With the Penguins playing their second game in 24 hours with travel between and the Canadiens simply trying to end their mess of a season as soon as possible, we got a predictably uneven game that featured two unsuccessful penalty shots, a failed coaching challenge, a shorthanded goal, a blown 2-0 Pittsurgh lead and a linesman who had to leave the game after suffering a deep cut to his hand from Charles Hudon’s skate.
And as erratic as the Penguins were, the Canadiens equaled with a well-meant but disorganized effort and ultimately and the Penguins won 5-3 thanks in part to one of those highlight reel goals from Sidney Crosby.
That’s 19 losses in the last 21 road games for the Canadiens, but who’s counting any more.
I thought, in his first appearance in a month, Carey Price had a pretty good night. Yes, he did give up five goals but the Canadiens defense gave up 16 high-danger scoring chances in front of him. Price looked sharp. He faced 39 shots. He was moving well in the crease and his play outside the crease was confident. Price has taken a fair share of the blame for the Canadiens season. But for most of the season he’s had to bail out an largely incompetent defence. Now we can add the word ‘inexperienced’ to it’s description.
When the so-called brain trust of the Canadiens gets together in April for it’s season post mortem, somebody is going to have to start asking questions about the Canadiens special teams. The Canadiens gave up two more power play goals in this game. They have given up at least a power play goal in ten of their last 11 games. On the road the penalty kill has been particularly demoralizing. The worst in the league especially since Christmas. They have given up at least two power play goals in each of the last three road games; at least one in each of the last eleven and, since December 19th at least one in 20 of 23 games on the road. Over the same span the Canadiens power play has produced ten goals which makes the special teams minus-18. On-ice personnel may be part of the problem, but somebody should also take a hard look at those responsible for coaching both special teams.
….We saw some good things out of Jonathan Drouin again in this game. There’s lots of skill there but it doesn’t seem to produce much. He did score that late goal in the first period but again his game was up and down. First time in a while he’s been on the minus side in faceoffs. He won only 43% but most of them were against Sidney Crosby so he gets a pass on that. Long term, it looks like we will be going through the same developmental process with Drouin that we faced with Alex Galchenyuk.
…..Might say the same thing about Nikita Scherbak. The kid has an eye for the net. His breakaway goal was a beauty. Can’t imagine he’ll be seeing much of the city of Laval in the future.
….Have no idea where we’re going with Jacob de la Rose. One day you think he has some kind of NHL future. The next he’s a write-off. This was one of his better nights. He scored in this game and did some good things including leading the Canadiens with eight hits and winning 58% of his faceoffs. Next game….who knows?
….Brendan Gallagher led the Canadiens with five shots on goal. Nothing changes much in that department. One of those chances was on his failed penalty shot.
….The defense pairing of Jordie Benn and Brett Lernout were each plus-2 in the game.
….Mike Reilly is clearly the best skater on the Canadiens defense right now. His end to end rushes, and he had a couple in this game, are fun to watch.
….Noah Juulsen led the defense with six hits.
….On the official scoresheet the Canadiens were listed as having given the puck away only 6 times. That was very generous of their statisticians.
Buffalo is next. The Canadiens have now lost 19 of their last 21 road games. With that kind of record, Friday night’s game against the lowly Sabres becomes a tough test. After that it’s Washington Saturday night at the Bell Centre. Thankfully, only eight games remaining.