But there are still hangovers from last year’s team echoing around the Bell Centre and they came home to roost in Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Stars.
Familiar issues such as a lack of scoring touch, poor special team results, untimely and bad penalties and a fragile team psyche that lets down at inopportune moments.
The work of the Canadiens special teams spelled the difference in this game. The Canadiens failed to produce on their power play and a penalty shot.
Dallas scored a power play goal, another that goes in the books as a non-PPG but was scored seconds after a penalty expired. And they gave up a shorthanded goal. That accounts for the three goals that Carey Price gave up while he was in the net. Reality is, the Canadiens are giving up almost one power play goal per game (9 in 11 games).
In the meantime, the Canadiens had 6:23 of power play time and seldom posed a threat.
Once again the Canadiens speed showed up in the first period and the statistics told the story. Shots were 10-3. Shot attempts at 22-6. But nothing to show for it.
Ten seconds into the second period Phillip Danault was handed a slashing penalty. Thirty-eight seconds into the Dallas power play, Artturi Lehkonen got a partial breakaway, was fouled and was handed a penalty shot. He failed when Ben Bishop closed the five-hole on him.
And then Dallas scored their power play goal.
From that point on, the Canadiens were a different team. We’ve seen periods like their second period a few times this season. In the final 15 minutes of the period the Stars took ownership and capitalized again when Nicolas Deslauriers took a hooking penalty which led to the game winning goal.
As usual with most restraining fouls, the Deslauriers penalty which led to the second Dallas goal was the result of trying to catch up to an opponent. It was another penalty taken by a fourth liner which, considering their limited ice time, is becoming a chronic issue.
In my view, equally noteworthy was that mess Max Domi got himself into with seven minutes left. The score was 3-1 with the Canadiens back in their skating game when Roman Polak threw to him to the ice for which he was going to be assessed a roughing minor. Domi erased the penalty with a retaliatory cross check and then put the Canadiens shorthanded by adding unsportsmanlike penalty putting the Canadiens shorthanded. We’ve seen this type of stuff before with Domi including that tripping call on Bishop 200 feet from the Canadiens net earlier in the same period. Not what you want from a productive centre.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….As usual, Brendan Gallagher gave the fans their money’s worth. His goal was typical of almost every one he has ever scored. He sped out of the zone with the puck, dropped it off to Tomas Tatar as he hit the line and headed for the net where he chipped the puck over Bishop in a goalmouth pileup. Seems like every Gallagher goal is reviewed. He survived the review and now has seven goals in eleven games.
….We’ll have to wait to see how badly damaged Paul Byron is. He left the game in the third period with a “lower body” injury of some sort.
….I thought Joel Armia was good at times but the good was mixed with the bad. He was criticized for losing the puck leading to Dallas’ first goal but the Canadiens defence was pretty weak in the succeeding sequence. He took a bad offensive zone tripping penalty in the offensive zone. Armia also led the Canadiens with five shots on goal (of eight taken), recorded five hits and three takeaways.
….Charles Hudon was moved up to the third line with the Byron injury and looked better for it. That brings up a personnel issue surrounding the fourth line. Claude Julien has to find a way to get both Hudon and Nikita Scherbak in the lineup. Neither is suited for the grinder work required of a fourth liner. UPDATE – Scherbak has been sent to Lavak on a 14 day conditioning stint.
This was the first of five games in an eight day period. We’ll find out a lot about this team between now and next Tuesday.
They’ll play Washington on Thursday followed by three games in four nights – Tampa on Saturday and then on the road for the Islanders in Brooklyn Monday and the Rangers in Manhattan on Tuesday.