I’d love to rest my head tonight/On a bed of California stars/I’d like to lay my weary bones tonight/On a bed of California stars 

To say the Habs were ready for the start of a three game swing through California would be akin to suggesting that Andrew Shaw is a fiery competitor. The game was not quite three minutes old and Montreal had already outshot Anaheim 8-0. The Ducks looked like the slowest team Montreal has faced this season. They were on the ropes alright but got a second wind when the Habs were presented with an opportunity to bury them early, only to fire nothing but lazy, off-the-mark haymakers. Once Anaheim survived a couple of penalties their game finally kicked into gear. It turned into a fun one to stay up late for. The Habs controlled possession (firing 74 shots at the Anahiem net which was well protected by John Gibson), attacked in waves but couldn’t finish. Or a carbon copy of so many of their losses beginning at this time a year ago-when their goaltender was Mike Condon. Montreal should be fine. At least until they cross the state line.

THE GOOD

  • David Desharanis-Andrew Shaw-Arturi Lehkonen. Easily Montreal’s best trio. Big bounce back for Desharnais. Just his third career 5 SOG game. Lehkonen looked like a genuine NHL player, often winning puck battles against more experienced opponents, while Shaw has clearly settled into a rhythm that jives with what we saw in Chicago. And yeah, that includes taking penalties, scrapping and getting into beefs. More on that later.
  • Alexei Emelin. No surprise he was this solid against one of the biggest and heaviest group of forwards in the NHL.
  • Alexander Radulov. Looked the most threatening of the Habs group of Top 6 forwards. Actually broke in alone early in the second period but took the puck too close to Gibson to do any damage.
  • Habs PK Unit in 3rd. Already burned by a power play goal with Shea Weber in the box for roughing, Montreal needed a stop early in the third when Anaheim began with a 5 on 3 for nearly 30 seconds while Emelin served out the rest of his hooking penalty he received with just two seconds left in the second. The penalty kill kept Montreal in the game.
  • Carey Price. Cam Fowler’s wrist shot to the short side-even as he was given time and space to tee it up-is a shot that Price is not normally beaten by. It marked the first time this season Montreal trailed by two goals with Price in goal. He wasn’t going to allow a third.
  • Brendan Gallagher. Helped set up Montreal’s only goal. Plenty of chances. Normally wouldn’t muff a perfect set up on a 2 on 1 the way he did when Torrey Mitchell set him up in the second (ok, it wasn’t a Radulov-like feather pass but still, the puck was there). Bigger problem was moments later when Fowler made it 2-0. Gallagher also provided the funniest moment of the game as he could be seen chirping Corey Perry while The Ducks winger and Shaw fought right in front of the Montreal bench.

  • Greg Pateryn. Totally nailed Perry with a big hit in the corner of the Montreal end of the ice in the second period which seemed to at least momentarily stun the Ducks sniper.
  • The real Max Pacioretty? It was very late (almost too late) but the third period spurt which included a perfect set up to Shaw from behind the net to get Montreal to within a goal with two minutes left, followed a minute later by Pacioretty himself straddling the Anaheim goal line and taking the puck directly to the net for a Grade A scoring chance is perhaps an indication his goal scoring touch is about to return. Because for most of the night it was another case of the blahs.

