A good place might be to mention that the Philadelphia Flyers are the team that is struggling to make the playoffs not the Canadiens.
You would never know it on this night. But then again you would never know it on every night the Canadiens have played in Philadelphia over the last seven years.
With their 3-1 win, the Flyers are now 10-0-1 at home against Montreal since the start of the 2010-2011 season.
On many of those nights the Canadiens were collaborators on their own losses. This was one of them.
BRAIN DEAD –
All we heard from the Canadiens front office after he was acquired from Chicago was Andrew Shaw was “difficult to play against”. Whatever edge to his game that he has brought to the arena every night has been pretty much off-set by the occasions when he has taken his game over that edge and sent him to the penalty box. The Canadiens were hardly riding an offensve wave but they seemed to be holding their own with a 1-0 lead and three minutes to go in the second period. That’s when Shaw decided to deliberately hook Nick Cousins to the ice in the offensive zone. The Flyers scored on the power play and Shaw didn’t get a shift through the final 22 minutes of the game.
Nobody can dispute the benching of Shaw. The domino effect caused by the resultant coaching decisions are open to second guessing. The Canadiens best offensive line has been Danault with Pacioretty and Radulov. They hadn’t done a lot through the first two periods but considering their recent chemistry there’s always that potential. Despite the fact that he had done little of note through the first two periods, Michel Therrien promoted Alex Galchenyuk to the top line and dropped Danualt down to the fourth line. Not only did Galchenyuk failed to shake off the rust of missing 21 of the last 26 games, but when the Flyers iced the puck with a minute remaining Therrien had the unreliable Galchenyuk take the offensive zone faceoff which he promptly lost. Next came the empty net goal. Not Therrien’s finest decision making hour.
Only two teams in the NHL have given up more goals than the Philadelphia Flyers this season. Their defense is terrible and their goaltending questionable. At the same time, the Canadiens have the league’s 6th best offense. So why would the Canadiens approach the game with a defensive mind-set reserved for the seventh game of a playoff series. By period the shots on goal were 5-6-5. The 16 shots on goal were the season low. Oddly, the previous season low was 17 at the Bell Centre against the same Flyers. The Canadiens scored 5 goals that night.
….It should be noted that the only line Therrien didn’t mess with was Plekanec/Lehkonen/Byron. That had a pretty good night. Byron came close to tying the game with a shorthanded effort midway through the third period. Plekanec had two scoring chances, which in the context of the rest of the team was remarkable. He also led the Canadiens with four hits.
….I’m sure the Tampa Bay Lightning had their reasons for letting defenseman Nikita Nesterov go for the proverbial bag of pucks. In two games, I haven’t seen them. Nesterov may be out there trying to prove the Lightning wrong or the presence of Andrei Markov as his sidekick has changed his life but Nesterov has been very good in the two games we’ve seen him. He produced the Canadiens only goal. He was cool under pressure and very much involved in the offense with four shot attempts, two of them on-goal. Given time, things may change but, so far so good.
…. Matt Read’s game winning goal will do nothing to stop those questions about Carey Price and his much discussed blocker side. I’ve always found it hard to question whether goals are “good” or “bad” ones. It certainly was scored on his blocker side, but there’s a suspicion it came at him like a knuckle ball. My first thought was he could have played the angle better than he did.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens are about to enter their Super Bowl weekend of afternoon games, something that seldom produced memorable hockey in the 26 years since 1991 when the Canadiens started the series. This year it’s Washington Saturday and Edmonton Sunday. If the Canadiens don’t get some of their mojo back we might be looking at a three game losing streak by Sunday night’s Super Bowl LI kickoff time.