For the longest time it appeared the Habs and Flyers were taking their cue from the NFL prime time match up the night before. Except for when Montreal’s #47 hit the ice. Don’t look now but this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

THE GOOD

  • Alexander Radulov. Easily the best player on the ice. Huge factor in all three Montreal goals. With five points in six games Radulov has already more than made up for last years’ signing of Alex Semin (one goal, four points in 15 games before the plug was mercifully pulled). Quickly becoming one of the best and most unique looking forwards in the NHL. It’s enough to give even the most hardened old Habs fan the tickles.

  • Carey Price. Beaten only on a deflection by the back-in-2014-15-form Jacob Voracek. Preserved the win moments before Radulov’s clinching empty netter by his strong positioning which enabled him to stop a deflected Shane Gostisbehere shot with his glove and the bottom of his left pad.

  • Shea Weber. Opened the scoring when his blast from inside the blue line turned Brayden Schenn’s stick into a boomerang looking contraption while the puck bounced by an unaware Steve Mason. Weber also set up the game winner. And he played a game high 26:07. Weber leads the team in scoring with seven points and leads the NHL in Plus/Minus at +10. Or are those numbers also “over-rated”?

  • Alexei Emelin. Moved up to play alongside Weber (Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought Nathan Beaulieu had a bad night in Boston) and responded with a superb effort. It’s not like Weber and Emelin are going to be paired for a playoff series but in the immediate short term it worked.
  • Brendan Gallagher. Perfectly positioned in front of Mason but outside the blue paint to deflect Radulov’s shot for the game winning goal. Gallagher started the play himself by winning the draw in the right face off circle.
  • Kirk Muller. Wasn’t about to wait around for a terrible power play in Boston to right itself. He has his extra forward on the point. And even though the first three power plays were duds (“It’s not what we’re looking for” said Muller to Marc Denis of RDS during the first period. “We’re looking for more shots.”) by the time Sean Couturier went off for tripping with less than seven minutes to play, Muller made one more overdue tweak by placing Radulov on the right point with Weber on the left. It won them the hockey game.
  • Arturi Lehkonen. Bounced back from a subpar effort in Boston. Picked up his first NHL assist on the Weber goal.
  • Phillipe Danault. Very strong. Much more efficient in the opposition end of the ice. Looks like his goal in Boston gave him a real boost.
  • Torrey Mitchell. Drew a couple of penalties including the one on Couturier in the neutral zone to set up the game winning goal. Was 9 for 12 on face offs or 75%.
  • Jeff Petry. Quietly effective following his opening game two goal performance.
  • Paul Byron. Another game, another breakaway. Stymied twice from in close by Mason who entered the game unbeaten against Montreal (4-0 1.72 .936).
  • Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu. Another solid effort from Pateryn and Beaulieu seemed less flummoxed on the third pairing.
  • Chris Schlenker. Rookie referee, one of four new zebras in the NHL this season (including Quebec’s Pierre Lambert) Schlenker has quite the back story: He was a scrapper in the Western Hockey League (786 penalty minutes over four seasons with Regina and Prince Albert) before becoming a police officer. He then turned to officiating. The 31 year old native of Medicine Hat was voted the top referee in the Western League.

THE BAD

  • Alex Galchenyuk. Consecutive point streak to start the season was snapped. Had another horrendous night in the face off circle where he was just 1 for 10. One of the primary reasons his trio with Gallagher and Max Pacioretty never really threatened to score.

THE UGLY

  • Tomas Plekanec. Habs must hope that his inexplicable decision to direct a perfect set up from Radulov on a 2 on 1 up in the air away from the Flyers net instead of smacking the puck in was Plekanec’s offensive woes hitting rock bottom. The only other Montreal forwards without a goal are Bryan Flynn (4 games) and Daniel Carr (2 games). We pointed out at the start of the season that it was worth watching Plekanec’s goal total since his shooting percentage last season dropped over three full points from the year before (10.5 to 7.4), not a good sign for an aging forward who has played so many hard minutes. The point was driven home to another level prior to the game by longtime Plekanec fan Sean Campbell:

It’s also worth noting that Plekanec’s salary this season is $7 million (Cap hit of 6 with a salary next season of five million). He’ll be 34 on Halloween.

