It’s clear from the very day he took over the Canadiens that Michel Therrien had a vision of how he wanted the Canadiens to play. For most of the four plus seasons he’s had the team, with minor modifications he has stuck to his guns. Therrien’s system maximizes his team’s built in speed combined with quick puck movement, relentless pursuit, smothering defense and support on the puck. There are night’s it doesn’t serve them well but on most nights it makes every game a close one on the scoreboard.
And when they close defensive ranks they are downright scary as the Washington Capitals found out on Saturday and the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
It started well for the Ducks. It was apparent the that the big Anaheim forwards were trying to use the size of the forwards Andrew Cogliano gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead and it was apparent that the big Anaheim forwards were going to use their size up front to minimize the Canadiens speed. It worked for ten minutes. The Ducks got a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game and at the ten minute mark the shots on goals were 6-6. For the final 50 minutes of the game the Canadiens outshot Anaheim 27-8 and outscored them 5-0. Playing without five of their regulars, the “system” had to take over. Over the last two games, it has.
For the second game in a row Carey Price had it easy. Like the game against Washington, the Canadiens reduced scoring chances by nearly 50 percent. All of this after Price glared at his teammates as he was pulled from the net in the game against San Jose last week. Because he had so little to do, it became fun to watch Price’s immense puck handling skills for most of the night.
THE HOT HAND –
Marc Bergevin picked up Jeff Petry from Edmonton at the 2015 trade deadline and liked his style so much that he gave him a six-year no-trade contract. I doubt if Bergevin has ever regretted the contract, but the way Petry has cranked up his offensive game has to bring a large smile to his face. Petry had a goal and two assists in this game which brings it to 4 goals and 3 assists on 18 shots on goal over his last five games. But even more impressive is the way he’s taken charge as part of the second defense pairing and is now controlling the game from the back end.
THE WAIVER KID –
Somebody said last week that Paul Byron might become the greatest waiver claim in NHL history. Not so sure about that. Close to home, the Canadiens lost defenseman Stephane Robidas on waivers to Dallas in 2002 and he’s played almost 900 NHL games since he left Montreal. But I do have to think Byron is going to rank as one of the best. The puck has been following Byron around the last five games and he’s has 5 goals and 3 assists to show for it. His goal against Anaheim gave him 11 for the season equaling the career high he set last season.
….We should mention that this was the fourth game of a 12,000 kilometre road trip and their second in 24 hours. The Canadiens were good enough to win against a fresh team. Road-weariness played into the fact that this was a 5-1 game.
….The Canadiens scored two power play goals but until late in the game they were awful again and the Bell Centre semi-faithful were letting them know about it. It is a mess and needs a lot of work. One thing that has happened is opposition defenses shutting down Shea Weber before he can get his formidable shot off. We saw that happen a lot last year with P.K. Subban.
….Max Pacioretty scored his sixth goal in his last six games and his game is back to where we’re used to seeing it. Tomas Plekanec finally got his third goal of the season and, although he still has scored only once in the last 26 games, Brendan Gallagher shows signs of breaking out of it. He was very busy and irritated the Ducks to no end all night.
….He may have been feeding off the excellence of Petry, but I really liked Nathan Beaulieu in this game. It might have been as well as he’s played this year.
MOVING ON –
No time to rest on laurels. Thursday night the Minnesota Wild will be at the Bell Centre. The Wild shut out Colorado 2-0 Tuesday for their eighth win in a row. Twenty-four hours later they’re at Columbus to meet the Blue Jacket team that shut them out 10-0 on November 4th. Does Michel Therrien put Al Montoya back in goal again? That will be the debate.