Crisis? What crisis?

The Habs will miss Alex Galchenyuk. They might miss David Desharnais too. But they could not have hoped for a better response in the aftermath of losing both centres for 6-8 weeks with knee injuries, while returning to home ice following a five game road trip through three time zones.

Final tally for the four guys who played centre – 3 goals, 1 assist, +4, 7 shots on goal. Overall, there was this –

And their goaltender landed 100% of his punches thrown.

THE GOOD

  • Phillip Danault. Played like a #1 centre. Constantly on Corey Schneider’s doorstep (without taking his knees out). Won 73% of his face offs. When Marc Bergevin plucked Danault out of Chicago last year it was with an eye towards the future – as a centreman, eventually replacing Desharnais in the 3 slot. The future is now.
  • Torrey Mitchell. The soon-to-be 32 year old (January 17) is headed for a career year in goals, which he set last year with 11. That was his first year in double digits in goals since his rookie season with San Jose in 2007-08. His shooting percentage is a ridiculous 33%. But as the Habs wait for a couple of forwards to get going offensively the importance of Mitchell’s outburst through the first third of the season cannot be understated.
  • Andrew Shaw. Looked like he and Danault had played together before. Oh wait…What an impressive stretch of performances Shaw has strung together. It’s like he needed the month of October to get used to his new surroundings. Signature move by GM Bergevin.

  • Max Pacioretty. So the news is finally out. Pacioretty played through November with a hairline fracture in his foot. TSN 690 listeners will know that Mitch Gallo has been trying to get that point across since the leaves started falling. Pacioretty’s soft backhand through Schneider’s legs (seconds after bumping into the Devils goalie behind the net) helps make up for a goal post here and there. Another two goal game and he’ll be back on track for a 30 goal season.

  • Artturi Lehkonen. In addition to needing goals from the centre ice position the Habs are going to need to generate offense via a rookie/young player or two. Lehkonen made the team out of training camp because of his ability to do just that – plus an overall awareness of the ice that earned the trust of the coaching staff. With a pair of goals in the four games since his return from an injury, Lehkonen is now scoring at a 20 goal pace. That’s a good looking trio with Danault and Shaw.
  • Nathan Beaulieu. With so much of the focus on centres/wingers who might be able to make up for the loss of offense with Galchenyuk and Desharnais gone for at least six weeks, there is also the possibility of generating more offense from the back end. Excellent return for Beaulieu who has plenty of time to turn around what has been a lousy season. Let’s see if he can really be a top 4 defenseman.
  • Zach Redmond. Very impressive debut as a Hab playing alongside Beaulieu.
  • Brendan Gallagher. One goal in 21 games but looked like his old self as he helped set up a couple of goals. Maybe because he played a season low 12:33. In fact, the last time a healthy Gallagher played under 13:00 was St. Patrick’s Day 2015 in Florida.
  • Alexander Radulov. Has he had a bad game this season?
  • Paul Byron. Formed a productive trio with Mitchell & Gallagher.
  • Jeff Petry. One of his best games of the season.
  • Alexei Emelin. Solid. Again. And loved his open ice hit on Devante Smith-Pelley late in the second which forced a turnover and resulted in Andrew Shaw drawing a penalty.
  • Daniel Carr. Finally had a couple of scoring opportunities. He needs to produce. Pronto.
  • Michel Therrien. No doubt buoyed by his teams’ performance in St Louis (and Ken Hitchcock’s comments about how well Montreal uses its speed to check) Therrien again had his team locked in and ready. The four different line combinations mostly worked well and showed real promise. The Habs were in relentless pursuit of the puck all night, as they totally dominated New Jersey in every area of the ice – very reminiscent of a lot of games we saw them play last December but only to eventually lose because of a goaltending mismatch. (While we’re at it, the real Cory Schneider has yet to arrive for the Devils this season.) Therrien and his staff were also able to limit the ice time of key players such as Gallagher and, especially, Shea Weber (23:05). They couldn’t couldn’t have been more pleased after the game. Well, there might be something to think about.

