It was like Deja Vu all over again.
The Canadiens played very well, worked hard, carried the play but couldn’t put the puck in the net until, just like in Anaheim, they broke the goose egg with less than two minutes to play.
In fact, almost the entire first third of the season seems like we’ve seen this act before. You know, carrying the play, getting plenty of scoring opportunities but ultimately losing games because they can’t score. It started to happen so often at this time a year ago it became an accepted fate. Nobody could do anything, the schedule started to slip away, so nobody did anything, other than wait hopelessly for their goaltender to return.
This is not as dire a situation. Clearly there is no season-ending injury to deal with. But on the other hand, the stakes are higher. And GM Marc Bergevin can no longer just watch the rest of the season play out while keeping his fingers crossed that more goals will start going in.
San Jose needed only two goals to win for the 6th time in their last 7 games. But look who showed up to get them the goals: Brent Burns (10th goal – 8 SOG), Joe Pavelski (1 G 1 A) & Joe Thornton (2 A). Who are the Habs Big 3?
- Carey Price. Beaten only by Burns on a wicked blast from the face off circle during an early San Jose power play and when Thornton and Pavelski combined on a spaced out two man break. It looks like Price is going to have to go full Team Canada mode in order for the Habs to win right now.
- Andrew Shaw. Continues to be one of their best players night in and night out.
- Shea Weber. Couldn’t match Burns offensively but was his usual solid self. The Habs goal was scored only after Weber took the puck deep into San Jose territory.
- Jeff Petry. Strong bounce back after an awful night in Anaheim.
- Arturi Lehkonen. The only Hab to beat Martin Jones with a nifty spinorama backhand from the slot which slipped through Jones’s legs to give the Habs some life. But again, it was a case of too little, too late.
- Paul Byron. Lost his spot on the top line through no fault of his own. Not only skated miles but also played a strong physical game, something we don’t often see. Makes more sense to see him on the third line.
- Torrey Mitchell-Brian Flynn-Phillip Danault. Excellent night saw Habs 4th line hem the Sharks in deep on several of their shifts. It was Flynn’s first game in nearly a month (upper body-State secret), forcing Daniel Carr into the press box. Flynn found himself alone in front of Jones late in the second period only to have the puck roll off his stick as he went backhand deke.
- Alexander Radulov. Every game he puts teammates in a position to score. Needing a goal to get back in the game, Radulov beat Jones cleanly 12 minutes into the third period, only to watch (and hear) the puck ring off the goal post. While he’s a beauty of a player, the Radulov face took another beating. Maybe he can scare a couple of more defensemen who have yet to see him as a Hab.
- Second Period. Shot totals were 10-7 in favour of Montreal but over the final 15 minutes they totally dominated play as the Sharks could barely touch the puck. One of their best periods of the season.
- Greg Pateryn-Mark Barberio. They’re hanging in. I like what I see. But I’d like to see Barberio given more of an opportunity to help the struggling offense. He’s playing loose and free, very confident with the puck. Why not pair him with Weber when the Habs need offense? Why not send him out on the power play for more than 9 seconds? Why can’t he get some of what Nathan Beaulieu was doing when he appears to be better than Beaulieu? Barberio is an offensive defenseman. He dominated in the AHL. Let him do his thing.
- And away we go – Alex Galchenyuk. Robbed early on by Jones after a nifty behind-the-back set up by Byron. But he hesitated just enough to allow the San Jose goaltender time to get over and make the save – as great as it was. Made a terrible decision with the puck in the final minute of the first period when he had it in deep only to pass back to nobody which resulted in the Thornton to Pavelski goal to make it 2-0. Galchenyuk has consistently created offense this season so he gets a pass as the Habs have largely been firing blanks. But like Price slamming the door shut at the other end of the ice it looks like Habs can’t win without Galchenyuk scoring.
- Brendan Gallagher. Worked his ass off. Also robbed from in close by Jones. Drew a penalty on the first shift of the third period. But…needs to score.
- Power Play. Forget the late goal by Lehkonen. Technically on the power play but Price was also on the bench for an extra attacker. Early in the game it was simply dreadful. But they were presented with a tremendous opportunity to at the very least tie the game and perhaps win it when Logan Couture carved up Radulov’s forehead with the blade of his stick. Montreal had a four minute power play with just over four minutes left to play. Unfortunately their best playmaker was getting stitched up.
- David Desharnais. Over matched. Still got nearly three minutes of power play time.
- Andrei Markov. Rare off night.
- Max Pacioretty. Even when he was given his old centreman-Desharnais- on the second period power play less than 20 seconds into the period, nothing happened. Midway through the second, Pacioretty was on late in his shift while Radulov had the puck behind the San Jose net. A perfect feed to Pacioretty in the slot resulted in a missed shot. But Michel Therrien saw it as a calling. And he finally put Pacioretty alongside Radulov and Galchenyuk. Magic? Not exactly. During a third period power play Radulov again set up Pacioretty in the slot. This time the Habs captain fanned on his shot and, to make matters worse, took a slashing penalty on Pavelski in frustration. Pacioretty has been through slumps before. Everybody knows how streaky he is. But four goals through 24 games, combined with some dead/dumb ass play, is beyond a slump. He’s finally been moved back to the top line. It’s difficult to believe he won’t take advantage of this. But it has to start in Los Angeles-against a subpar NHL goaltender.
- Tomas Plekanec. WTF are they going to do?