Your Montreal Canadiens are not going to win many hockey games when their most effective line is a rookie centre and two pluggers.
Lars Eller was the best forward in a red jersey last night.
That was gratifying to those of us who see a lot of potential in the tall, talented kid obtained in the trade that sent Jaro Halak to St. Louis.
Eller used his size and speed effectively. He drove the net when opportunities presented themselves. He made deft passes.
There was an air of excitement in the Bell Centre when Eller, Travis Moen and Tom Pyatt were on the ice.
Unfortunately, an air of frustration accompanied shifts by Tomas Plekanec’s line.
And we won’t even discuss the air engulfing Scott Gomez. I’ll leave that to friend Arpon Basu, who points out the Gomez lethargy – six points in 19 games – is allowing opposing teams to focus on Plekanec, which makes the going very tough for the Canadiens’ best forward.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took 33 shots last night. Eight went in.
The Canadiens: 30 … and a big, fat goose egg.
Pleks had one shot on goal last night. His speed was effectively neutralized by a Nashville defensive scheme that turned the neutral zone into a traffic jam.
The Predators took away the Canadiens’ time and space, forcing them to make decisions before attractive options presented themselves … which they seldom did because nobody was moving their feet.
Case in point: the winning goal.
Roman Hamrlik had the puck to Carey Price’s right. With two Predators closing on him, Hamrlik panicked and threw the puck into the slot, where more white jerseys were prowling.
Nashville had possession in the Canadiens’ zone and worked the puck until old friend Frankie the Bull found Marcel Goc on the lip of Carey Price’s crease, where Pleks hadn’t bothered to pursue him.
Another case in point: the sequence that led to Goc’s second goal began with Brian Gionta making a neutral-zone pass into Andrei Kostitsyn’s skates.
Credit Nashville with a solid game plan and the discipline to follow it. They skated and battled ferociously for every loose puck. Their big defencemen – Shea Weber! What a stud!! – kept Canadiens forwards out of Pekka Rinne’s face.
The Finnish goaltender extended his shutout streak against the Canadiens to 138:55 and Rinne was the game’s first star. But he wasn’t severely tested.
Every scoring attempt was either long-range or from a bad angle. Alexandre Picard and Maxim Lapierre were the leading shooters with five. P.K. Subban and Jaro Spacek each had three SoG.
When 16 of your 30 shots are coming from those guys, it’s a long night at the Bell.
And boring. Homer that I am, I was disappointed by the Canadiens failure to get into any kind of rhythm and flow. But it wasn’t like Nashville was running a Red Wings-type artistic hockey clinic, either.
The Predators just work hard and oblige their opponents to match their intensity level.
The Canadiens didn’t, with predictable results.
Toronto shouldn’t present as much of a technical challenge, but the Leafs will be riding a two-game winning streak into the Bell Centre tomorrow night.
The Canadiens best will have to be better than they were against Nashville.
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A member of the Commentariat pointed out the Canadiens have scored a grand total of eight goals in their six losses this season.
They’ve been on the short end of 3-0 scores three times – twice on home ice.
The Canadiens are 20th in the league in per-game goal average at 2.58 (the massacre of Carolina helped that stat).
But thanks to Carey Price, they’re second in GA per game at 2.05.
The power play took another whiff last night, and its efficiency sits at 14.9.
The PK is at 90.1 per cent – tied with L.A. for number one.
• • •
Before the season began, Patrick V. Hickey bet CJAD’s Rick Moffat that Jaro Halak would win more games than Carey Price and have a lower GAA and higher save percentage.
Price is leading in all three categories.
And Jaro’s save percentage of 90.6 has him 30th.