The Canadiens will have to be better to salvage points in Alberta.
They nearly blew the Battle of B.C.
After outplaying the host Canucks over the game’s first 40 minutes, the Canadiens gave up a soft tying goal in the third period and needed Overtime heroics by Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Byron to grab two much-needed points.
NHL standings and stats strongly suggest this should have been the easiest game of the western Canada road trip.
The Canucks are rebuilding.
Unlike the Flames and Oilers – whom the Canadiens face Thursday and Saturday, respectively – Vancouver won’t make the playoffs.
True to the form chart – and despite the early loss of Brian Flynn, which obliged Claude Julien to juggle his lines for the rest of the game – the Canadiens dominated the home team for long stretches of the first two periods.
Notwithstanding the home team’s late comeback, the Canadiens owned the game stats:
• They outshot Vancouver 38-28. Byron’s goal was the only shot either team recorded in OT.
• The Canadiens outhit Vancouver 18-15. Dwight King, Andrew Shaw and Steve Ott each had three hits.
• Face-offs were 36-28 in favour of the visitors. Phillip Danault was a mind-blowing 20-8 on draws. Torrey Mitchell – in addition to scoring his first goal since the Obama Administration – was 5-2.
• Brendan Gallagher had eight shots – seven of which Ryan Miller had to stop.
• Max Pacioretty had six SoG.
• The Canadiens took only one minor penalty while drawing three calls.
The Canadiens should have scored more than once in regulation time. And it’s not like Miller stood on his head. The Canadiens just didn’t generate many Grade-A chances and were brutal on their power plays.
They’ll have to be better in Calgary and Edmonton.
And it’s a good bet they will be.
A characteristic of Claude Julien’s tenure has been swift attention to issues.
Alexei Emelin plays poorly against the Rangers and he’s a healthy scratch – for the first time this season – in Vancouver.
Emelin could be back in Calgary. But I thought Dman Brandon Davidson played a solid, if unspectacular, game against Vancouver.
The changes will be made up front.
Tomas Plekanec should be ready to play in Calgary, which means the Flynn injury won’t be damaging.
Alexander Radulov’s lower-body knack is a mystery. If he’s good to go on Thursday, I’d like to see Radu playing with Galchenyuk while the top line – Max Pacioretty, Danault and Gallagher – remains intact.
Radulov, Galchenyuk and the resurgent Artturi Lehkonen: That might be fun.
And on that happy speculative note, the Ol’ Blogger is hitting the hay.
I’m getting too old for west-coast hockey.
Argue among yourselves.
• • •
Comment on the Liveblog by Habnormal:
Byron is all heart and a pleasant surprise since they picked him up on waivers. His speed reminds me of Russ Courtnell. You need guys like this to provide secondary scoring. I am really liking the way this team is playing right now and finding ways to win. Who knows, maybe they peak at the right time and catch fire. Maybe MB is right – just get in the playoffs and anything can happen. Habs were huge underdogs in PK’s rookie year yet they beat the Penguins and Caps. It could happen again. With a little luck you never know. Price is obviously the key.
And a long one from CJinBK:
Good win for the good guys. A goaltender battle; the game started pretty gently, but got exciting in the third. Price looked very Pricean, and the GAA reflects the quality of his play. Miller was no slouch either, and was only beaten by two clever deflections.
Stu Cowan said it during the second intermission, and I have also noted the definite increase in aggression by the Canadiens in their offensive and defensive zones. Habs’ defensemen are circling back behind their own net far far less than they used to, and as a result the team is spending a lot less time in their own zone. Turnovers in the neutral zone are usually quickly chased down, before opponents can get onside and into the zone. Giveaways had always been a nightmare under Therrien’s system, which seemed to involve passing the puck around in the defensive zone until there was a clear breakout.
Defensemen seem much more comfortable carrying the puck, and there is a lot more pinching. Nate Beaulieu, who many of us would have been happy to see traded before the arrival of Julien, has rediscovered his game. He looks confident out there, and while he still makes some bonehead mistakes, he more than makes up for them with exciting puck possession and offensive flair.
Speaking of puck possession… Bravo to the Habs for winning two games without their MVP so far this season. Radulov doesn’t need to be rushed back; the team is finding ways to win without his amazing puck control and vision for the open man. His work ethic seems to have rubbed off on Pacioretty and Danault.
Shaw had some Gallagheresque sorties, inspiring Gallagher to have some of his own. It was a joy to see Gallagher tearing around out there like we’re used to seeing. He’s a little snakebit, he’s a little frustrated, but it doesn’t seems as bad as earlier in the season. He brings his energy every time he steps on the ice, and the points will come.
On to Calgary, where the Flames are sitting comfortably in the first wild card spot. Will Price get the start again? I think you have to ride his hot hand, and let him fully replenish his mojo. Only 2 more back-to-backs for Montoya. I would keep Price in for the great majority of games unless the Senators fall behind. (Right now they’re keeping pace…)