The Canadiens finish their opening road trip of the season with three of a possible four points.
Each of the Canadiens lines contributed at least a goal. Gallagher, Armia and Hudon also scored. The Canadiens outshot Pittsburgh 29-22.
SPEED AND MORE SPEED
The Canadiens have always been noted for their speed. This version of the team has made teams that have their own speed look slow.
Team speed accounted for four of the five goals, two of them by the original speedster Paul Byron. But the early success is not only based on speed but quickness. Pittsburgh could find no solution for the way the Canadiens’ puck movement from their own end and through the neutral zone. Once again the most improved player in that department is Mike Reilly who has found a way to channel his speed under the new coaching system.
How often in recent years have we seen the Canadiens try to sit on a comfortable lead and find themselves in a struggle at game’s end. Pittsburgh came from behind to win in all three meetings last season. With a 4-1 lead after two periods, this version of the team wasn’t about to go into prevent mode. They closed it out by outshooting the Penguins 14-3 in the third period.
We’re all surprised at how quickly Jesperi Kotkaniemi has picked things up in his first month on this side of the Atlantic.
He had another good night that included two excellent chances to record his first NHL goal.
One thing missing in his game was faceoffs (he won 1 of 7 vs. Toronto). So after regular practice in Pittsburgh Friday
Tomas Plekanec, Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw held a special faceoff schooling session with him. Result – Kotkiemi won 6 of 9 faceoffs against the Penguins.
We’ve gone through two whole seasons of trying to place the square peg (Galchenyuk & Drouin) in the round centre ice hole. So one could be forgiven for treating the Max Domi conversion to centre with skepticism.
This one seems to be working. Domi’s all out speed and effort behind the net including a diving poke pass set up Byron’s second goal. In two games he has shown more playmaking ability at centre than the two years of Galchenyuk and Drouin combined.
If you haven’t noticed, all three of his points to date are primary assists.
Conventional wisdom said, considering the radical off-season changes, Carey Price was going to have to stand on his head if the Canadiens were going win any games at all. Carey gave up just one goal in the game and had to deal with a couple of tense moments in the game and a couple of goalposts. His biggest moment came with five seconds remaining in the second period when he stopped Bryan Rust on a breakaway with the score 4-1. But all things considered it wasn’t a really difficult night for him. Price stopped only three shots in the third period. Notable stat: Price made 21 saves in the game. His defence blocked 22 shots
There are two key stats often quoted by the advanced statistics crowd; Corsi and Fenwick numbers.
They told vastly different stories in this game. The Corsi possession numbers had the Penguins leading the 54.32% to 45.68. The Fenwicks told a completely different story with the Canadiens controlling the offence 54.39% to 45.61. The difference is blocked shots. Fenwicks take the blocked shots out of the equation because they consider blocking a shot a skill not a random event. In this game the Canadiens blocked 22 shots; the Penguins blocked only 7. Thereby hangs the difference. Only four of the Canadiens eighteen skaters failed to block a shot.
THE DOWN SIDE
It’s hard after a team effort like this one to dwell on the negative but what about Jonathan Drouin? For the second straight game he was a non-factor or more bluntly put, he was a negative factor. In his first shift he made a sloppy pass across his own blue line that was picked off and could have led to an early game-changing disaster. It wasn’t the only time in the game where his play was lackadaisical.
And he has to get over his days in Halifax where he could stick handle through an entire team and score. It just doesn’t happen in today’s NHL. Drouin was one of only two Canadiens forwards who didn’t register a shot on goal.
O’Reilly led the Canadiens in ice time at 22:27. Tomas Tatar led with five shots on goal. Noah Juulsen had five hits. Benn, O’Reilly and Byron recorded three blocked shots each.
The Canadiens chartered home after the game. They’ll wait five days until their home opener next Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings. The Penguins will get another shot at the Canadiens next Saturday at the Bell Centre.