THE BAD

  • Power Play. Riding the momentum of a hot start (the 8-0 shot advantage was up to 10-1) the Habs were presented with a couple of power plays to give Carey Price enough of a cushion to put the game to bed. But it mostly fluttered aimlessly. The best scoring chance was actually a Ryan Getzlaf break in. Biggest culprit? Pacioretty. He held onto the puck with nobody pressuring him, but didn’t seem to know what to do with it before finally firing a shot that went nowhere. A few seconds later another 67 shot missed the net. And what was he doing when the Habs had their third power play of the game with six minutes to play when he had the puck on his stick deep in Anaheim territory but as soon as he was pressured he pulled a way-too-cute backhand pass between the legs manoeuvre that resulted in a turnover. The type of soft give away that would have resulted in the excoriation of a former star player if he had pulled something similar. Maybe Pacioretty got an earful when he went to the bench because his last two shifts were terrific. Let’s see what happens in San Jose. And to those who believe the Canadiens captain gets too much heat-what with his four goals and all-try watching the games.
  • Alex Galchenyuk. For those of us who believe he should get closer to 18 minutes a game than 16, he didn’t make a strong case for himself. Uncharacteristically fanned on a one-timer with an open net on Montreal’s second power play after a set up by Weber. Otherwise he was mostly invisible. Tough assignment playing against Ryan Kesler/Getzlaf but he has to do a better job of fighting through it and take better advantage when there is more open ice. And when Montreal controlled the puck after the final face off of the night with 21 seconds to play and Price on the bench for a 6th attacker what was with the Galchenyuk-in-Andy Reid-clock-management mode? The Habs never got a final shot on Gibson to try to tie the game.
  • Jeff Petry. Woof. One of the worst games I’ve seen him play. Fought the puck in his own zone all night. Maybe some bad memories leftover when he used to come into Anaheim a lot more often as a member of the Oilers.
  • Tomas Plekanec. Tied for 379th in the NHL in goals scored.

THE UGLY

  • Tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing when you saw Paul MacLean behind the Anaheim bench.

So with Prust on my mind I started thinking about his verbal spat with referee Brad Watson during the Montreal-Tampa Bay playoff series of 2015 when Prust vividy described what Watson yelled at him while he was sitting in the penalty box. Which eventually resulted in a Prust apology (while Watson never made it to the SC Final).

What does this have to do with the game in Anaheim?

Andrew Shaw is the current Habs player most similar to Prust. But much better. So while he did indeed take a hooking penalty deep in Anaheim territory while his team was pressing for the equalizer, it came after he was cross checked (several times) to the ice. And resulted in this much discussed “meltdown”

The zebra who ignored the cross checks while calling the hook and who tossed Shaw from the game? Brad Watson.

About The Author

6 Responses

  1. Michael Nixon

    Mitch…you’re not referring to Jack Todd when talking about 67, are you? Jack thinks we are all being too tough on Max. My opinion is more aligned with yours.

    • Mitch Melnick

      Rejean Tremblay wrote something about it before Jack did. There are others out there who also feel that way. I say score goals, play smart hockey (taking lazy wrist shots from 40 feet out is not smart) lead by example and there’d be no criticism whatsoever. Why should he be immune to it?

  2. Rick L

    I read something a few days ago that suggested Max Pacioretty may have some off-ice issues distracting him … it’s none of my business, but if this is true I hope the very best for him … glad you mentioned Greg Pateryn, Mitch … I thought he might have been one of our best defenders last night … you mentioned his hit on Cory Perry, but he also had a strong transition game with a few long tape-to-tape stretch-passes … thought he and Mark Barberio were a strong pairing last night … here comes Brendan Gallagher … nice to hear Art Lehkonen’s a lot last night … still looking for a #47 Radulov jersey to go with my #19 Robinson and my #76 Prime Time …

    Cheers.

  3. Bill Swift

    Not quite sure what game Mitch was watching but Gallagher really did nothing all night and has not been the same player he was before he hurt has hand last year. Max directed eight shots towards the net and his attempted set ups were muffed by his line-mates. Brett Hull, Mike Bossy (and no, I am not saying Max is a Hall of Famer like those players) and other pure goal scorers were not saddled with run of the mill centers their entire careers like Max has. Max is not a power forward that is going to take the puck to the net, he is simply a guy with excellent speed and a great shot in a big body. Let him do what he does best instead of trying to remake him into something else.

    • Mitch Melnick

      “Directed 8 shots at the net” Wow. Have you seen some of those floaters? Seriously?
      He’s been sulking.