I’m a little bit embarrassed. We got  to make sure it doesn’t happen again” – Max Pacioretty after the Habs blew a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 in Edmonton October 29.

It’s unacceptable. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again” – Max Pacioretty after the Habs blew a 2-0 lead on home ice to lose 3-2 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils.

Yes the Habs are a very good team, one of the best in the NHL. But they’re not good enough to stop playing once they grab a multiple goal lead. It happened in Edmonton, the night Carey Price got hurt (by stepping on a puck during the pre-game warm up according to Elliotte Friedman) and it happened again at the Bell Centre against a Devils that did not roll over after a quick power play goal midway through the third period gave Montreal a 2-0 lead. It might have felt over to those watching – and to the guys in red. But this is a scrappy New Jersey team that is in virtually every game because of their superb goaltender.

Corey Schneider made a statement early when he sprawled to stop Dale Weise in the first minute. He never stopped, saving his best moments for late. After Patrick Elias deflected an Adam Larsson shot into the Montreal net for his first goal of the season, Schneider took turns robbing Pacioretty who broke in alone from the right side and Tomas Fleischmann who broke in alone from the left side. Later, with less than two minutes to play, Schneider aggressively challenged Nathan Beaulieu when the Habs defenseman skated in alone with the puck, forcing Beaulieu to shoot high and wide. And then in overtime, Schneider took another sure goal away from Pacioretty, capping a memorable night in his first ever start at the Bell Centre.

So apparently Montreal’s captain will make sure his teammates learn from this loss. They certainly don’t often cough up two goal leads with 10 minutes to play – at home or on the road. But maybe the loss also taught his coach a lesson or two.

THE GOOD

  • Alex Galchenyuk. I told you so. (What, you prefer a disclaimer? One of those “I don’t mean to say I told you so” bs lines?) From this blog following Game 21 – the second of back to back wins over the Islanders:

 

  • THE BAD P.K. Subban & Andrei Markov. Combined -5. No surprise they struggled after a heavy workload the night before, especially Subban (30:33). Tomas Plekanec-Gallagher-Max Pacioretty. Same issue here. They played a lot against Arizona. Too much (Plekanec 22:18, Gallagher 20:23, Pacioretty 22:08). I realize Mitchell got hurt (or reinjured. Remember, he had a therapy day last week) against Arizona but Therrien and his staff were a little shortsighted in the first of a back to back. They got lucky this time. The effort was there but they simply had no legs. Pacioretty’s best moment was when he punched a surprised Clutterbuck in the face. Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller. I expected these younger dudes to show a lot more energy. Galchenyuk had his moments – again, as he set up Beaulieu – but the bottom line is he has scored just two goals this season. Or one goal in 20 games since scoring on opening night in Toronto. Smart move to bring up Sven Andrighetto following a two goal performance for St. John’s – including the winner in overtime. (And that roundhouse right to celebrate – only stars do something like that.) Maybe Andrighetto’s quickness and skill do for Galchenyuk what Semin and Eller haven’t. Unlike a seemingly growing chorus of watchers who think Galchenyuk is out of place down the middle I’m still convinced it’s just a matter of time. All he needs to do is score one. And then he might not stop.
  • Sven Andrighetto. Ditto.
  • Lars Eller. Solid, even though he was on the ice with Andrighetto when John Moore smacked in his own rebound to win it for the Devils. With his well earned assist on Galchenyuk’s first goal (Eller and Andrighetto won battles along the boards) Eller finally hit double digits in points.
  • Dale Weise. One of his best efforts but is scoreless in five and has just one goal in his last 10 games. Maybe he’s been waiting for the return of John Tortorella.
  • Jeff Petry & Nathan Beaulieu. Petry especially was much better after a so-so effort the night before.
  • Greg Pateryn. Started again in place of Alexei Emelin and was also better than the night before in Newark.
  • Christian Thomas. Welcome back. Showed off his hard, accurate shot and quick release in the third period – only to be robbed by Schneider.
  • Power Play. It needed just 9 seconds to click after Elias took an interference penalty on Fleischmann. And it should have put the game away with less than 11:00 to play.

THE BAD

  • The 4th line. Not the same trio without Torrey Mitchell. Brian Flynn is winning face offs (71%) but Flynn and Paul Byron have gone three straight games without a shot on goal. Byron appears to be a classic energy player who needs the occasional game off to be at his best.
  • Michel Therrien. By leaning so heavily on his best players the night before (see previous blog – I told you so!) it’s no surprise that Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov had several rough patches. While Pacioretty had a couple of good chances to score, Plekanec was not good. If Therrien insists on playing Plekanec over 20:00 a night, especially on the front of a back to back, then he’s going to get the Plekanec-in-weary-playoff-mode centre. Why not spot Galchenyuk – clearly their best forward right now – to keep Plekanec on the bench for a shift or two? Galchenyuk played 16:34 to Plekanec’s 18:07 (21:35 the night before) and David Desharnais’s 17:17. Galchenyuk had 22 shifts to Plekanec’s 26 and Desharnais’s 25. This isn’t rocket science. Therrien should know this by now. He should also know that putting an overused soon-to-be 37 year old defenseman with bad knees on the ice in what is now 3 on 3 overtime is inviting trouble. Markov never did make it back to his zone on the game winner after making a poor decision to pinch. Therrien (J.J. Daigneault?) used Subban, Petry, Tom Gilbert and Markov in OT. But where was the smooth skating Nathan Beaulieu?

THE UGLY

  • Game Tying goal. Therrien complained post-game that the Habs “were not alert” on the face off that led to the goal by Kyle Palmeiri with just 22 seconds to play. Maybe because they were a little fatigued? Plekanec actually beat Travis Zajac on the draw but failed to tie him up. The puck was loose but Pacioretty appeared to freeze while Zajac kicked it back to Moore at the blue line. Moore fed Palmeiri for the terrific one-timer.  The Habs will gladly take a shot from the boards in every late game situation. But Mike Condon (who took the blame) was off his angle and what should have been, at the very least, a save and a rebound turned into the game tying goal and a rallying cry for New Jersey. Question to think about while we wait for the Habs to confirm, expand on, or deny the RDS report that Carey Price will be out for one month – Which was the last NHL team to win the Stanley Cup with a back up goaltender?

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