The Canadiens scored two unanswered third period goals and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 Wednesday night in the season opening game for both clubs. The teams entered the third period tied at 1-1. Alex Galchenyuk broke the deadlock at 12:02 of the period and Max Pacioretty’s second goal of the game in the empty net clinched it. James van Riemsdyk scored the Leafs. The Leafs outshot the Canadiens 37-30. In Toronto Carey Price, Jonathan Bernier and Galchenyuk were the three stars.
Adding It Up –
MVP! MVP! – There are those who have expressed doubt that it is possible for Carey Price to repeat his extraordinary award-winning season of last year. If this game is an example, the answer is “Yes he can.” Price is the sole reason the Canadiens walked away with two points. He backed up a team that as a whole, didn’t play very well. Toronto played two thirds of the game in the Canadiens end and Price shouldered a heavy load. Most memorable saves came in the third period with the game on the line, on a breakaway by Peter Holland and another goalmouth scramble involving Holland and then a blocker save on Nick Spalling seconds before Galchenyuk scored the game winner.
The Bright Spot – I thought Tomas Plekanec had a terrific training camp and he carried it into the first game of the season. He led the Canadiens with six shots on goal and his line put up 11 of the Canadiens 30 shots. While the rest of the team was sporadic, the Plekanec line was consistent from beginning to end.
Another Comeback – Max Pacioretty spent all but the final four days of training camp rehabilitating his broken leg and has given us another one of his seamless returns. He scored the season’s first goal for the second year in a row, on the Canadiens first shot of the season. Playing with Plekanec and Gallagher he had five shots and hit a goalpost and took advantage of a set play to break away for the empty net goal on a flip clear from P.K. Subban.
The Turning Point – After domination through the first half of the game when Toronto held a 23-12 shots on goal advantage, back to back shifts from the Plekanec and then the Desharnais line seemed to swing momentum. From that point on the Canadiens had an 18-14 shots advantage and won the game. The Desharnais/Weise/Fleischmann line was the Canadiens second best.
Making His Mark – Nathan Beaulieu really caught my eye in this game….more than Subban or Markov or Petry (although Petry had a goal taken away from him on a challenge thanks to Plekanec goaltender inference). Over the summer Beaulieu has discovered a confidence he didn’t have last season. He’s moving the puck authoritatively and is not afraid to involve himself in the offense.
Same Old – Once again P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov carried a full load. Subban at 24:35 with three assists, blocked 4 shots and was plus-3. Markov at 21:44 – also plus-3 with an assist. Interesting to note that everybody’s favourite trade candidate, Alexei Emelin at 22:03 put in more time than Markov. Not so sure Michel Therrien is going to like those 55 second average shifts though. Emelin and Petry led with three hits each.
The Newcomers – Tomas Fleischmann was pretty good. He had three shots on goal and did his usual good job defensively. Therrien had him killing penalties as well. Not so much Alexander Semin who contributed little on the line with Galchenyuk and Eller. You don’t look for creativity from Eller, so the slick work has to come from Galchenyuk and Semin. Only one game but Semin didn’t show much after a fairly good training camp.
Second Thoughts –
…..I am still trying to figure out how the NHL Department of Player Security does business but if that first period Leo Komarov hit on P.K. Subban doesn’t deserve a very close look then maybe players should go back to the days of vigilante justice in the league. The ultimate insult was the fact that the Canadiens never got a power play advantage because Smith-Pelly moved it to nullify with a roughing penalty
.….The Canadiens power play showed promise during the pre-season. Judging by what was seen in their one opportunity, the Canadiens have not yet fully bought in to the Craig Ramsay system. Two minutes. No shots. And the same static stuff we saw last year.
…..At this point last season we were raving about what Manny Malhotra brought to the Canadiens in the faceoff circle. In this game the Canadiens were killed in that department. Only Alex Galchenyuk had positive numbers, winning 7 of 10. That’s Galchenyuk who was supposedly not capable of taking a key NHL faceoff. The other centres were at 38% including the usually reliable Plekenac (41%) and Desharnais (29%). It was a lost defensive zone power play faceoff by Torrey Mitchell that led to the only Toronto goal.
Next Up – The Canadiens continue their four-game season-opening road trip in Boston Saturday night and then move on to Ottawa for Sunday. Price will get the start Saturday. We’ll probably see Mike Condon make his NHL debut Sunday against the Senators.