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10 Responses

  1. Rick L

    Alex Radulov with the ultra-compete level last night … heard Artturi Lehkonen’s name a lot during the game, too … the Habs now have one legit stud at each position; Cary Price, Shea Weber and Radulov … as you pointed out, Kirk Muller didn’t waste any time adjusting his ‘arcs of fire’ on the PP … wonder if he can do the same with Alex Galchenyuk and his faceoff woes … Habs are second in the league in GF behind the Black Hawks and second in GA behind the Devils … as a fan I’m happy, but I’ve also seen this start before … colour me cautiously optimistic … Cheers.

  2. Sharon Rossy

    Glad to see it’s all working out for the Habs. Still will always wonder how they would be doing if Subban stayed with the addition of Kirk Muller as a coach, Radulov, Shaw, Lehkonen and of course a healthy Price. Eventually, I will let go of this. But Mitch, maybe you can tell your colleague, Chris, to tone it down. Heard him yesterday ranting about Weise and that group that was part of P.K.’s side, as he put it, and for someone who claims he knows how the media can ruin a player and doesn’t want to do that, he’s on a bandwagon. Just don’t get it and find it counter-productive. I guess I wonder where all this is coming from.
    All I’m saying – there are so many factors at play right now, that one cannot point to one specific thing that is making the team successful. Lots of intangibles – and of course, Price is the biggest piece I believe. I also believe they had to crash and burn to learn a hard lesson – so who knows.
    Anyways, lots of hockey to play – it’s a long season. I wish them well. Lots of coaching to be done and implemented.
    But I’m still cheering for P.K. in Nashville. OK, I’m done! And love your show and your take on just about everything.
    Thanks Mitch,
    Sharon

  3. Shai

    Props for giving a shoutout to Emelin. I read three other recaps before yours and you were the only one.

    He’s been a monster all season and earned the promotion and then had himself quite a game. Makes sense have a tough as nails #1 duo against a team like the Flyers that likes to play a pretty physical game.

  4. Mitch Melnick

    Thanks. This is a game by game blog. It’s weird how people react. Like when Eller used to muck up and I’d point it out and people would conclude that I hated the guy. I thought all things considered Emelin had a good year a season ago. But there are those who have already decided he shouldn’t be in a Habs jersey so it’s difficult for them to find any redeeming value in a player like him. I find it childish.

    • Rick L

      I was kind of pleased to hearing the Weber/Emelin tandem referred to as a ‘shutdown pair.’ Can’t remember when we actually had a defensive pairing that could back that up.

      Always appreciated what Lars Eller brought to the table. As an outsider looking in, I thought Washington was the perfect destination for him.

      Cheers.

  5. Kevin Smith

    Pleks’ play is making me wonder if they might leave him unprotected at the expansion draft – would LV take an ageing centre with a 6mil cap hit and just 1 year left before he could walk as a UFA? Seems unlikely, but if they did it’d free up the space to re-sign Radulov and others. I’ve long been predicting that Emelin will be the one to go to LV, but I’m starting to wonder about who else will be protected. Still early of course, a lot of things will change in the next ~8 months.

    • Rick L

      I’m kind of hoping all Pleks may need is a goal to kick-start the offence, Kevin. I’m not an expert by any means, but it’s almost like he’s a step behind Radulov and Lehkonen. That’s only me, though.

  6. Michael Nixon

    Long term, we are not going anywhere with Plekanec and Desharnais as our 2nd, 3rd line centres. Things are going good right now but we’ve seen that before. We still need a number two centre and Captain Kirk has to work with Galchenyuk on faceoffs. Nice start but we can’t be blind to potential problems down the road.