What we got in Toronto Saturday night was a fairly good first period, followed by a terrible second period and then a mop-up third period. Basically, with the lineup they had on the ice, even if they had skated for sixty minutes, it’s unlikely the outcome would have been much different, at leads in terms of a win or loss.
It was the Leafs speed and skill that took over the game in the second period. There was nothing the Canadiens were prepared to do about it. In twenty minutes they were outshot 26-9, gave up 18 high-danger scoring chances while creating only two of their own. That Toronto only got two goals is a credit only to Charlie Lindgren. Without his work, this game could have legimately finished upwards of 8-0.
The Canadiens carried a nine player injury list into a game against a team that thinks it can take a shot at the 2018 Stanley Cup. Seven of the nineteen players the Canadiens used in the game had spent considerable time in Laval this season. Eight members of the team are 22 years or younger. Some of them have a future with the team. Others don’t. The Canadiens seem to be able to rise above their inexperience and keep it close at the Bell Centre. On the road is another story. This one made it eighteen losses in the last twenty road games dating back to just before Christmas.
Three weeks and ten games to go and it’s all over. Not soon enough.
After giving up sixteen goals and posting an .822 save% his previous three games, questions were starting to be asked about Charlie Lindgren’s readiness to assume a backup role next season behind Carey Price. Suggestions were being floated that it might be an idea to re-sign Antti Niemi.
And then Lindgren gave up four more against Toronto. But the Toronto game was nothing like the other three starts where he looked sluggish. What we saw against the Leafs was the ‘good’ Charlie Lindgren. His lateral movement in the crease was again at a high level. He was alert and on the puck. Two of the goals scored on him were on the power play. He had little chance on any of the four.
It was barely adequate for most of the season but now, without Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty the Canadiens penalty killing has been the NHL’s worst in the month of March. With two in this game, it’s now nine straight games penalty killers have given up at least one goal. With 13 in 34 opposition power plays in that stretch, teams have been sucessful 38.3% of the time.
It’s hard to figure out what has come off the rails for Artturi Lehkonen in his second NHL season. That injury set him back some. Then he had a couple of good games and he seemed to get it together, only to fall back again. Among the Canadiens I noticed Lehkonen the mos in this game. He led the Canadiens with seven shots on goal. Lehkonen came into the game with four goals his previous four games and then produced a night this one. Dare we say he’s starting to come out of his funk? A cautious – maybe.
Jonathan Drouin continues draw attention to himself. Only now it’s for the right reasons. His backchecking efforts were noticeable in this game. The hustle may be because of the all-out game his wingers Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron exhibit every night. Whatever it is, we’ll take it. And how do we explain his sudden faceoff command. He was 61% in this game. After hovering around 40% all season, he is 62.9% his last five games.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
…..Mike Reilly got caught in the numbers game in Minnesota and Marc Bergevin snagged him for a fifth round draft pick. This guy can really skate and seems to have a sense for when he can go on offense. I continue to look for the disqualifying flaw in his game. Haven’t seen it yet.
….Mike McCarron played his first Canadiens game since November. I’ve been convinced for a long while now that McCarron is too slow to be an NHL centre. Nothing I saw in this game changed my mind.
….The Canadiens centres in this game were Drouin, Jacob de la Rose, Logan Shaw and McCarron. Enough said.
…..De la Rose had a couple of moments in the game playing with Lehkonen and Galchenyuk. Not nearly enough to make anyone change their minds about his future. Lehkonen and Galchenyuk combined for 13 shots on goal. De la Rose had one.
….And indication f the lopsided nature of the game. Through the first two periods Toronto was forced to take only eight faceoffs in their defensive zone. When a team is registering a lot of hits, it’s because they don’t have the puck a lot. The Canadiens outhit Toronto 37-16. Toronto had a total of 89 shot attempts in the game. The Canadiens – 59.
….Nice touch by his former teammates. The Canadiens wore Tomas Plekanec turtlenecks during the pre-game warmup. Plekanec seemed to appreciate it. He played 12:57. Nearly had his first point as a Leaf until the goal was erased because he interfered with Lindgren.
Ten games to go. The Canadiens are home to Florida Monday night then off to Pittsburgh to start a three game in four night stretch on Wednesday which leads to Buffalo on Friday and home to Washington on Saturday. Their home game against Detroit a week Monday will make it four in six nights.