Twenty-one seconds may not seem like a whole lot of time, when taken into the big picture of life. But when that time frame is condensed into an NHL hockey game, it can seem like forever.
The home team moves to 6-1-1, in the second game of playing back to back nights. You have to credit that to a young squad and a coach who knows how to balance his lines effectively.
The Canadiens have now lost three straight games under new head coach Randy Cunneyworth, who has made some questionable decisions in line use over that span.
Things did seem to be looking well early on though, with a lot of back and forth action. The Canadiens had better control of the puck in the offensive end, while the Blackhawks would explode on turnovers, when they happened, for an exciting first eight minutes of play.
Each team managed just seven shots in the first period, with all but one of Chicago’s coming outside the 25-foot mark. It made for an easy first period for Peter Budaj, as most of the opposing shots were right in the logo.
But as the period progressed, you could slowly see the home team beginning to dominate.
The Canadiens were the first to get on the scoreboard, while on the power play, at 5:35 of the second period. Andrei Kostitsyn was in the right place, at the right time as he tipped a Tomas Plekanec shot past Corey Crawford.
After that, it was all Chicago. Andrew Brunette netted his 8th goal of the season at 11:36, on a wraparound goal that was first credited to Jonathan Toews. Then, in that 21 seconds, the Blackhawks broke out of their own zone and Patrick Sharp snapped a wrist shot off the stick of Chris Campoli and past Budaj.
The Blackhawks entered the third period, going in with a 14-0-1 record when leading after 40 minutes. You had to know that things were not going to improve for the Habs, and they didn’t.
Bryan Bickell was a physical force all night for the Blackhawks. Maybe P.K. Subban heard the proverbial footsteps coming just shy of the 10:29 mark, when Bickell stole the puck from him behind the net. The 6’4, 233lb left winger, dished the puck in front to a waiting Viktor Stalberg for his seventh goal of the night..
Toews added an empty net goal at 18:43 and Bryan Bickell would add insult to injury, a minute later, with his fourth goal of the season.
The final two goals were merely explanation points on a poor playing Habs squad. While Bickell recorded two of his nine season points in the period, the entire Canadiens team managed a grand total of three shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.
“We have to stick to our game plan,” said coach Cunneyworth post-game. “That fell apart at the end. There’s a lot of frustrated and angry guys in there right now,” The Habs bench boss also defended Subban, who took a lot of flak on the night. Cunneyworth acknowledged that Subban, “could be better,” but noted that turnovers in the offensive end were the big problem.
If anything came out of the Canadiens on a positive end was Max Pacioretty, who counted for eight of the team’s 21 shots on goal. He also contributed five of the 28 hits by the Canadiens, an excellent indicator of how bad the possession factor was.
The humiliated Canadiens now head to Winnipeg to hopefully salvage something before the Holiday break.
Will Cunneyworth be the Habs full-time coach? Apparently not, according to Guy Lafleur, The Habs legend appeared on “Le Match” tonight, and stated that Geoff Molson confided to him that there is a short list of four coaching candidates. Names were not dropped, but Cunneyworth was not one of them.
Three: 1. Corey Crawford 2. Andrew Brunette 3. Patrick Sharp
Winning reaction from Second City Hockey