THE BAD

  • Special Teams. Power play, which is going to be vital without Galchenyuk, managed just 2 shots on goal in two attempts (total of 2:42 PP time) while the Devils needed just 18 seconds to score (Taylor Hall) after a Mitchell holding penalty early in the third gave them an opportunity to get back in the game at 4-2.
  • Tomas Plekanec. Not exactly a carbon copy of his season best performance in St. Louis. Marc Denis of RDS used the word “complacency”  in describing Plekanec’s play this season. Not that the veteran centre doesn’t care. But that he has to show more frequently just how much he cares.
  • Sven Andrighetto. Artturi Lehkonen isn’t going anywhere. But Andrighetto and Carr will be chased by Michael McCarron and perhaps Charles Hudon or Nikita Scherback or Chris Terry in St. John’s if they don’t get the job done. Andrighetto was leading the Ice Caps in scoring at the time of his recall. And while getting a 4th line assignment (with Brian Flynn and Carr) might not be an ideal scenario to create offense, Andrighetto is just going to have to make the most of it and prove that he is something more than a bubble player.
  • Injury to Greg Pateryn. Just when he seemed to be settling in (finally) to a regular role Pateryn will miss the next eight weeks with a broken ankle after stopping a shot in St. Louis (he continued to play in that game). Huge opening for Redmond who, ironically, had his Montreal debut stalled because of a similar injury (foot) during training camp.

THE BEAUTIFUL

  • Carey Price. What took him so long?

Oh, the outrage over Price, normally the calmest dude on the ice, finally snapping. As somebody who has long advocated Price try-just once a year-channeling Billy Smith or Ron Hextall-to make opposing forwards aware of what they might face as they go barrelling into him (aided or not, by a Montreal defenseman), this was long overdue. Here’s a snippet from this blog following the Habs 2-1 win over Toronto at the Bell Centre on November 19th:

  • Carey Price. Of course he rebounded from a subpar performance against Florida. Of course he dominated the Leafs (21-13-1, .923) on a Saturday night (83-29-16, .931). But after getting bumped by Kadri and elbowed by Zach Hyman it might be time for somebody to send out a message.

Price had already been run into, while in his crease, by Adam Henrique on the Devils first goal. To his credit, Price acknowledged the goal call was correct because the puck was already heading into the net before Henrique bumped into him. But he added that there should have been a minor penalty tacked on for goalie interference. He’s right. And it’s why Therrien delivered a clearly seen “Fuck off” to rookie referee Garrett Rank at the Montreal bench after the long video delay at the penalty box (two goals, three challenges and a 55 minute first period has got to get the NHL to speed up the process, no?). And spare me the possible Match Penalty that veteran ref Kelly Sutherland was supposed to hand out.

My friend PJ should watch the video again. Price initially delivers a glancing blow to the back of Palmeiri’s helmet, barely making contact. He then goes low to deliver three consecutive punches while (a guilt-ridden?) Jeff Petry tries to drag Palmeiri out of harm’s way. And this really wasn’t about just Palmeiri. It was a lost Montreal season a year ago because of damage to that right knee. And we all know what happened the last time an opposing forward made skates-first contact with Price.

All things considered, Palmeiri should be thankful that he collided with a Price. It could have been much worse.

Not to suggest that Carey Price should deliver a butt end or a wicked slash but those guys sure gave themselves a lot more room in their crease.

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4 Responses

  1. dra58

    Ah the good old days when sticks were used as weapons eh, kinda makes CP look calm in comparison by those standards. Not a fan of fighting — wait for it — but I am a huge fan of CP and I really think the NHL will have a hard time even looking into this supposed issue so good on him if no one else will do it. Good game and glad even though not happy with Palmeri that he wasn’t hurt and even better for his post game remarks because he knows he crossed the line and should have paid for it. Not a fan of any player who does that to any goalie no matter who’s team it is. I remember when Gionta took out the leafs goalie – think it was Reimer or Gustauvenson a few years ago. It was really a cheap shot especially from our Captain at the time. Keep up the good work and GO HABS GO especially Saturday night as I will be there.

  2. Michael Nixon

    I have only one issue with Carey. He should have connected with a two hander with that big goalie stick. Too bad he has to defend himself now the way the NHL is run. I did this once many years ago for a guy who was just standing in my crease…broke his rib. Never lost a second of sleep over it. And, as it turned out, the guy was a family friend. When I saw him later, I told him: “Stay out of my crease or I’ll do it again”. Never saw him anywhere near my crease after that.

  3. Kostas

    Sorry Mitch
    I meant Hextall and Chelios.

    Damn auto correct. ..