Happy Days Are Here Again.
While we don’t know for sure that it’s a Montreal-Rangers match up in Round One (unfinished business for the Habs, I’d say) we do know that after a one year absence playoff hockey is back. Until at least the end of April.
So we’re just getting warmed up.
- Brendan Gallagher. How many of you were ready to ship Gallagher out of town at the trade deadline? (Me too but only because the TSN 690 Master (trade) Bait board in our studio had nothing creative on it. I sent Gallagher back home to Vancouver as part of a package for the Sedins.) First 4 point night of his career. That’s 2 goals, five points and a +6 in the easy wins over Dallas and Florida (almost too easy – Montreal won’t be facing the shoddy goaltending they just saw via Kari Lehtonen and Reto “Yogi” Berra). In the Habs 13 games in the month of March, Gallagher was able to resurrect his season and put up good numbers – 4 goals and 10 points. After missing nearly 20 games because of a broken hand, he too might just be warming up.
- Paul Byron. 22 goals. Simply put he’s one of the best stories in the NHL this season. Suddenly tied for the team lead in Plus/Minus (with Shea Weber) at +20.
- Tomas Plekanec. Is he having fun or what? The little guys on his wings have breathed new life into him. Like his even older teammate Andrei Markov, Plekanec is spending a bit of time on the ice these days with a smile on his face. First two point night since January 24th.
- Phillip Danault-Alexander Radulov-Max Pacioretty. Danault’s shot from the slot – set up beautifully by Radulov – was just his second goal in 29 games. The Habs needed to get this trio going and thanks to a lot of holes inside the Dallas and Florida zones and almost no saves from the goaltenders, they managed to do just that – combining for 4 goals and 8 points. Pacioretty hits the 35 goal mark for the 3rd time in his career. (And he hit Jonathan Marchessault with a pretty good right.) He (they?) might just be warming up at the right time. Sensing a pattern here.
- Nathan Beaulieu. Who was that guy flying around the ice and setting up teammates with perfect stick-to-tape passes? It’s the big tease. Which makes Beaulieu a terribly frustrating player to watch (coach). Because as good as he was – and this was one of his strongest games of the year – you brace yourself knowing that two periods later he can control the puck deep inside his own zone but lose a battle for it and eventually watch it hit the back of his own net.
- Alexei Emelin. Not that far off from Beaulieu. How about that Serge Savardian spin-o-rama behind the back pass to get the puck to Beaulieu who’s perfect feed hit Plekanec’s stick on the way to Byron for the games opening goal? Emelin had a very good night. Even before Shawn Thornton jumped him.
- Steve Ott-Andreas Martinsen-Dwight King. This was a good trio, looking kind of the way they played their first game together at MSG following the trade deadline. Strong on the forecheck. Forcing turnovers. But slow and clumsy with the puck. Claude Julien wisely rested Torrey Mitchell who will not be scratched when the playoffs start.
- Mike Matheson. It was his goal that came about as the result of the Beaulieu turnover. Quite a moment for the Montreal native in just his second career game at the Bell Centre. Matheson was honoured the night before when he was inducted into the West Island Hockey Hall of Fame, joining referee Dave Jackson and fellow Florida defenseman Jason Demers. (Matheson’s night was a lot better than Demers’ who was a -5.)
- Michel Lacroix. Habs honoured their longtime PA voice prior to the game while Pacioretty brought the game puck over to him following the win. 40th anniversary of Michel’s first game behind the microphone (when he filled in for Claude Mouton). We’ve been spoiled in Montreal with the likes of Mouton at Jarry Park and the Forum (before he became the full time Media Relations director of the Habs – the best they ever had, at least since I’ve been in the biz) – and Richard Morency at Olympic Stadium.
- Tim Raines. That was a lot of well earned love for the new Hall of Famer. My favourite moment was actually when Tim was on his way off the ice you could see Shea Weber mouth the word “wow”. Yep, it’s that kind of city. Now try bringing the Cup home and see what happens.
— Josh Silver (@SilverUnique1) January 27, 2017
- Carey Price. Loved his post-game quote about clinching a playoff spot, via Arpon Basu at NHL.com
“We knew we could do it,” Price said. “There wasn’t any doubt when we came to training camp at the start of the season that we’d be in the playoffs.
- Alex Galchenyuk. Still has time to get it going but he looks out of it on a lot of shifts. He’s still setting up teammates for scoring chances – especially line mate Artturi Lehkonen but The Habs are going to need goals from him. He’s still adjusting – again – to being a left winger. It’s gotta be frustrating for a guy with the puck handling skills and creativity of Galchenyuk to lose so much of the ice to do his thing.
- Shawn Thoronton on Alexei Emelin.
Shawn Thornton has had enough of Alexei Emelin. Here’s what he told me on Thursday night: pic.twitter.com/nIzxiNMbnQ
— Marc Antoine Godin (@MAGodin) March 31, 2017
When we last discussed Thornton in this space he was playing the role of clown at the end of the Bruins bench after spraying a water bottle at PK Subban as their playoff series against the Habs was coming to an end. I give him credit for prolonging his career by taking away valuable ice time from better players the last two seasons in Florida. He did a great job protecting Aaron Ekblad from getting plastered into the glass and sustaining concussions. Very impressive. I get it. Shawn Thornton has had a productive career. He’s been a terrific teammate. But the game passed him (and others like him) by years ago. Alexei Emelin is also a throwback. But he mostly plays within the rules. What’s wrong with the NHL is not guys like Emelin (who most people know has a face full of metal plates after getting beaten up badly in a game in Russia) but guys like Thornton and so many others who feel that a good, hard, perfectly legal body check has to be met with a challenge and fisticuffs. I’m not sure when or where or why this started but back in the day long before anybody heard of Shawn Thornton or his mama, players who were hit – legally – took a number. Eventually they hit back. Yeah, sometimes there was a fight. But it was never an epidemic. Anyway, you know you’re done as a player when you’re trying to get Emelin but can’t catch him. So you jump him. Happy retirement Shawn.