Sometimes, it’s going to take an ugly one. After getting blown out of the water against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins (albeit coming close in that one), the Montreal Canadiens were starting to look like a team that’s lost it’s way. Listen to any radio call-in show and people were questioning Carey Price, Therrien’s coaching, Ryan White‘s future with the team and the impact of losing Alexei Emelin for the season. The truth is though, that the Montreal Canadiens hadn’t really faced much adversity this season until this point. They hadn’t sustained a major losing streak, hadn’t seen any deviation on a medium-term basis from a game plan that’s focused on playing hard for 60 minutes. The losing streak was scary, if only because of the timing. Suddenly, the Maple Leafs were only 4 points behind and looking strong. Suddenly, the goalies couldn’t make a save and the defence was parting like the Red Sea. A matchup against a Tampa Bay Lightning team that can play the spoiler? A team that has arguably the best sniper in the game in Steven Stamkos and 2 players who love suiting up against the Canadiens in Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier? Count me as a non-believer tonight, thinking that the streak would go on.
The Canadiens had other plans, jumping out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Alex Galchenyuk (with 6 goals in his last 8 games, will someone give him more ice-time please? and Brian Gionta. Richard Panik and Vincent Lecavalier would reply for the Lightning, with the tying goal coming 5 minutes into the 3rd setting. You could almost hear Canadiens fans everywhere holding their breath and fearing the worst. Having come up empty on the 6 prior powerplays, Brian Gionta put home his 14th of the season (and 2nd of the game) with less than a minute remaining. The Canadiens held on for the win, which put them two points ahead of Boston (with Boston holding one game in hand) and with the Maple Leafs losing their 2nd straight, created a 6 point gap between them with the same number of games played.
- The defense still needs to be solidified before the playoffs. I think Andrei Markov, for his all-world offensive talents, is just not up to the defensive task anymore. Maybe it’s the knee surgeries, but he’s not quick enough and is far too easy to pass in the defensive zone. I think Alexei Emelin deserves more credit for that pairing, but something needs to be done with Markov‘s pairing. Perhaps Tinordi is the answer?
- Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are arguably two of the bigger reasons for the Canadiens success this season. Too many times this season, the Canadiens have had only 1 real offensive threat to depend on. This year, they have 3 lines capable of scoring goals at any given time. But down the stretch, the kids (I’m including Eller in here as well) have been the only consistent driving force. Galchenyuk‘s TOI tonight was only 8:21, but he was +1 and had the all-important first goal. Lars Eller played only 10:44 and was a +1, while Brendan Gallagher played 12:44 and was +1 with an assist. When does David Desharnais get to earn his ice-time?
- Carey Price. Wouldn’t crown it a comeback or statement game just yet, but that save he made in the second on Lecavalier was fantastic. Saved 32 out of 34 shots and got the win finally. I think he put in an all around great effort tonight. Nice reward for being thrown out to the wolves against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The next game is against the red hot Washington Capitals, where the Canadiens will try their best to stop Alex Ovechkin‘s recent dominance?
Final thought: can we get #PKSubbanforNorris trending on Twitter?