It’ll likely be the most enjoyable day off of the season for the Habs-except for the medical staff. Very strong finish to a road trip that normally has a Death Valley feel to it. Managing a point in St. Louis without their best player and without their leading scorer is no small feat. Now comes the hard(er) part. Already weak down the middle, the Habs will try to win games without two regular centremen, including a top 15 scorer. Is that puff of smoke you see a prayer or an SOS? THE GOOD Tomas Plekanec. Welcome to the 2016-17 season. Try to stay for awhile. Considering the circumstance, if he had to pick one game to look like the old Plekanec, this sure was it. His team badly needed him and he delivered. When Plekanec scored…he said “this one’s for Melnick!” @HunterZThompson 😂 — #Habs Luckycharm (@Habs_luckycharm) December 7, 2016 Paul Byron. I am so impressed. In addition to the obvious (skating) Byron has proven to be a real smart player who is always around the net (and a big thank you to Jake Allen who was a rebound machine for the first 40 minutes) but on this road trip he showed off an element to his game that I didn’t think he possessed-a great deal of grit and at times a real physical edge, often in a sneaky way. I like him even more. Alexander Radulov. Who in the NHL plays keep away better than Radulov? Every game. Multiple times a game. Radulov finds teammates who are open. Played over 20:00 for just the third time this season (twice in OT games). This is likely about to become the rule rather than the exception. Al Montoya. First start since November 18th was against a team with the best home record in the Western Conference. Numerous big saves from in close. Paul Stastny’s goal from a severe angle should not have gone in but there wasn’t much he could do about the game tying goal. And the OT winner, also scored by Jaden Schwartz, was simply an unstoppable backhand. Max Pacioretty & David Desharnais. So much for that reunion. Pacioretty hit another goalpost and was set up perfectly by Plekanec with just over a minute to play only to be robbed on the re-direct by Allen who made his best save of the night. Andrei Markov. Best looking of the Habs group of six. Phillip Danault. Good transition back to centre. Greg Pateryn. Very solid. But why less than 11:00? Torrey Mitchell. Forced into over 16:00, including power play time, and responded well. Arturi Lehkonen. If he keeps playing like this the goals will come. PK Unit. Habs played with fire taking three consecutive penalties in the first period against a good power play but killed them off, thanks largely to Montoya and their top pairing defensemen. A struggling PK unit began not with Plekanec up front but Mitchell and Byron before Plekanec was sent out with Pacioretty, something we (strangely) haven’t seen a lot of this season. THE BAD Brendan Gallagher. One goal in 20 games. Shea Weber. Logging too much ice time (28:52)? For the second consecutive game Weber looked fatigued, losing puck battles behind his net while being beaten to the outside twice, including by Alex Steen at the end of regulation time who forced Montoya into making a save after easily walking around the Habs defenseman. Andrew Shaw. Energetic, effective road trip ended in Los Angeles. Daniel Carr. Had a good first shift. Maybe the parade of early penalties affected his rhythm. They want him to create more scoring chances but it’s just not happening. Face offs. Habs won just 43% of the draws and you can’t blame any of it on Alex Galchenyuk. Only four teams in the NHL have been less effective winning face offs this season. OT. WTF is Alexei Emelin doing on the ice while Mark Barberio is nailed to the bench? Please explain. Injury to David Desharnais. Like a lot of fans I do not believe in the ability of Desharnais to get it done at playoff time (in 38 career games he has just 3 goals and 10 assists). However, I always root for the guy to succeed. There is way too much hate out there for the player. @seanrcampbell @HunterZThompson @MitchyGallo Words I thought I’d never hear myself say: “OMG don’t tell me Desharnais is injured. Crap”. — HockeyCool (@hockeypaisan) December 7, 2016 THE UGLY Power Play. Not an over statement to suggest the 0-5 cost them the game, especially when Lehkonen drew a penalty 12 seconds into the third period with the Habs still up 2-0. Without Galchenyuk it’ll be up to Pacioretty to pull the trigger. And the familiar duo of Plekanec and Gallagher are going to have to produce as well. This is hardly Mission: Impossible. Post Views: 1,410 12 Responses Elijah December 7, 2016 Any chance Pleks’ woes can be explained by Galchenyuk’s promotion to 1C ? We all know No. 14’s decline coincides with the signing of his latest contract, but what if all along, his personal goal was to become 1C ? He’s played every role the team’s asked of him for years, but even he needs persona motivation. I pose the question because with Galchenyuk out, Pleks has SOMEHOW magically reappeared… Al December 7, 2016 Plek’s decline started around this time last year. Maybe giving him a