We are warned “never to look a gift horse in the mouth” and for some reason the Friday night version of the Washington Capitals was “a gift horse” for the Canadiens. The Capitals were playing their second game in 24 hours coming off their five day break. Whatever the reason, the Friday night Capitals were a shadow of the team that whipped the Canadiens 6-1 in early October and the Canadiens are not going to give back the two points.
GIVE THEM CREDIT
Not that the Canadiens didn’t come to work. And most of the Canadiens good players, small as that group may be, contributed to the 3-2 win. Unlike the Wednesday Boston fiasco, Pacioretty, Gallagher, Galchenyuk, Plekanec and Petry had a lot to do with this win.
Pacioretty scored the Canadiens first and last goals. The opening goal was pure Pacioretty. On a power play, he took what was really a bad pass from Jonathan Drouin and somehow wheeled and rifled a shot past a startled Philipp Grubauer. It was pure Pacioretty. Then with the net empty in the final minutes, Pacioretty was hauled down as he tried to score and still collected the puck at the boards and scored anyway. Pacioretty now has six goals and two assists in his last seven games, almost doubling the the eight goals he scored through the Canadiens first 39 games.
Maybe we should just take Alex Galchenyuk for what he is and stop dwelling on what he is not. The last month Galchenyuk has been the Canadiens best offensive weapon. Some would say, their only offensive weapon. Galchenyuk didn’t score a point in this game but he hit two goalposts on the same shift in the third period and he raised a few out of their seats with his offensive skills. Nobody is talking much about it, but over his last twenty-three games Galchenyuk has 7 goals and 18 points.
ON THE OTHER HAND
The same could not be said for Jonathan Drouin who was back centering Galchenyuk’s line. I’m beginning to think that this whole business of trying to make Drouin a centre is screwing him up as much as it did Galchenyuk. Claude Julien thought he had a pretty good game. If so he was ignoring the second period penalty for abuse of officials after being kicked out of a faceoff circle. He was in the penalty box when the Capitals, who were going nowhere scored the game-tieing goal in the second period.
….We seem to have Pacioretty out of his slump. Time now to work on Artturi Lehkonen. Playing with Gallagher and Plekanec, he had three good scoring chances, and hit the crossbar just two minutes before Paul Byron scored to break the 1-1 third period tie. (The Canadiens hit posts or cross-bars four times in the game. In the 45 previous games they had hit the iron a total of 16 times).
….I like what I saw of Jakub Jerabek in training camp. Seems like he’s finally got a grip on what it takes to play NHL hockey. Just under 20 minutes of ice time playing next to Jordie Benn. Jerabek scored his first NHL goal Wednesday in Boston and posted an assist against Washington. All four of his career points have come in the last three games.
…..Again Victor Mete did a lot of good things. Jeff Petry’s ice time was back up at 25:44. Newly arrived Logan Shaw stuck to basics the entire night, which was a good thing.
….Nicolas Deslauriers was on the top line with Drouin and Galchenyuk. Not so sure what he did to help Drouin but Galchenyuk seemed to thrive in his presence. And he handled himself well in that fight as well.
…..And finally a win for luckless Antti Niemi after suffering humiliation in Pittsburgh, Florida and through his early days in Montreal.
Home again for the second straight Saturday night Bell Centre meeting with the Bruins. And next week it’s Colorado Tuesday and Carolina Thursday leading up to the All-Star break. Reality is still stark. the Canadiens are still nine points out the final Eastern Conference wild card berth with five teams to climb over.