The State of California has been enough of a problem for Canadiens in recent years without having to play this week’s three games with a roster containing nine players fewer than fifty games NHL experience. There were seven of them in the lineup for each game as they took on two of the favourites to win this year’s Stanley Cup. The fact that a team with all of those kids was able to bounce back from a thrashing in San Jose Monday to play two one goals games has to count for something.
After stealing a loser’s point out of Anaheim in that shootout game Wednesday, the Canadiens kept coming back on Los Angeles before finally bowing 3-2 in what was their second game in twenty-four hours. Granted, it was a territorial mismatch of monumental proportions. The Canadiens managed only five shots in the first period and three in the third. Ultimately the shots were 31-15 in LA’s favour but the Canadiens hung in there.
I’ll say it right out. P.K. Subban was the Canadiens best player. It was another of those feast or famine nights that only he seems to produce. He scored the Canadiens first goal to narrow the score to 2-1 in the second. Then he got handcuffed on a clear at centre ice and fell, allowing Dwight King the breakaway that made it 3-1 in the third. He quickly made up for that with an exquisite touch feed to Lars Eller for the Canadiens second goal with almost six minutes left. After putting in 31 minutes the night before in Anaheim, he added a game high 28:48. That’s two minutes more than Drew Doughty.
The Kings being the Kings and the Canadiens injury laden, the best they could do with those final six minutes was one shot on goal. It’s a loss. But the Canadiens, maybe because of the kids, fought it out to the end for the second straight night. It’s hard to get upset with that.
Greg Pateryn is a pretty big guy at 6’2” and 225 lbs. Maybe it’s a confidence issue, but since he joined the Canadiens this season he has not taken full advantage of that size which is probably why Michel Therrien left him in the press box most nights. Now, with three starting defensemen out with injuries, Therrien has no choice. Pateryn finds himself on the second pairing with Alexei Emelin and the physical side of his game has started to manifest itself on this road trip. He really cranked it up against the Kings, especially showing he wasn’t going to take any goalmouth guff from Milan Lucic. Lucic didn’t get a shot on goal all night and Pateryn finished with 5 hits and just shy of 20 minutes ice time. In Hamilton Pateryn showed a great shot and some offensive ability. That’s the next step for him. He’s going to get plenty of opportunity over the next five weeks.
This was the best I’ve seen Torrey Mitchell play maybe since he suffered that injury back in November. There seemed to be a lot more jump to his game.
Paul Byron led the Canadiens with three of the 15 shots and seemed to be around the puck a lot. Michael McCarron didn’t show much offensively but threw his considerable weight around and kept some of the Kings honest as did Mike Brown who, in his two games with the team has also made sure there were no liberties taken. Like Pateryn, he had five hits.
The Canadiens now move on to Winnipeg to complete the road trip. By my rough calculations, the Canadiens can afford to lose only three of their remaining 17 games before they’re officially eliminated. Those who keep track at sportsclubstats.com say their chances are now down to 2.4% , There may be a desire to see the team tank for a better draft position. By what we saw in Anaheim and Los Angeles, those thoughts are not resonating in the dressing room.