We were pathetic. It was a pathetic display.
Flames coach Glen Gulutzen dipped into the Michel Therrien post game handbook to deliver a message to his players that might have been three days late. They had already been embarrassed on home ice by the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Night In Canada and followed that up two nights later by getting shutout in Toronto.
“The players on the bench looked like they were watching a movie” is how TSN’s Ray Ferraro put it to us on the radio about Calgary’s lack of emotion at the ACC. So their dispirited effort at the Bell Centre hardly came out of thin air. But then again, we’ve seen how shoddy goaltending can rip the confidence and spirit out of a team.
The Habs, meanwhile, took advantage of a snow/ice day after cancelling their morning skate and looked fresh. Especially after the first period when their goaltender was anything but shoddy.
- Carey Price. Tested by Johnny Gaudreau just 90 seconds into the game after a bad pinch at the Calgary blue line resulted in a two one one. Gaudreau didn’t have full control of the puck but still, we’ve seen chances like that beat Price regularly over the last several weeks so perhaps it’s another indicator (if you needed one following his game against Buffalo) that he’s back in top form. He also stopped Sean Monahan on the Gaudreau rebound. Overall, he’s got the look back.
- Alexander Radulov. In goal scorer mode, netting two in the same game for the first time this season. On the second goal he flashed his lethal backhand which makes him so dangerous in a shootout.
- Andrew Shaw. Best game since he returned from his concussion. First goal since December 4 opened the scoring late in the final minute of the first period which helped extinguish the fragile Flames.
- Tomas Plekanec. Shorthanded goal in the second period was the back breaker for Calgary. If the Plekanec we’ve seen for the last couple of weeks is actually the Plekanec the Habs will get at playoff time then that’s an excellent third line centre. A big if. But how does Montreal get a 2nd line centre without dealing Plekanec? Unless you think Phillip Danault is ready for that role. Didn’t think so. Does Plekanec survive the March 1 trade deadline?
- Sven Andrighetto. Strong game. Terrific effort using his speed to set up the opening goal by Shaw. Also saw some real push back from him after he was shoved by Derek Engelland who is perhaps the best fighter in the NHL. Andrighetto didn’t hesitate to shove back.
Sven Andrighetto vs Deryk Engelland sounds like the kind of mismatch we would see in early Pride fighting tournaments.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 25, 2017
- Daniel Carr. Finally scored his second goal of the season off a neat give and go with Torrey Mitchell. The play was actually started by Carey Price who now trails Al Montoya by one point in the Habs goalie scoring race. Carr and Andrighetto are, in effect, battling for the same ice time while David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher continue to rehab from injuries.
- Jeff Petry & Nathan Beaulieu. Very effective and smooth game from Petry. Not quite as level from Beaulieu who struggled to start, not only getting caught up the ice to give Gaudreau that early Grade A scoring chance but he was also way off with his passing, missing teammates who were wide open. But then he made up for it with a perfect cross ice pass to Radulov on a power play to put the game away. The Habs put an emphasis on hockey smarts. I’m not sure Beaulieu passes that test often enough. Not yet anyway.
- Special Teams. Two power play goals by Radulov and a shorty by Plekanec doesn’t tell the whole story. With the Habs holding a 1-0 lead in the second period they ended up two men short for over 40 seconds against a team whose power play had been running at over 30% since the start of December – tops in the NHL. But Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin did most of the heavy lifting to kill it off, even as Weber lost his stick. The Habs were on quite the PK run until the 19:58 mark of the third period. And the power play? Now at 23.3% – sitting 3rd in the NHL. That’s called progress.
- Alexei Emelin. Loved his heavy hit on Engelland late in the game after the Calgary defenseman appeared to be head hunting or, at the very least, looking for a dance partner for much of the third period.
- Jacob de la Rose. A major reason why the Habs have been able to kill off penalties of late. But he put his team in a very precarious position while killing off a Petry penalty in the second when he too was sent to the box for an unnecessary trip. When your game is as one dimensional as de la Rose’s, your margin of error is as slim as Donald Trump’s grasp of reality.
- Max Pacioretty. Very quiet game from the captain. I think he was still feeling the effects of getting rocked into the boards by Cody Franson on Saturday.
- Calgary’s goal. Sam Bennett spoiled what would have been Price’s third shutout of the season. In typical Price fashion he downplayed losing the shutout with less than two seconds left by saying “I was never a statistics guy.” (Memo to Trump – see this quote.) But you know how badly his teammates wanted to see it – especially Radulov who took a dumb hooking penalty in the final minute (the one area of his game that he needs to correct – 46 penalty minutes in 47 games is way too many) to jeopardize the bid. He was quick to hone up to it post game. Weber’s failure to clear also led to the goal, a rare puck handling mistake by the Habs defenseman who has mostly been a rock in front of his goaltender.
- Injury to Alex Galchenyuk. The Habs say it’s not serious but to have him go down with an injury to the same knee so soon after returning is disconcerting to say the least. It amplifies the need for Marc Bergevin to add serious depth down the middle. But at this point, Bergevin must feel like a bank teller in The Marauders. From Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts Blog:
1. We’ve been hearing about high prices for rentals. Word is Arizona’s initial ask from Montreal for Martin Hanzal was Michael McCarron and two draft picks — one a first-rounder, the other conditional. I look at it this way: You never know until you ask. But it also tells you why Hanzal is not a Canadien. We’ll see if both teams circle back.