REDEMPTION – Canadiens-3 NY Islanders-1 (Feb. 28, 2018)

Feb 28th, 2018 | By | Category: Canadiens, Canadiens Game Story, Latest News

In this season filled with negatives, at least we have Antti Niemi to feel good about. Unless of course you’re one of those cold-hearted pragmatic individuals who believe Niemi is ruining the Canadiens tank job.

Niemi came to the Canadiens with his reputation in tatters and proceeded, with the help of goaltender coach Stephane Waite, to resurrect himself. Niemi was the first star in the Canadiens 3-1 win over the Islanders Wednesday night at the Bell Centre. He won the game in one remarkable 45 second stretch while the Canadiens were on a power play. First he stopped Casey Czikis on a shorthanded breakaway. Seconds later it was Brock Nelson alone. Save Niemi. Then it was Czikis shorthanded again. Another save.

There were other important saves later on but those 45 seconds changed the game. The Canadiens scored to tie the game three minutes later and scored two more to win the game.

With Montreal, Niemi now is 4-2-1 with a 2.43 GAA and .926 save% on a bad hockey team. With Charlie Lindgren in the wings, Niemi has no future in Montreal but now he has a chance to resume his career elsewhere. To me, that’s a nice comeback story.

GETTING EXPOSURE

That’s two consecutive good games from Jacob de la Rose. The Canadiens had not written him off, but most who have followed the team in recent months had pretty much given up on ever seeing anything more than an effective fourth line defensive specialist.   He paid a heavy price off his semi-breakaway in getting the puck to Brendan Gallagher who then set up Nikita Scherbak for the third goal. He seems to be thriving with the two speedsters, Gallagher and Paul Byron on his wings. Considering the lack of talent down the middle, Claude Julien is going to keep playing de la Rose until he either shows consistency or falls back into his old passive habits. He’s got nineteen games left to show the team he is a useful NHLer.

MODEST DEBUT

It’s one game so let’s not get too excited about Mike Reilly yet. There were a couple of giveaways that one might chalk up to the fact that he is playing in an unfamiliar system. Other than that, I thought he played pretty well. According to the Bell Centre stats machine, Reilly led the Canadiens in ice time with 22:56. That’s four minutes more than Jeff Petry . Really?

We have to remember that the Minnesota Wild thought so little of Reilly that they let him go for a fifth round draft choice. So let’s reserve opinion for a while.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….Noah Juulsen learned a hard lesson about positioning against speed when he was caught flatfooted on Mathew Barzal who broke around him to score the game’s opening goal. Barzal’s speed has caught veteran defensemen off-guard in the past and will in the future. Outside of that, Juulsen was all right again.  I like what I saw from him protecting Niemi at the goalcrease.

….When you’re around the puck a lot, good things will happen. Nikita Scherbak slid the puck through the crease and hit the far post midway through the first period. It was his hustle coming off the bench put him in front of the net to receive the Gallagher pass for the Canadiens third goal.

…..The Islander defense allowed Jonathan Drouin to close on them before he let the shot go for the game winning goal. I assume that’s the reason he was given the game’s second star. There’s nothing else about his game that excited me.

….Something we can’t often say, but chalk one up for the Canadiens defensive system. The Islanders, who are a pretty good offensive team, attempted a season high 82 shot attempts in trying mount a comeback. Only 28 of them made it to Niemi. The Canadiens blocked 32 of them. Jordie Benn blocked six and Petry five.

MOVING ON

The teams get right back at it Friday night in Brooklyn. First of back-to-back games for the Canadiens. They’ll play at Boston Saturday before moving on to New Jersey, Florida and Tampa next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The six game road trip winds up in Columbus the following Monday.

The Canadiens have lost 12 of their last 13 on the road.

One Comment to “REDEMPTION – Canadiens-3 NY Islanders-1 (Feb. 28, 2018)”

  1. Larry Riley says:

    I’ve been reading your posts all year, I really appreciate your take of the habs from week to week.

    all the best

    Larry

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