If that was Round One of a pre-playoff mini-series, what do they do for an encore in Round Two?
- Phillip Danault-Andrew Shaw-Artturi Lehkonen. Best trio on the ice. Combined for 12 of Montreal’s 32 shots on goal (38%). They played together early in the season with success and it looked like they didn’t miss a beat. Shaw, at his playoff-like best since the coaching change, set the tone but Danault was right with him, finally snapping a long goal scoring drought (22 games, 1 in 28). It was Lehkonen’s hustle to avoid a possible icing that led to the goal by Danault (with help from Dion Phaneuf and a rusty looking surprise starter Craig Anderson in goal).
- Brendan Gallagher. Took a beating early on, as we’ve seen in the past in Ottawa, but just kept bouncing back up with relentless authority, the hard work finally paying off with perhaps the ugliest goal we’ve seen all season.
- Shea Weber-Andrei Markov. Weber seemed content to stay back and concentrate almost solely on his own end of the ice and let Markov handle the puck, which is not a bad idea when he’s on – as the 38 year old defenseman was following a less than so-so game against Chicago.
- Alexander Radulov. Shootout winner by going to his favorite area of the net – up high under the crossbar, right side. Normally he uses an impressive backhand but this time it was a more traditional wrist shot that beat Anderson. Radulov now at 80% in the shootout (4 or 5). He was the best of his line in regulation time but clearly frustrated by their inability to hit the back of the net, at one point spending a good chunk of his shift mouthing off at referee Dean Morton for failing to call an Ottawa penalty after he was upended in the neutral zone.
- Paul Byron. Shootout goal made up for issues early in the game. Perhaps pressing in front of family and friends, Byron mucked up a 3 on 1 while never getting a shot away. Later he had Anderson out of position and an open net to shoot at but fired a backhand into the Senators goaltender. Byron is now 3 for 4 in shootouts this season (75%) so clearly going by the numbers helped Claude Julien win the game.
- Jordie Benn. One of the great defensive plays of the season. There isn’t anybody who has watched these teams play the last several seasons who wasn’t thinking “Here comes another goal against Montreal for Jean-Gabriel Pageau.” Pageau has scored 6 goals in 13 regular season games against the Habs – or two more than he has scored against any other team. After turning the puck over to Pageau at the Montreal blue line, there seemed little chance Benn could catch the little centerman. But digging deep while channeling his inner Gaeten Boucher, the Montreal defenseman arrived just as Pageau was about to shoot, lifting his stick and sending the puck out of harm’s way like some sort of caped hockey crusader.
— Shayne Pasquino (@shaynepasquino) March 18, 2017
- Nathan Beaulieu. Back in the line up while Alexei Emelin took his place as a healthy scratch, Beaulieu flashed some of what could make him so valuable just prior to the Danault goal. The Habs impotent power play was coming to an end as Beaulieu carried the puck down the left side of the ice and managed to do something the previous power play pairings couldn’t do – enter the zone. The puck eventually found its way to Shaw who smartly held out onto it in search of a scoring play. As Marc Dumont told Conor Mckenna on TSN 690 this week, Beaulieu leads the Habs in primary power play assists, yet he no longer gets on the ice when the Habs have the man advantage. On the other hand there was a typical Beaulieu moment when – in overtime no less – he made a terrible pass to his captain who ended up taking a penalty.
- Dwight King. Best game as a Hab. I know that’s not saying much. But maybe it’s a start.
- Carey Price. I feel a shutout coming. Three goals against in back to back games. Seemed in control, except for the goal by Ryan Dzingel which trickled through his legs at the side of the net and was reminiscent of the old Carey Price (pre-Stephane Waite) who wasn’t aggressive in his crease. Bounced back. Now 3-0 in shootouts this season.
- Third Period. Once again the Habs save their best for last. They’ve outscored opponents 75-61 in the third period.
- Erik Karlsson. The best player I’ve seen in the NHL this season.
- Power Play. They worked on it during practice on Friday. Or rather – they worked on it in practice on Friday? Part of the issue is the inability to get control of the puck off the face off (we’re getting to that) but the zone entries were non-existent. Why is their leading goal scorer (not playmaker) attempting to carry the puck over the blue line? Who is the PP QB? Who is the net front presence? Who is the trigger man? So many questions. And so little time left to find answers.
- Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty. No zip. No chemistry. Credit Ottawa for bottling them up but they had better get used to this with the playoffs just a couple of weeks away. It looked like Pacioretty’s night was going to end in the penalty box when he grabbed onto to Karlsson’s sweater following that awful pass by Beaulieu put him behind the play. But it’s not like Karlsson had a clear lane to the net.
- Tomas Plekanec. Hasn’t scored since his goal and assist performance against Calgary on January 24th. That’s 20 games ago. Yeah, ok, he does other things, like kills penalties (which helped save them the game in overtime) but still. Unlike Byron, Gallagher, Danault and probably Lehkonen, you get no sense that Plekanec will get his offensive game rolling. One play late in the third period kind of typifies where Plekanec is at in the other team’s zone
@HunterZThompson That could end up being a (very) dangerous drinking game….
— William (@W_McComb89) March 19, 2017
It was such a useless shot that it wasn’t even counted as a shot on goal. Could Pacioretty have been talking about Plekanec when he said this – ?
Max Pacioretty keeps saying this and I’m starting to wonder if there’s someone in particular he’s talking about because he keeps saying it pic.twitter.com/KDS8PyOwzJ
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) March 15, 2017
- Face Offs. Embarrassingly bad. For the umpteenth time this season, the Habs gave up a goal directly off a lost defensive zone face off (Phillip Danault). It was a clean win by Derrick Brassard back to Marc Methot who slid the puck to Karlsson whose shot through bodies tied the game on the power play with less than five minutes to play. It happens to everybody. But it’s happened to the Habs way too often. Galchenyuk’s continuing struggles – even as he spent part of the All Star break working on draws with Ollie Jokinen – make it difficult for Montreal to get possession on the power play. The Habs were eaten alive by Brassard (71%), Kyle Turris (69%) and Pageau (59%). To break it down further, Galchenyuk was 0-5 in the offensive zone while Plekanec was 3-12 (25%) in the defensive zone, where Danault (1-4 25%) was no better.
- Jeff Petry. Woof! If he didn’t skate so well on a blue line that lacks mobility he would be the next veteran with a healthy contract to sit out a game or two. The tone was set – and this seems to be an issue for Petry – early when he handed the puck to Bobby Ryan behind his own net which forced Price into a big save on Turris who was alone. Maybe this was rock bottom for Petry whose performance could not be blamed on Emelin, or his new partner Brandon Davidson. Maybe they ought to put him back with Beaulieu which. Petry has never been a strong defender (way too soft on the Dzingel goal) but he’s able to move the puck and/or skate it out and create offense. But he hasn’t scored a goal since before Christmas, and it appears he has let it affect the rest of his game.
- Chuck Berry. He had serious issues. But he invented rock and roll.