Apologies for missing a couple of games while I was battling a virus as nasty as an Alexei Emelin body check. (Quick recap? The Senators are never a good match up for Montreal while Craig Anderson is in goal. And Charles Hudon is way ahead of the other newbies in terms of generating offence.)

Montreal jumped all over a Detroit team that had played the night before but couldn’t beat Peter Mrazek who was making his first start since November 15. After surviving the first period the supposedly wearier Red Wings took over the game – even as they lost two skaters (and briefly, a third) – outshooting the Habs 25-12 while Montreal leaned on a team defense that seemed to consist of mostly duck and run.

Until their best two skaters were given an opportunity to create some magic.

THE GOOD

  • Carey Price. Ho hum. You just knew those third period saves in particular (on Zetterberg and a series of three spectacular in a row while getting out from under Tomas Vanek whose approach to beating his former teammate might have worked – simply sit on him.) were going to come back and bite Detroit (as was Franz Nielson missing a wide open net after a perfect set up by Danny DeKeyser). And oh yeah, his right pad save in overtime set up the game winning goal. Has made it past last season’s expiry date of November 25. His record at the time was 10-2.

  • Alex Galchenyuk & Alexander Radulov. A little low on energy the last couple of games, perhaps related to Radulov’s recent illness, picked the right time to light things up. Perfectly timed, highly skilled pass by Radulov and a goal scorer’s finish. See where the puck went? Not just up but way up. So why weren’t they on the ice to start the OT? (“They weren’t good for 60 minutes” is a lame reason. THAT game was over.)

  • Shea Weber. He’s been such a rock that it was almost shocking to see him take a penalty in overtime. But his mates sure picked him up to avoid that long, slow skate to the dressing room. It was also shocking to see him hit the goalpost with an open net in overtime, seconds after he stepped out of the penalty box.
  • PK Unit. Detroit’s killer chance to win the game with Weber off was foiled mostly by Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Torrey Mitchell. And the guy in goal.
  • Alexei Emelin. One man wrecking crew.
  • Andrei Markov. Again. Played 25:07, second only to Weber’s 27:54. It’s a light week, schedule-wise, but Markov is averaging 22:00 per game. Hate to harp on it but I think the Habs need to shave that down to closer to twenty minutes. A word of warning here.

  • Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher-Max Pacioretty. Definite signs of life the last couple of games. No surprise Gallagher scored again – his first goal of November – by going straight to the net to redirect a Plekanec shot/pass. And that was a beauty of a set up by Plekanec to Weber in overtime. But the vet Habs centreman still looks a little slow. And he couldn’t win a defensive zone face off (1-6). Pacioretty? He’s gotta stop doing stuff like this.

  • Andrew Shaw. One game after taking on Chris Neil, Shaw again showed why he is loved by his teammates with a strong, gritty performance on the road. Anybody still think Lars Eller is a “better player”?
  • Jeff Petry & Greg Pateryn. Good to see the Michigan boys play well. Pateryn in particular whose last visit home did not end well. (Late defensive zone turnover cost Habs the game. He got benched for the next three weeks.)
  • Castro finally died. He was a hero alright. For about a month or two in 1959.

THE BAD

  • David Desharnais. It’s pretty simple what’s going on. There’s one way Desharnais can beat you – when he has time with the puck. Take away that time (and space) and he’s ineffective. He can’t beat NHL players one on one in open ice and he no longer appears quick enough to beat them wide either. Watch how often opponents force him to the boards where his only option is to get rid of the puck. The Habs are clearly in a holding pattern. Either waiting for Michael McCarron to get hot at the AHL level (3-8-11 in 18 games) or having to go outside for help. At 16-4-2 they can afford to be patient.
  • Daniel Carr. I thought we’d see more by now.
  • Arturi Lehkonen. Only because a goal would have jump started his return from injury. He was flat out robbed by Mrazek who made as good a glove save as you might see all year but the fact remains Lehkonen – and Carr and Chris Terry (who missed an open net vs Carolina) and Sven Andrighetto and anybody else (Nikita Scherback next?) need to bury their chances to remain in the line up. It’s not as if they are not getting enough ice time to produce. It’s an open audition before the Habs opt for a more experienced body. At some point the producer gets tired of shouting “Next!”.

