So yeah, it looked like all the Habs needed to get their game back together was Ottawa – again. It’s a good sign that Montreal can rev it up against a division rival and fellow playoff-bound team. But the manner in which they seem to be dancing sideways down the stretch – one step forward, two steps back – might be a bad sign, since their final seven games are against non-playoff teams.
- Andrei Markov. Isn’t cool to see a guy his age having this much fun? Can’t ask for more from anybody – let alone a 38 year old defenseman who logs nearly 22:00 a night – to score twice and set up the other in a 3-1 victory. And he very nearly finished off what would have been his first career hat trick had he not hit the side of the net from down low early in the second period. He’s just completed a 10 game segment which saw him pick up 8 points. Totally rejuvenated since getting a new D partner. His 35 points puts him in the same area code as Brent Seabrook, Mark Giordano and Cam Fowler. But Markov has done it in just 56 games. In fact, the defeenseman whose offensive stats most resemble Markov’s is a guy in Nashville who has 36 points in 58 games. Some dude named Subban.
- Shea Weber. Power play blast midway through the first period set the tone. Seems I wasn’t far off following Game 74> THE BAD – Weber & Andrei Markov. Apparently conserving energy for the third and final meeting of the week with Ottawa.
- Carey Price. It wasn’t that long ago that the Ottawa Senators felt pretty good about a Craig Anderson-Carey Price match up. They knew they could score on Price while the Habs seemed to have a lot more difficulty beating Anderson. Now, in the span of one week, the tables have turned. Price was his normal self while the Habs put a dent in Anderson’s game. The veteran Ottawa goaltender seemed almost unbeatable at various times going back to the Senators’ five game playoff series win over Montreal in 2013. But the Habs now know they can beat him. There was another aspect of Price’s game on display in this one. Already up 2-0 and on the power play early in the second period, the Habs lost possession to Chris Kelly who delivered a wrist shot into Price’s glove hoping for a whistle. Most goalies would have waited for that whistle. Carey Price is not most goalies. He shovelled the puck out of his glove to keep the play going. Eventually the puck found its way into the Senators end where Andrew Shaw was battling Erik Karlsson along the boards. Karlsson was too cute as he blindly backhanded the puck into the slot where a waiting Markov blasted it into the net to give the Habs a 3-0 lead. It was unassisted. But the goal doesn’t happen without Price being as alert as he always is.
- Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher-Paul Byron. Best looking trio of the night. Byron’s breakaway speed while killing a penalty drew the call (holding on Chris Wideman) that led to the Markov power play goal. Gallagher was his typical rambunctious self. (But even without his nemesis Marc Methot around he still took a pounding.) And Plekanec was not only effective, he actually dropped his gloves (well, at least one of them) to come to Gallagher’s defense in the third period against Methot’s replacement Frederik Claesson after Claesson rammed Gallagher into the boards. Plekanec normally loves dancing with and mugging an opponent about as much as a house fly loves a can of Raid.
- Alexander Radulov. Looked a lot better. But the only way to truly dispel the notion that the long NHL season (compared to the KHL) has gotten the better of him (pointless in 13 of his last 16 games) is to create offense. And if his line mates can’t score he might want to think about shooting more often.
- Andrew Shaw. Typical playoff-like performance. Renewed acquaintances with Alex Burrows. (Following a quick offensive start with the Senators, Burrows has gone cold with just one assist in his last 7 games. He missed an open net after making a great move on Price. And he took a bad penalty late in the second period. A reminder that the soon-to-be 36 year old was locked in by Ottawa for another two years.)
- Special Teams. Habs ailing power play scored twice (aided by the absence of Methot) while the PK unit was 3 for 3 led by Alexei Emelin, Weber, Jeff Petry, Jordie Benn, Dwight King and Torrey Mitchell.
- Claude Julien. His response to a question by Arpon Basu had us on TSN 690’s Post game Show referring to the Habs coach as “The Fixer”. Within minutes, the creative types on Twitter had completed the process.
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) March 26, 2017
— 🎙 Shaun McMahon 🎙 (@Shaun925thebeat) March 26, 2017
- Nathan Beaulieu. Settled down after a shaky first period. Found himself alone in front of Anderson late in the second period – but missed the net with his shot. It’s getting kind of late, Nate.
- Alex Galchenyuk. Nice play to help set up the opening goal by Markov but that was pretty much it for #27 who failed to generate a single shot in the direction of the Ottawa net. At one point in the middle period he looked dispirited leaving the ice after getting caught offside. Played just 11:51.
- Max Pacioretty. Clearly frustrated after he was stopped by Anderson on a breakaway late in the first period. As often happens with the hyper self-critical Pacioretty, his lack of scoring has affected other areas of his game. There are times when he’s not skating that he gets rid of the puck for no apparent reason, either by icing it or turning it over without a fight. It looks like he’s playing not to get hurt, or perhaps trying to mask an injury. Having said all that, Pacioretty (and Radulov and Galchenyuk) is likely to bust open against a mostly defense & goaltending-free Dallas Stars. In 3…2…
- Eugene Melnyk. We are all full of admiration for the Senators owner as he has battled back from a liver transplant. Perhaps doctors can next work on his mouth. His response to Methot’s finger nearly being spliced right off by a Sidney Crosby slash was borderline hysterical. He is, without question, the whiniest owner in the NHL. What’s that saying about “You reap what you sow”?
— Mike Johnson (@mike_p_johnson) March 25, 2017