There were no tired legs or a lack of compete in this one. Just a matter of when and how the Habs would score a second goal. And while it’s true they needed a bogus five minute major to win the game, it was an important step back to the kind of fast paced hockey they’ve made their identity. And they were led by their best players, some of whom were no shows against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
- Alex Galchneyuk. Welcome back. This time for real. Oh the horror of having to watch Galchenyuk without his regular wingers 5 on 5 while he works himself back into game shape. Looks like the coach totally mucked up his confidence. His first three point night of the season.
- Alexander Radulov. Back to his playmaking best. His first three assist night as a Hab. Really important set up to Galchenyuk to tie the game just a minute after New Jersey had opened the scoring.
- Max Pacioretty. A more Pacioretty-like 6 shots on goal. Only four players in the NHL – Sidney Crosby, Jeff Carter, Evgeni Malkin and Auston Matthews – have scored more goals this season than Pacioretty. What’s almost as impressive is Pacioretty’s on ice demeanor, especially on the road. He looks like a veteran captain…
- Shea Weber. Like this guy. Did anybody actually see the puck once it left his stick for the game winning goal? The more-dominant-early-in-the-season Weber appears to be reemerging.
- Power Play. Giddiest guy on the flight home must have been Kirk Muller. Power Play is getting stronger, just in time for Galchenyuk to take advantage of it. A 3 for 7 night moves their season success rate to 22.6% or tied for 6th overall.
- Jeff Petry & Nathan Beaulieu. That’s more like it. Was it only a temporary separation or the realization that Andrei Markov won’t be returning anytime soon?
- Jacob de la Rose. Whoa. Who was that guy wearing #25? Played with a real purpose. At one point Marc Denis remarked on RDS that it was the best game he’s seen de la Rose play. Recalled from the AHL to specifically help out the penalty kill, opponents have yet to score a power play goal with him on the ice. But he also looked very good at even strength. Too bad he can’t score.
- Tomas Plekanec. Is he really back for the rest of the season?
- Torrey Mitchell. Another solid effort. Didn’t hesitate to come to the defense of Beaulieu when it appeared the Habs defenseman might have been hurt early in the third period.
- Al Montoya. Stopped everything but a triple stick-screen shot by Steven (The Great) Santini. Montoya has won four straight games.
- Michel Therrien. Since putting his team through an intense 90 minute practice last Sunday they’ve held opponents to 20 (in Detroit), 26 (Pittsburgh) and 17 (in NJ) shots on goal. His decision to move Galchenyuk away from Radulov and Pacioretty while allowing the young centre more time to get back into real game shape after missing six weeks was a wise one. As was his admission that he shouldn’t have dropped him back into that #1 slot so soon. And, after suggesting that the Petry-Beaulieu pairing hadn’t looked very good lately (true) he put them back together after not seeing what he wanted to see against Pittsburgh.
- Paul Byron. Sent in alone via a terrific set up by Plekanec, Byron never got a shot on Keith Kinkaid. Twice against Pittsburgh he had the puck in the slot only to pass instead of shooting. For whatever reason he’s not confident with the puck at the moment.
- Frederic L’Ecuyer. Referee over reacted when Karl Stollery cross checked Beaulieu into the boards early in the third period. It was a heavy thud alright and Beaulieu looked like he might have been injured but I think that’s a minor penalty. Devils coach John Hynes had a right to be angry but he took it a step further as he continued to berate L’Ecuyer who shouldn’t have taken as much abuse as he did, especially while in front of both benches. It took veteran Dean Morton to skate in from across the ice to warn Hynes.
- Reaction to the “demotion” of Alex Galchenyuk and recent struggles of a very tired, banged up team that sits comfortably in first place in their division and has the 5th best record in the NHL. Gord Miller said it best Friday evening on Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690: I say this with all due respect to everybody in Montreal who you know I love and adore – you’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that you have a really good hockey team in Montreal…not everything is going to go perfectly all the time but you have a very good hockey team in Montreal..one of the best in the NHL. So come to terms with it, accept it and, in the words of Carey Price, “chill out”. ..Despite whatever struggles he might be having they have a goaltender who every other GM in the league would trade their goalie for. They have an elite defenseman, at least one and probably two. They have an elite goal scorer who, despite occasional slumps that they all go through, produces at a remarkably consistent rate, and they’ve got good young players…You can’t look at things in three game stretches. It’s a long season, there is ups and downs for everybody. Guys are going to get moved up and down the line up…the Canadiens are trying to do everything they can to win every game but you can’t go leaving a Mitch Melnick sized hole in the wall everytime something goes sideways. Let’s take the long view here – is this a good hockey team? Absolutely. This is an elite hockey team. Wow. We love and adore you too, Gord.