TSN690 Radio Friday 5:15 PM:

Melnick: Habs face Washington tomorrow, a team that is unbeatable right now. Do the Capitals have any weaknesses the Canadiens might be able to exploit?

Pierre McGuire: No. No weaknesses.

The Capitals are so strong, so well balanced, so well coached and so healthy it’s a wonder they’ve actually lost 11 games in regulation time. It was a very difficult assignment for the Habs to begin with. Impossible as it turns out, when the Caps also get help from the zebras. No whining here. Just the facts, m’am.

Not surprisingly the Habs were ready to compete, rebounding from the shit show in Philadelphia. And they almost forced overtime. But what’s clear with less than 30 games to play in the season, is they have practically no chance to beat the Capitals in a seven game series. Oh, they can keep it tight and stretch it out to, say, six games. But they’re going to need help – if they can even get that far. Nobody knows this better than GM Marc Bergevin who is poised to pounce prior to or at the trade deadline. Just like he was a year ago, before the season slipped away faster than you can say “time out”.

The Habs remain in a good spot. While it’s true that they have suddenly lost three of four and continue to struggle against the better teams in the league, they have been without some of their best players virtually the entire season. It’s also true that the Ottawa Senators are creeping up (I can see them closing the gap further, perhaps to 3-4 points, before the Habs pull away for good) but they’ve got an awfully tough schedule to look forward to while the Habs look forward to a bye week in just eight days.

Feel better? Or do you need to see two points once they’re done playing on Super Bowl Sunday against Edmonton? Against an Oilers team that just might be playing a little too much since arriving in town late Friday night.

THE GOOD

  • Alexander Radulov. Seemed to be on a mission to wrestle away the Alexander The Great moniker from Ovechkin. Best skater on the ice. Every time the Habs needed a strong shift, a turnover and/or a goal, Radulov provided it. It was just a shame his second shot that beat Braden Holtby was waved off. But we’ll aways have the celebration.

  • Max Pacioretty. Helped set up Radulov to tie the game. Got Habs back in it – with help from Radulov (naturally) – when he scored his 25th goal of the season in the third. The same number of goals scored this season by that other Russian dude named Alex.
  • Phillip Danault. Started slow with a couple of bad passes/turnovers but seemed to wake up after he was hit by Dimitriy Orlov inside the Washington blue line. Started skating again. Did most of the grunt work on the Radulov goal when he stripped Justin Williams of the puck along the boards inside the Washington line, then, after Pacioretty won a puck battle of his own, Danault fed Radulov who snapped a strong wrist shot blocker side on Holtby.
  • Tomas Plekanec-Sven Andrighetto-Artturi Lehkonen. Their assignment was to keep one of the NHL’s best trios – Nicklas Backstrom-TJ Oshie-Ovechkin – off the scoresheet. And they did a good job, until Backstrom scored on a bogus Washngton power play for what turned out to be the game winning goal.
  • Alex Galchenyuk. For the first part of the game I was thinking that David Desharnais (healthy scratch) would have been better but then it clicked for Galchenyuk after Danault went MIA with an injury. Robbed from in close by Holtby late in the game. Had a few other chances prior to that as well. I sense a big afternoon for him against Edmonton.
  • Torrey Mitchell. Good effort after the Caps first goal by Jay Beagle. Perfect 6 for 6 in the face off circle. Had a chance to tie the game late when he broke down the right side while shorthanded but unfortunately the puck wouldn’t settle down for him. He ended up shooting a harmless shot into Holtby.

THE BAD

  • Power Play.  For the second straight game the Habs were killed off in large part because of the ineffectiveness of their power play.  Zero shots on their first opportunity early in the game. One weak shot from in close by Paul Byron during their second PP chance in the second period. And one more shot – a good wrister but from far out by Galchenyuk in the third. Worse than being totally non-threatening was the negative momentum it created, certainly noticeable after John Carlson’s inerference penalty in the second. Just a couple of minutes after the Caps killed it off without any difficulty, Andrei Berekovsky found himself with time and space to tee up a shot that beat Carey Price to snap a 1-1 tie. I get that Danault, Radulov & Pacioretty have good chemistry right now but not putting Galchenyuk on the first wave is counter productive. He is easily their most talented centreman. It’s not close. When he returned from his first injury in New Jersey prior to the All Star break, Michel Therrien (Kirk Muller?) put Galchenyuk out on the PP with his old wingers and it resulted in a pair of goals.
  • Shea Weber. Solid defensively but he couldn’t get a single shot through on Holtby. Habs need the offensive portion of Weber’s game right now.
  • Nathan Beaulieu. Too passive on the opening goal by Beagle. Didn’t take long for Andrei Markov to get more ice time (20:48) than Beaulieu (16:45).
  • Andrew Shaw. No emotion for much of the game until he was called for a border line hold with just over 5 minutes to play. Jumped out of the box and seemed possessed. Won a couple of big draws in the Washington end late in the game with the Habs pressing for the equalizer.
  • Brian Flynn. Played less than 8 uneventful minutes.
  • 11 minute delay in the first period. Actually seemed to help the Habs after a small mouse-sized hole was discovered at the base of the boards behind the Washington net. Major bonus signage time for Air Canada.

  • Referees Kendrick Nicholson (on loan from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel?) and Gord Dwyer. They got the call on Pacioretty on Holtby correct but the “hook” by Radulov on Ovechkin behind the net was just shameful. Ovechkin went down easier than the proverbial beer at a frat party. Cue the game winning goal by Backstrom through a screen. The call on Shaw with 5 minutes to play (on Oshie) was called only because it was Shaw. Moments after he returned to the ice Shaw was clearly upended without the puck by Tom Wilson. No call. The capper was a clear cut puck-over-glass delay of game penalty for Washington in the neutral zone. But the two referees, joined by linesmen Scott Driscoll and Steve Miller, saw it differently. Is there a night before curfew for officials?

THE UGLY

  • Jan 20, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Nashville Predators forward Mike Ribeiro (63) stretches during the warmup period before the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

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One Response

  1. Sharon R.

    Hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl! Miss your review of Habs-Oilers game. Too bad for the Falcons, too bad for Claude Julien, no comment on the Habs.