It was clear two minutes into the game what the Canadiens wanted to do against a team that was on it’s second game in 24 hours. Starting with two hard hits by Brendan Gallagher on the first shift, they piled on seven in the first four minutes. Execution was near perfect. They kept up the hitting. The classic way to beat a road-weary hockey team. At the end the hits favoured the Canadiens 43-23 and ended Colorado’s ten game winning streak.
We’ve been waiting for Jonathan Drouin to have a break-out game. Is this the one? His first three point game with the Canadiens. He might have had inspiration. He outplayed his junior linemate and Art Ross and Hart Trophy candidate Nathan Mackinnon by a wide margin. Drouin was in control of the game the way Canadiens management hoped he would be back in October. And he was 73% in faceoffs.
For the second consecutive game, the Plekanec line was responsible for shutting down one of the hottest NHL lines. Saturday night it was Boston with limited success. In this game they made MacKinnon/Landeskog/Rantanen almost invisible until the final minutes of the game. Plekanec won 70% of the faceoffs against MacKinnon (7 of 10).
Hard work hasn’t been a problem for most of the Canadiens games this month. Even when they outwork their opponents rewards are few and far between. They dominated the first period and still came away empty. They stuck with it in this game and took their commanding 3-0 lead. The analytics people tell us they limited Colorado to only three grade-A scoring chances in the game. (The Canadiens had nine).
The Canadiens defense has only two players that can consistently move the puck – Jeff Petry and Victor Mete. with Jakub Jerabek a close third.
Both Petry and Mete were terrific. Petry’s end to end rush that set up Drouin for what proved to be the winning goal was as good as it gets. Mete has been consistently good since he returned from the World Juniors mainly because he’s stopped overthinking the game and is relying on his instincts.
I think I would rather see Jerabek eating up David Schlemko’s power play time.
The Avalanche came into the game with the league’s best power play over the last month and the Canadiens penalty killers shut them down. The Avalanche penalty killers ranked second in the league. On the Canadiens four opportunities they poured 15 of their 40 shots on goal and Alex Galchenyuk scored.
….Seems like we say this every night. Brendan Gallagher put in a heart-and-soul game. Six shots on goal. Six hits. He even won the only faceoff he was asked to take. His empty net goal was the team leading 17th of the season.
….Paul Byron’s apprenticeship at centre ice continues to be something to watch. Once again he won more faceoffs than he lost (5 of 9). He set up Galchenyuk’s power play goal giving him six points in the last five games, all of them while he has been replacing Phillip Danault between Pacioretty and Hudon.
…..Pacioretty was notable for his physical play than his scoring chances. Every one of his four hits was noteworthy.
….I guess it’s because Claude Julien doesn’t have too many other options that David Schlemko gets so much power play ice time.
….Did anyone think Nicolas Deslauriers would have seven goals in 28 games as a member of the Canadiens. He leads the team with a 20.6 shooting percentage and is tied with Drouin and Danault in goalscoring. while playing 15 fewer games. He also leads the Canadiens at plus-11. Seems to me his presence on the line has opened up some space for linemates Drouin and Galchenyuk. Along with his goal, he led the Canadiens and the game with 7 hits.
…..Drouin wasn’t the only one to outplay a former junior teammate. Alex Galchenyuk had a good night ahead of Nail Yakupov who was selected first overall to Galchenyuk’s third. Galchenyuk’s goal came off one of those left to right power play one timers from the faceoff circle. He now has 12 on the season.
Enjoy the win. Putting two games like this together is a rare thing with this team. They’ll play the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell Centre Thursday and then it’s another four day break for the All-Star game followed by road games in St. Louis and Carolina. Maybe we’ll see Shea Weber back after the All-Star break. And maybe not.