Montreal Canadiens: What We Learned from the Season Opening Road Trip

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 20: Carey Price Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 20: Carey Price Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

On Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens closed out a six-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks. What initially initially looked like a momentum shift in favor of the Canucks, the Canadiens rallied to score three goals in the third period to win 5-2. Carey Price had the start in goal and finished the night with a .920 SV%.

First Period

In the dying minutes of Thursday’s game, Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia went down with a concussion after taking a hard hit from Tyler Myers. Seeing as how this is the sport of hockey, the Montreal Canadiens were looking for retaliation on Sunday. Prior to the start of the game, Joel Edmundson and Tyler Myers exchanged words that was a clear indication of an agreement to drop the gloves. That turned out to be the case as both players dropped the gloves early into the first period. Edmundson came out the winner given the amount of punches he landed and then both players headed to the box. Nick Suzuki scored his second goal of the season on a pass that came from Brett Kulak on the left wing. Jonathan Drouin also received the secondary assist. Suzuki is currently on a six game point streak that began on January 13th.

Second Period

Coming in relief of Joel Armia, Corey Perry was called up from the taxi squad and lined up alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tyler Toffoli, joining a line that has been one of the team’s best since they first played the Canucks. On the two-on-one, Perry was able to trick Braden Holtby into thinking he was going to pass Jesperi Kotkaniemi. By doing so, Perry got an anotherwise fluke shot into the net to extend the Canadiens lead to two goals. Both Ben Chiarot and Tyler Toffoli received assists. Toffoli now leads the Canadiens in points with 8 in six games.

A Lead Lost and Rallying Back

The start of the third period saw the momentum of the game shift in favour of the Vancouver Canucks. While the Canadiens were able to kill off key penalties, the Canucks capitalized on even-strength scoring opportunities. After going five straight games without registering a point, the longest stretch in his young career, Elias Petterson cut the Canadiens lead down to a single goal. Brock Boeser and former Canadiens defenseman Jordie Benn assisted on the play. Just over two minute after their first goal, the Canadiens were unable to breakout of their own zone due to the Canucks offensive pressure, eventually resulting in Carey Price being screened. Field of view taken away, Nils Hoglander got a shot past the netminder to tie the game at two goals apiece. Three minutes after the tying goal, Brendan Gallagher scored his second of the season to give the Canadiens a new lead. Gallagher was assisted by Tomas Tatar on the play. The goal was subject to a Coach’s Challenge by the Canucks but the play was deemed to be onside. Not too long afterwards, Jonathan Drouin scored his first goal of the season on the breakaway from a smart pass from Josh Anderson who utilized his speed to maintain control and beat the Canucks defenseman. In an effort to stay in the game and make a push for overtime, the Vancouver Canucks pulled Braden Holtby for the extra attacker but Joel Edmundson launched the puck from the other end of the ice for the empty-net goal and set the final score at 5-2 in favor of the Montreal Canadiens.

Going Home Without a Regulation Loss

While there have been some growing pains in this new Montreal Canadiens season, particularly in the realm of staying disciplined, the team concluded their road trip without surrendering a single regulation loss. This does not seem like much at the moment; however, in what is expected to be a competitive Scotiabank North Division, the Canadiens will need to take as many points as they can muster up. Furthermore, in every game played so far, all the new Montreal Canadiens players acquired via the offseason have impacted the team positively in some sort of way. From Josh Anderson’s two-goal opening night performance, Jake Allen taking two wins as the backup goaltender and Tyler Toffoli scoring five goals in two games, the offseason is one of the primary reasons the Canadiens are currently in the position they have found themselves in. We have also seen minor contributions from the likes of Joel Edmundson who has been steadily improving since a tough opening night and Corey Perry who left his mark in his first game since being called up from the taxi squad. Throughout these six games, the Montreal Canadiens have shown the ability to ice four lineups that can all contribute offensively. For the first time in two seasons, the coaching staff will not have to solely rely on the Tatar-Danault-Gallagher line. Instead, the Nick Suzuki line with Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson and the Jesperi Kotkaniemi line with Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry can carry the weight if another line has an off night. While there are some improvements to be made, particularly in staying out of the box and breaking out of their own zone when facing offensive pressure from their opponents, the Canadiens could utilize these next few days to hone their lineup’s capabilities.

Looking Ahead

It has been a long time since the Montreal Canadiens have played in the Bell Centre. This will no longer be the case as they will be back in their own barn on Thursday to face the Calgary Flames at 7:00pm ET in their first game of an extended homestand.