Canadiens vs. Wild 10 takeaways: HabsCaps cannot freeze the winning streak
It wasn’t a bad game at the Bell Center, but it wasn’t a great one, and the Canadiens took a 4-2 loss to Minnesota in the final home game of 2016.
1. Paging a doctor, any doctor will do!
If there’s a wish the Canadiens will be most excitedly wishing for this holiday season, it’s for the gift of Pacioretty-like speedy recovery for all. Andrei Markov is now officially on the IR, Alexei Emelin is out, and Greg Pateryn is still going to miss significant time with a fractured ankle. That’s just the defence! Try as they might, the many fresh faces who’ve been called up can do the job in the lineup here and there, but will show signs of being below-average replacement players when relied too heavily upon.
2. Max Pacioretty still has an underrated shot.
The captain netted his 14th goal of the campaign and it looked like so many of his other efforts, a split-second release, hard wrister, tremendous accuracy. Since the news dropped that Pacioretty had broken his foot, and that it was already healed, he has scored six goals and adds two assists to this. More importantly, he looks like the Pacioretty who Montreal fans love, the quiet goal-scoring leader.
3. Nathan Beaulieu plays better the higher in the lineup he plays.
Beaulieu has been heavily scrutinized since he started playing in the NHL. Every good game he has, supporters rally to call for more ice time and a better blue line partner. Each time he makes a mistake or has an average game, his critics come out of the shadows to remind us what a liability he is. The truth is, Nathan Beaulieu is still only 24 years of age and is maturing into Montreal’s best hope at taking over the left side of our top pairing. With Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin hurt, it’s time for Beaulieu to have more games like he did against the Wild, where he looked like one of the best players in a red sweater.
4. What’s up with the Habs’ powerplay?
Against Anaheim, things were looking good. At home facing the Wild, the Canadiens’ man advantage looked lost, unable to set up, and also got scored on with Eric Staal’s killer shot early in the third period. Montreal went 0/4 on Thursday night but more alarmingly didn’t threaten Dubnyk and the Wild at all. It’s time for Kirk Muller to adapt his system.
5. Alex Radulov has slowed since Galchenyuk’s injury.
Although the effort level remains, the production does not. Radulov has no points in his last five games, and it’s clear that his chemistry with Galchenyuk is sorely missed.
6. Artturi Lehkonen has a killer instinct.
One intangible which has often been missed on recent iterations of the Montreal Canadiens, and that’s a nose for finishing. Artturi Lehkonen has this in spades. His hockey IQ is exceptional and his hands are fantastic. He’s proven all year that he has a very underrated backhand shot - his goal against Minnesota was a quick backhand shot that he roofed over Dubnyk. His positioning on the ice, loose puck recovery and shooting skill make him a solid addition for this year and promises a very interesting NHL career.
7. Carey Price was not at fault for this loss.
While Price didn’t steal the game and looked human on Thursday night, he certainly can’t be faulted for the loss. Price coughed up the puck on the play which became Jordan Schroeder’s goal, but Minnesota had the Canadiens’ D chasing and out of position, Phillip Danault had fallen down and the shot deflected off Price on the way in. Jared Spurgeon’s goal came on a nice faceoff set play which stretched Montreal’s back end out, leaving Nathan Beaulieu out of position and the team scrambling. Eric Staal’s shorthanded goal was much like that of Max Pacioretty, a gorgeous snipe by a top caliber player.
8. Habs put a lot of rubber on Devan Dubnyk
Montreal outshot Minnesota 34-27 and the Wild netminder outshone Carey Price at home. Max Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen beat Dubnyk, but the Regina giant shut the door the rest of the way. Some shots on the Minnesota net didn’t test Dubnyk as much as they should have, but anyone who can skate into the Bell Center and stop 32 shots for a win should be proud of themselves. The Wild came into Montreal riding an eight game winning streak, and the Habs didn’t roll over despite an injury-riddled roster, they pumped shots on net and aimed for a win which would vault them closer to the top of the standings.
9. Eric Staal’s revival in Minnesota is going spectacularly.
Staal scored a beauty while shorthanded, and it ended up being the game-winning goal. The big center now has 11 goals and 15 assists in 32 games since joining the Wild. While it’s not a reliable individual statistic, his plus minus is at +15, and for a career minus player, that may indicate that he’s benefiting from, and fitting into, the Minnesota Wild system.
10. That’s OK, the next game is against... oh, crap.
After a tough home loss, the Habs will hit the road for Columbus to take on the top team in the league and the NHL’s newest offensive juggernaut, the Blue Jackets. Sven Andrighetto has been recalled and the Habs have likely ordered a bag of duct tape to patch up the remaining healthy players. A win against the Blue Jackets would redeem a huge loss earlier this year, back-to-back 5-2 losses last year, and make a statement about Montreal wanting to reclaim its #1 position on the leaderboard.