On the bright side, the Habs held the high octane Penguins to 26 shots on goal. But for the second consecutive game, Montreal’s offense chugged along with all the force of a snail. Even as Pittsburgh played without their 25 minute a night star defenseman Kris Letang and big (6’4″) Brian Dumoulin, who was such a revelation during their Stanley Cup run last spring. One would have thought that the mostly quick Montreal forwards would have some room to make plays down low but that wasn’t the case. In many instances they were too cute with the puck – making one pass too many – or couldn’t get pucks through the well positioned Pittsburgh defenders (hello there Jacques Martin). And when they did, Matt Murray stopped them, rebounding easily from the seven goals he allowed Monday night against the Capitals.
The Habs are not in trouble. But some players are. “Our level of competition was not there…the whole team needs to be better.” was how a clearly annoyed Michel Therrien described his team’s performance. As measuring stick games go it was a lot more of a clunker than their shutout loss to Detroit.
These are difficult days for the Habs as they attempt to plough through the most challenging part of their schedule, clearly lacking some energy and focus while missing their most energetic player – Brendan Gallagher – and their second best defenseman – Andrei Markov. The schedule begins to ease up even with another back to back weekend against New Jersey and Buffalo. But what they really need is the All Star break. And for their goaltender, who won’t get that break, to recapture his strong sense of invincibility.
- Shea Weber & Alexei Emelin. Weber’s best game in awhile while Emelin continues a stretch of playing the best hockey of his career. These guys were prepared to compete.
- Tomas Plekanec-Sven Andrighetto-Artturi Lehkonen. The only trio that consistently looked ok, and not just because it was Andrighetto’s wraparound goal that was the only one of their 20 shots to find the back of the net. It was (mostly) Plekanec, Weber and Emelin who held Sidney Crosby to one shot on goal. But it was that other big centre who caused some problems.
- Andrew Shaw. Hungriest of the Montreal forwards. Battled hard for pucks and took a couple directly to the net. “We didn’t get dirty enough” said Shaw after the game. But he did his part.
- Mark Barberio. First full game as a #4 defenseman. Handled it well.
- Habs tribute to new Hall of Famer Tim Raines. Nice touch to briefly honour Raines on the scoreboard during the first early TV time out. Not exactly a raucous response. Must have been a summer soccer crowd.
- Mitch Gallo.
- Nathan Beaulieu. Ugh. His play is sinking faster than Donald Trump’s approval ratings.
- Phillip Danault. Not even a Danault-Max Pacioretty reunion beginning early in the second period could spark the offense.
- Paul Byron. Total non-factor. Passing instead of shooting.
- Torrey Mitchell. Midway through the first period Mitchell found himself alone in the slot – a rare occurrence for a Montreal forward. He was set up for a one-timer. The puck was delivered right to his stick. He swung and missed like Shane Andrews.
- Jeff Petry. Lost too many battles in his own zone. Patric Hornqvist might have had something to do with it.
- Carey Price. Another 4 goals against. That’s the 8th time since December 1st he has allowed 4 goals or more in a game. Look, it’s the defending Cup champs who know how to score. Under normal circumstances you’d say he kept his team in the game. But when their best offensive players take the night off he against a quality opponent he has to be near perfect and right now he’s far from it. Forget the terrible through-the-5-hole 4th goal off the stick of Olli Maatta. The game was already over. But Pittsburgh’s first three goals were all to his blocker side. When Phil Kessel broke in early in the first period for his only scoring chance of the night, he went blocker side but fired it wide. (It should be noted again that the Habs did a terrific job limiting the scoring chances of Crosby, Malkin and Kessel – holding them to a combined 2 shots on goal.) On the first shift of the third period Justin Schultz carried the puck over the Montreal blue line and fired a shot – blocker side. It’s hardly a secret teams have been targeting that area on Price for a few weeks now. Whether it’s a physical ailment that is hampering him or he’s just off on his technique it’s as clear as the case for Vladimir Guererro as the next Expos Hall of Famer. So when he was finally asked about it post-game by TSN 690’s Mitch Gallo (hooray), Price reacted more playfully then angrily. This might sound trite but when the game ended I liked the way Price and his teammates interacted as he made his way off the ice. There were at least a couple of fist pumps. They just lost 4-1. Something is up.
— Shaun Starr (@Starr690) January 19, 2017
- Alex Gachenyuk-Alexander Radulov-Max Pacioretty. I can’t recall a worse game for the trio. They were simply terrible. Pacioretty seemed frustrated and distracted the entire night. Radulov has hit a wall. Galchenyuk is playing catch up, while driving home the point that he is still not quite ready to go head to head with elite centres in the NHL. He was no match for Malkin who was a constant playmaking threat. For those of you who dismiss the notion of Martin Hanzal as a Hab, try to visualize a Montreal-Pittsburgh playoff series. Now tell me who the Canadiens are supposed to put on Malkin?