The goaltender was the difference one more time. Carey Price faced stopped 46 of 48 shots, including all three in the shootout and the Canadiens opened their season with a 3-2 win over the Sabres Thursday night.
Even at their bottom feeding worst the Sabres always gave the Canadiens trouble. This night was no different. For long stretches, through the last half of the first period and all of the second period they were in the Canadiens collective faces. The third period was more like we could expect from a Claude Julien coached team. The tight checking paid off with Phillip Danault’s shorthanded thievery and the wrap around to tie the game.
Shea Weber‘s stats line was startling. In a 65 minute game he logged 29:30. It included 5:31 on the power play and 5:49 on the penalty kill. There were seven hits and four blocked shots. He drew the first assist on the game tieing goal and finished at plus-one. I don’t think Claude Julien wants to get in the habit of playing his number one defenseman 30 minutes a game but Weber
had a remarkable night in Buffalo.
THE AUDITION –
“It’s about time we stop trying to find reasons why he’s good. ”He’s just good.” . Julien’s words when asked about Victor Mete‘s performance in this game. And he was good…….again. Nothing different about that except that now he’s playing for real. He was panic free. He made all of the right decisions. He complemented Shea Weber and he’s still very much in the picture. But it’s still game-by-game until he reaches his ninth game.
I was one of those who was skeptical about moving Jonathan Drouin to centre. I’m now a convert. Drouin showed everything that Alex Galchenyuk was unable to produce in his drawn out stints as a Canadiens centreman. He showed the kind of on-ice vision that all of the good NHL centremen have. His pass to Max Pacioretty for the first Canadiens goal was perfect. On his previous shift he hit the crossbar on the short side on Robin Lehner only two minutes earlier. And the shootout winner was backhand roof. After a slow start he also won more faceoff than he lost through the second half of the game. Pacioretty has spent a career with some pretty ordinary centremen. With Drouin this could be his first 40-goal season.
FRESH LEGS –
I felt during training camp that there was some renewed jump in Tomas Plekanec‘s game. It was still there in this game. Plekanec/Hudon/Lehkonen are listed as the Canadiens third line. They were the second best on this night producing nine shots on goal.
Not a great defensive game. Until the third period the Canadiens were dominated along the boards and in the neutral zone. Jordie Benn hurt them when he was checked off the puck for the first Buffalo goal. And Mark Streit, Benn’s partner on defense is really slow, something that’s going to be a problem. But he did produce three shots on goal.
Lost in Buffalo’s 45 shots on goal is the fact that the Canadiens had 40 of their own which is good news.Even the fourth line of Byron/de la Rose/Hemsky had their moments.
This was the first of three games in four nights for the Canadiens. They play in Washington Saturday night and at Madison Square Garden Sunday. In reality it’s four games in six nights capped by the home opener Tuesday against Chicago.