The Canadiens faced a team in the Flyers that played as effective a road game as you will see during the regular season. Realizing this was going to be a grinder – may I say boring – game the Canadiens stuck to their own defensive guns and through patience and a lot of perseverance,came away with a 3-1 win. Not pretty, but early in the season the Canadiens seem to be able to adjust to anything an opponent has thrown at them.
ONE FOR THE COACH
Against a Flyers team known for it’s physical nature, Michel Therrien moved Alexei Emelin up with Shea Weber, presenting a formidable defensive wall for Philadelphia to penetrate. They didn’t do it very often. The two registered eight hits, six of them by Emelin. They also blocked five shots. And Weber had a goal and assist. It was Emelin’s clearing flip out of the zone that allowed Alexander Radulov to score the empty net goal. There may not be the need to leave them together for Wednesday at Brooklyn against the Islanders but they did their job against the Flyers. FYI – Weber was plus-2 in the game and leads all NHL defensemen at plus-10 through six games.
There are few things in life that are a sure thing. One of them was that Alexander Radulov was going to have a big night sooner rather than later. Radulov again had his usual relentless night, but this time his work paid off in the stats column. He set up Shea Weber and then acted as a screen on Weber’s shot for the opening goal of the game. His shot off a power play faceoff was tipped in by Gallagher for the game winner and he was there to corral the Emelin clear to clinch it in the empty net. Five points the last four games now for Radulov.
THE BRICK WALL
It is often said that Carey Price will make a save in every game that no other goaltender can make. For the most part, Price was his usual steady self behind the solid Canadiens defensive game until, with the score 2-1 and the Flyers’ net empty, Shayne Gostisbehere forced him to turn inside out to stop a 40 foot wrister. The save of the game and it made him third star. Twelve seconds later Radulov scored the clincher.
I really thought Phillip Danault had a terrific game. He had two breakaways. He was the right place at the right time all night, and it paid off with two breakaways among other things. If I were to pick the best line of the night it was Danault, Mitchell and Flynn. This was the type of game in which this kind of player thrives.
Mostly unnoticed was the fact that Artturi Lehkonen quietly posted another five shots on goal, one fewer than Max Pacioretty who led both teams with six.
Retaining possession in the offensive and neutral zone is what you hope when your number one centre takes faceoffs. Alex Galchenyuk can’t win a faceoff to save himself. Ten of his eleven faceoffs were in the offensive or neutral zone and he lost nine of them. Seventy percent of the time that Galchenyuk has taken a faceoff this season, the opposition has taken possession the puck. That is not a good thing.
SHOWING HIS AGE
One December 20th Andrei Markov will turn 38. We’ve been watching his game slow for a couple of years now, but he has always survived because he was the smartest player on the ice. It seems, at this point in the season, he’s not getting by on his smarts. His skating is even slower, but worse his quickness isn’t there. Things may change as we get deeper into the schedule, but what we’re seeing right now is a player in the twilight of a remarkable 16 year career.
The four game week continues at Brooklyn against the Islanders on Wednesday and then home to Tampa on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday. Have you noticed the team is 5-0-1 to start the year. They have one point fewer than their record breaking start of last season after six game.