THE UGLY

  • Detroit was understandably frustrated after watching Brendan Smith, Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin go down like pins at Jesus Quintana’s favourite bowling alley. Smith was an accidental knee on knee knock with Phillip Danault while it was Emelin who went shoulder to shoulder with Bertuzzi which sent the Detroit winger legs first into the boards in an image that I saw enough of while watching live. And it appeared Larkin missed a few shifts as a result of an Emelin applied charley horse. For all the off season trade rumours and even with another year on his contract, it’s difficult to imagine the Habs at playoff time without Emelin.
  • The First Two Periods. Bad. Very bad hockey. Not entertaining. Especially for a Saturday night, which got me thinking about how I could have been spending 7-9 PM enjoying myself a lot more. (1- By watching highlights of all the pro goals scored by Jacob de la Rose. 2- Count the number of times my cats chase the puck all over the TV set. 3- Pay tribute to Castro by making a big pot of black bean soup. 4- Scare the cats away after eating the black bean soup. 5 – Watch the game upside down. Which I did. And it was more entertaining. Until I passed out. Or was that the result of sampling something from Bilal Butt’s medicine cabinet? I’m not sure which came first – the medicine or standing on my head.)
  • Not to say he’s ugly or anything.

But then it got uglier.

Try standing on your head Melissa.

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5 Responses

  1. Kevin Smith

    Habs records after 22 games:
    15-16: 16-4-2, 1 OT win, 1 OT loss, 1 SO loss
    16-17: 16-4-2, 1 OT win, 1 OT loss, 1 SO loss

    /sigh

    I suspect the reason Pleks-Pacioretty started OT instead of Galchenyuk-Radulov is because of faceoffs, though at that point why not use Shaw (58.4%; compared with Pleks’ 50.4% and Galchenyuk’s woeful 39.2%, albeit a bit smaller sample size for Shaw).

    That penalty on Weber was an awful call.

    Completely agree with you on Markov. Obviously Weber being in the box during OT didn’t help, but it’ll be so much better in the long-run if he gets a bit of a break here and there. Hell, if the D gets healthy again at some point, might be good to see him with a game off every so often.

    On Castro, without trying to get too political: I’ve long wondered how different things might have been (if at all) were it not for the US sanctions. But then, that was always bound to happen after he overthrew a US supported dictator and instituted some form of socialism. Which I guess means I should really be wondering what would have happened if he’d gone the way of Salvador Allende…

    Good read as always, sorry to hear you were sick.

    • Mitch Melnick

      Thanks Kostas/Kevin.

      The call on Weber is something that is automatic – slash a guys stick out of his hands and it’s a penalty. I don’t like it – it removes old fashioned puck battles and some guys have learned to drop their stick if they hear an opponent sneeze but it is automatic.

      I’m not defending U.S. behaviour in Latin America. It’s been a horror show. But Castro went way past socialism to become – just like Batista was – a dictator.

  2. Rick L

    Tis the season, Mitch … we’ve got a nasty ‘something’ going around the floor here at work … hope you weren’t out of the game too long … just got back from Cuba but they had the Leafs/Habs on a week ago Saturday … not sure I like the pattern of relying on Carey Price too much … haven’t seen a goaltender do more for this team since Jose Theodore’s MVP season … I guess Greg Pateryn has fallen out of favour with his coach … I don’t want to see him leave Montreal but if he does eventually get traded I hope it’s not to a contender … just an opinion, but I think he’s a #4 d-man anywhere outside of Montreal … as for the game, I thought the better team lost that one … again, that’s just me … hope the guys can put together a strong team effort against Anaheim …

    Cheers.