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.
- 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.
— NHL Hockey Live (@NHL_Hockey_Live) November 30, 2016
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”
Shaw vs. hockey sticks part 2 pic.twitter.com/YGIKODI1ZP
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) November 30, 2016
The zebra who ignored the cross checks while calling the hook and who tossed Shaw from the game? Brad Watson.