the Habs

The Sabres are not exactly a premiere opponent in the league right now, but gave the Habs all they could handle last night. The mentality to win a professional hockey game needs to be of a very high level, and needs to be at that level throughout the entirety of a game, from start to finish. This wasn’t there for the Habs last night, thus the result, but it’s also nothing to worry about because we know the Canadiens are able to play at the level when it matters.

6. They came to play in the third period.

It’s too bad they didn’t play that way in the first in second, but when Tomas Plekanec scored 46 seconds into the third period after finishing off a three on two created by Paul Byron’s speed I though that maybe the Canadiens were going to give us another third period victory. It’s good to know that this team does have the dangerous ability to stick around in games in which they are down and give themselves the possibility of that come-from-behind win.

7. Brendan Gallagher is back to being a difference maker.

Whatever it is, Brendan Gallagher has found the touch in his game where his effort is actually having an impact. You could never fault him for not putting in the effort before, and it doesn’t seem like too much has changed about his game for it to be successful now. Whatever was ailing him before seems to be under control now.

8. The fourth line wasn’t that bad.

Torrey Mitchell won most of his faceoffs, Dwight King had his chances and Brian Flynn was a stable presence. It’s hard to gauge the true quality of a fourth line when expectations are sky high. The Canadiens have a carousel of players they can inject onto the fourth line at any given time. I think a true fourth line will emerge in the playoffs, while for now, we’re just seeing auditions.

9. Carey Price should be shut down for the final two games.

Two games to go, Friday in Montreal against the Lightning and Saturday in Detroit. The Habs are likely to play Game One next Wednesday. That’s six days of rest, and six days to do nothing but prepare and focus on the New York Rangers.

10. Some players won’t want to be rested.

I think guys like Max Pacioretty, Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov want to play every game, every shift, every second. While getting these guys rest is the smart move, I think it can disrupt a player’s flow to be held back when they want to play. That said, I wonder if fewer players will be rested in the final two games than expected. Thinking about it, I believe it’s more than likely the only regulars missing from action this weekend aside from those already injured will be Markov and Plekanec.

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