It is one of those givens that in today’s NHL 75% of games are won by scoring three or more goals. The Canadiens have lost four games in a row for the first time this season and in each of them they scored only twice. Actually they have gone seven games in a row without getting the the magic ‘three’ with a record of 2-4-1. One of those wins came in a New Jersey shootout. The other a 2-1 home ice win over Columbus.
Needless to say injuries have damaged the team not only on the scoresheet where they have managed to score only 13 goals over those last seven games, but the team- psyche seems to be bruised as well. The Canadiens played the third periods of both the Boston game Wednesday and this game as if they were expecting the roof to fall in on them.
And it did.
Against Detroit, carrying a 2-1 lead they took back-to-back penalties over a 3 ½ minute span around the mid point of the third period. They got away with the offensive zone hooking call on Tomas Fleischmann but less than two minutes after he got out of the penalty box Emelin was nailed for a sloppy high sticking and on that power play the Wings tied the game. Just over a minute later Detroit scored the game winner. It took 1:11 for Detroit to go from trailing 1-2 to a 3-2 lead. Against Boston the Canadiens also had the lead near the third period mid-point and in 42 seconds they were losing. That sort of thing can bruise the ego.
IT TAKES MORE THAN HARD WORK
I can’t find much fault in the Canadiens work ethic against Detroit. But with the injuries to Price, Gallagher, Mitchell and Smith-Pelly the Canadiens have gone from being a team that would take it to an opponent offensively to playing kitty-bar-the-door prevent hockey. In other words, they have become just a middle of the road team. I suspect, no matter how much Michel Therrien juggles his lines, they are going to remain that way until at least Price and Gallagher return.
Therrien thought he had a better idea by putting Pacioretty with Galchenyuk. It hasn’t worked at all. Not against Boston and not against the Wings. Pacioretty likes to get the puck in scoring areas while Galchenyuk has shown a tendency to hog the puck and try to do too much himself. Hence in the two games he’s been with Galchenyuk, Pacioretty has managed only six shots on goal and none of them caused a goaltender to raise a sweat.
There were three rookies in the Canadiens lineup. They all had good games. Andrighetto scored hisfourth goal in nine games. The goal’s first assist went to Charles Hudon who let go a hard shot that handcuffed Petr Mrazek and dropped past him for Andrighetto’s tap in. Hudon also had a chance to to give his team a 1-0 lead in the second period but put his shot over the cross-bar.Daniel Carr who started the night on the fourth line and wound up with Desharnais and Fleischmann, led the Canadiens with four shots on goal. What impressed me was his play in those heavy scrums along the boards. Can’t remember when he was beaten in that situation.
Among the veterans I would have given a star to Tomas Fleischmann. He scored the goal that gave the Canadiens their 2-1 lead. He also was stopped on a breakaway and put in his usual 200 foot game. Tomas Plekanec had a couple of breakaways and was the only forward that logged over 20 minutes. But he was still minus-one and hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games. Didn’t see much I liked from the rest of the veterans.
It may be the domino effect, but the team-defense wasn’t very good either. P.K. Subban has gone back to trying to do things by himself which usually winds up doing little. The pairing of Tom Gilbert and Greg Pateryn had a really rough night. It was Pateryn who handed the puck to Datsyuk to start the play that led to the winning goal. And of course there was that careless high sticking penalty that Emelin took that led to the goal that tied it up.
Dustin Tokarski had a better than average night. In the first half of the game he stopped all but one of four Detroit breakaways. Get used the fact that neither Tokarski or Condon are Carey Price. Like most goaltenders at their skill level, on most nights they need offensive support. Over the last seven games, that part of the Canadiens game has been sorely missing.
THE COLLAR TIGHTENS
This game was the proverbial four-pointer. With the win the Wings are now four points behind the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. They will play Ottawa Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The Senators lost to Tampa Thursday night but they are only six points behind, also with a game in hand.
I think it’s needless to say that Michel Therrien and his coaches are going to be looking for solutions over the next 36 hours. . With what they have to work with, solutions will be elusive. Maybe it’s time for Marc Bergevin to work one of his miracles.