more offensive oriented role and allowing other centers on the team to pick up the defensive slack will help him produce. Mitch Melnick December 7, 2016 Plekanec has had plenty of opportunities to create offense. This notion that somehow he hasn’t been put in a position to create offense is just plain silly. C’mon man! (Al) Ian London December 8, 2016 if this is the case it’s not a good sign. This is a team sport. You earn your minutes by producing. Kevin Smith December 7, 2016 Re Weber: A lot of stuff I’d read before the season suggested he played very economically, and one of the ways that worked is that his D partners (usually Suter, then Josi, if I recall correctly) would generally be the ones recovering the puck and starting up ice, while he protected the net and whatnot. Playing with Emelin that’s not going to work, Weber will have to move around more, which will tire him out. It remains not an ideal situation, that pairing, even if they might take us back 10 years to the days of true ‘shutdown’ pairings. Would like to see Barberio given a chance alongside Weber, for a game or two (Barberio has played 62:40min 5v5, a mere 1:05 with Weber. Having said that, he and Pateryn make a damn nice 3rd pair). Re: Mitchell’s ice-time. I feel he was at fault for the OT winner, as he came too far over towards the puck-carrier / covering the late man in, leaving Schwartz to Gallagher (who just came off the bench and was clearly behind Schwartz the entire time). Had he blocked the pass it’d have been fine, but he didn’t and then no one was in position to stop Schwartz. Had he been more to the middle, he might have been able to at least put Schwartz under some physical pressure. The reason I led with ice-time is that 16min for him is a lot and might have contributed to his mistake. Looking closer at the OT ice-time, I find it kind of weird how they chose to do things: 60:00 to 60:32 – Pleks/Byron 60:32 to ~60:53 – Pacioretty/Radulov ~60:53 to ~61:38 – Mitchell/Gallagher ~61:38 to 62:10 – Pleks/Byron 62:10 to ~62:40 – Pacioretty/Radulov ~62:40 to ~63:33 – Lehkonen/Shaw ~63:33 to 63:38 – Mitchell/Gallagher Mitchell is not good enough to restart him/Gallagher at that point. Their first OT stint (~45s) was almost as long as Pacioretty/Radulov’s 2 stints (~51s), and Pleks/Byron would likely have been ready again at that point as well. And that’s even assuming there were no stoppages, and obviously there had been a couple, so those two pairings would have made even more sense to throw out there again. Minor hindsight point, I admit, but I think you could argue it cost them. Ian London December 8, 2016 Weber started the season w/Nate and I thought we should go back to that. Nate is an offensive defenseman and that would give Shea less time moving the puck. If you put two defensive D-men on your first pairing fatigue and therefore mistakes can only result. MT has never been good at managing TOI with some players – he plays them til they drop or make a costly mistake. If fans know this why not any of the coaches? OT goal may never have happened if Pleks didn’t slow down at blue line which put Byron offside. That 2-1 was going to send Byron in alone from just inside the line and with his speed I’m betting he would have netted the winner. Still if someone had guaranteed a point in this game and playing as well as they did except in the middle of third period I would have taken it. dra58 December 7, 2016 The ugly part 2: M/T for playing Weber too many minutes and Emelin in OT. Pateryn has played well lately so let him play more. I agree with playing Barberio in OT as well as only guys with speed in OT as there is lots of free ice and speed can only help you in those situations. Al December 7, 2016 but Barberio and Pateryn still need to learn The System. Joshua Lemish December 7, 2016 What “SYSTEM” get the puck and dump it and hope to recover it after? Also if you have a tentative lead that system falls apart since you basically give the other team the puck and let them have more chances since you aren’t threatening the other team. The team does well DESPITE the coach and his “system” he makes bad decisions constantly and if we win they tend to be ignore. No innovation and no chances for anyone to prove themselves leads to no improvement because Therrien plays only for the now to save his Job. No forward thinking. Ian London December 8, 2016 but whoever accused our “coach” of understanding things like this? He frustrates the hell out of me almost every game Rick L December 8, 2016 I don’t think Michel Therrien is going anywhere anytime soon … Bergevin didn’t blame Therrien for those injuries last year and so his coach’s job was secure … too bad that consideration wasn’t afforded to Alain Vigneault back in the day … Cheers. Ian London December 8, 2016 the cats out of the bag of how management totally messed up managing the team when CP31 went down last year. I would think both MB and MT have a very short leash this year if we stumble without Gally and (even) DD. Look how forthcoming they were with info on these two injuries.