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.

THE GOOD

  • 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.

THE BAD

  • 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.

THE UGLY

  • 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?

 

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10 Responses

  1. Elizabeth

    “Something is up”. You left me hanging Mitch, any ideas?

    • Mitch Melnick

      Battling through some sort of physical issue that is not serious enough to knock him out of the line up but bothersome enough to affect his play. But his teammates appreciate that he is there for them. Just a guess.

  2. Kostas

    Swung and missed like Shane Andrews…..
    Thanks. That will probably have me laughing for the rest of the day👍

    • Mitch Melnick

      Poor Shane. He could have been better if he didn’t spend so much time hitting in front of the pitcher.

  3. Rick L

    Mitch, where do you see Greg Pateryn fitting in once he gets healthy?

    Cheers.

    • mitch melnick

      Plays instead of Redmond against teams that are more physical, not as quick. When Markov returns I’m guessing Barberio might get a shot to play the right side.

  4. IMS1965

    Look, all teams will have ups and downs during the course of the season. As Carey noted, Stanley Cups aren’t won in January. That said, there are a number of troubling signs for the team, not the least of which has been Price’s return to a human level of playing. There is also the fact that a quick review of the schedule shows (to me, anyway) that the team has beaten two good teams since the start of December (Washington last month, the Rangers this month). All other wins were against bad to mediocre competition. As well, since that blistering 13-1-1 start (which we all knew was unsustainable even if the team had stayed healthy), the Habs’ record is a thoroughly unimpressive 14-12-15. Bottom line to me: If the team picks up its play and goes on a deep playoff run, we all forget about the play this month and last. If this level of play persists, however, and Montreal gets bounced in the first round of the playoffs, the parallels to the play last season will be strong to ignore (for me, anyway).

  5. Michael Nixon

    I said it in October and I’ll say it again…this team is not good enough yet the GM is saying exactly what he said last year “it’s too hard to make a trade”.
    Get ready for more misery. What are they going to blame it on this time?

  6. Mitch Melnick

    They just a got guy back after six weeks who had been their leading scorer. Gallagher might be their most important forward. Markov is their second best defenseman. Price has been bad since Dec. 1. Their best defenseman doesn’t have a true partner. And look where they are. Think how good they can be if they find somebody to play w/Weber while Emelin drops to the third pair. The schedule will soon ease up considerably. Take a deep breath.

  7. Ian London

    I agree with all the comments today and that’s the problem – what is the truth? Who are the real Habs? Certainly since Dec 1 we haven’t been good but rather just getting by. That won’t cut it once the playoffs start and we need to finish strong for both a better seed and momentum.

    if you look at the full season to date record based on winning percentage we are 4th in the east and 5th in the league. And our winning percentage against eastern playoff teams and those over .500, our record is 13-6-5 (.646 winning percentage). Against the west it is a mediocre 5-6-1 (.458 winning percentage).

    No question we need all of our injured starters back but that didn’t kill us until the last 10 days when the losses and goals-against piled up.

    everyone says Carey will be fine – I’m not so sure. He seems too laid back/distracted. He’s giving up rebounds. Not playing pucks as we’ve come to expect. And if there is something wrong on his blocker side everybody knows it so our defense (and forwards) have to compensate as does especially Carey.

    I’m a diehard Habs fan so I have no intention of jumping off the bandwagon. I just wish we had a coach who does more than shuffle lines. That’s not coaching. We need a winning streak heading into the all-star break. If we take less than 7 points before the break we’re in big trouble.