If you’re a member of one of those teams that is clearly a ‘seller’ at the trade deadline this is the worst time of the year. And it shows especially in road games. The Canadiens were dreadful in losing all four games in their recent road trip and Thursday night at the Bell Centre the collective mind of the New York Rangers was more concerned about Monday at 3.00pm than what they had to do against the Canadiens. It didn’t help that three of the Rangers best players, Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Michael Grabner weren’t dressed for fear of injury before the deadline, something their management wouldn’t have done in front of their own fans.
What the spectre of the trade deadline has done is make bad hockey teams worse.
The Rangers took the first four shots on goal in the game thanks to an early penalty. For the next 35 minutes the Canadiens outshot them 32-10 but they couldn’t manage the third goal which would have put the game to bed against a goaltender who was making his NHL debut. According to naturalstattrick.com the Canadiens had 19 dangerous scoring chances to only one for the Rangers by the end of the second period. That lack of offense made things difficult when the Canadiens sat back in the third period and allowed the Rangers to score late.
Back in training camp Claude Julien told reporters that Noah Juulsen was very close to being an NHL calibre defenseman. Then he got hurt and missed the first part of the season. He was recalled this week and Julien immediately put him to work. Unlike many in his first NHL game, Juulsen made you notice him. The attention grabber for me was a block of a Zibanejad shot during a first period Ranger power play. By the end of the night Julien had him on the ice for just over 17 minutes including 2:29 penalty killing time. Maybe the best indicator was Julien putting him on the ice after the Rangers had narrowed the score to 2-1 three minutes left.
….Noah Juulsen is 20 years old and Victor Mete is 19. Mete was paired with Jeff Petry in this game and he was also given a load of ice time (18:03). We can only hope that what we saw from Juulsen and Mete is the future of the defense and we see less and less of David Schlemko, Joe Morrow and Jodie Benn.
….Brendan Gallagher skating 100 kilometres and got no reward. He led the Canadiens with six shots, all of them from right in the crease.
….Tomas Plekanec scored the first goal, his third in the last 46 games. I thought he had a good first period offensively. After that it was back to being a checking centreman.
….There may have been rust on Phillip Danault’s game Tuesday in Philadelphia. It was not in evidence in this game. And his line, with Galchenyuk and Hudon, had a good night; especially Hudon who made a great pass to Petry for what turned out to be the game winner.. That line combined for ten shots on goal.
….I guess we’re destined to play out the string with Jonathan Drouin at centre. The Canadiens don’t have any other options. Drouin didn’t have a very good night again.
The Canadiens have three more left at home. Tampa’s here Saturday and we see Philadelphia for third time in nineteen days on Monday. The homestand closes out Wednesday against the Islanders.