That was a patchwork collection the Canadiens put on the ice in Nashville Tuesday night. They started a goaltender who was on his fourth NHL team in the last seven months. With Shea Weber swelling the injury list to seven, they brought up an undrafted free agent Czech to make his NHL debut and join a defense group that has had more downs than ups and one the worst offensive units in the league.
The fact that the Canadiens came out of Nashville with a point against one of the best home ice teams in the league hinged solely on that work ethic, especially from that often shaky defense group.
Be honest now. How many out there cried out in dismay upon hearing the news that Antti Niemi was to start his first game with the Canadiens instead of Charlie Lindgren? That’s Niemi, the one who was placed on waivers by first Pittsburgh and then Florida this season and carried a .667 season goals against average. Seems that there is still something left in the tank for this Stanley Cup winning goaltender after ten years. He was terrific in his Canadiens debut stopping 31 of 33 shots.
The Predators really cranked it up in the third period and overtime. He stopped their last 12 shots and his save on Jarnkrok with three minutes left allowed the Canadiens to come back to tie the game in the final minute.
THE REALITY –
Remember this, five-on-five the Canadiens shut out the Predators. Both of the Nashville goals came on their power play which has been operating at a league-leading 40 percent on home ice this season. It’s the same defense that played a pressure packed game in Dallas the night before. But, hard as they worked, they couldn’t make up for the Canadiens offense which struggled again. The power play was 0-for-4 and has scored twice in 24 opportunities over the last eight games – 8.3%.
HIT AND MISS –
Every time you start to like what Joe Morrow does, he will do something to make you change your mind. Like his game in Dallas, Morrow gave the puck away at critical times against Nashville. but then he put the game into overtime with his goal at 19:04 of the third period and all was forgiven….again. Morrow has three goals over his last And with three goals in his last nine games,. Only Brendan Gallagher has scored that many over the same stretch and it is three more than Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk or Phillip Danault.
I really liked what I saw from Jakub Jerabek in training camp but he still wound up in Laval because of the waivers numbers game. Answering the late call-up, he caught a flight out of Montreal Wednesday morning, arrived at the hotel in the afternoon and played for the Canadiens without so much as a practice and made an impression on Claude Julien. After getting just under three minutes and four shifts in the first period, Julien started to up his minutes. He played 5:12 in the second period, 7:21 in the third. In his first NHL game he totaled 18:11 and nearly won the game for the Canadiens with five seconds remaining in regulation time. He made one bad giveaway in the first period. Otherwise his first NHL game was noteable for it’s lack of drama.
Canadiens forwards don’t score a lot but, led by Brendan Gallagher they competed in this game. winning more battles than they lost. Gallagher led the Canadiens with four top scoring chances. Alex Galchenyuk has been accused of trying to do too much on his own but, playing with the mismatched Jonathan Drouin and Max Pacioretty, he basically had to go it alone. He led both teams with five shots on goal although none registered on the highly dangerous list.
Right now there’s no alternative, but there has to be a time when Claude Julien will give up on the idea of Drouin as a centre. He won only 2 of 13 faceoffs in this game and has won only 20 of his last 73 attempts which is 27.3%. which means he has dropped below 40% for the season. And after a promising start his game appears to be going backwards with just one goal in his last 16 games. I have no idea who’s dragging whom down, but the Pacioretty/Drouin forward combination is hopeless.
As hard as the Canadiens worked as a team, the game still goes down as a loss; the Canadiens fifth in a row. They’re back at the Bell Centre to start a stretch in which they have another eight of nine at home starting with Buffalo Saturday night.
The Sabres have had a sadder start to their season than the Canadiens but they have pushed the Canadiens to overtime in both meetings to date. . Then it’s Columbus Monday and Ottawa on Thursday.