Was it the two games in twenty-four hours? Or the four games in six nights. Maybe it was the eight games in 13 days including three sets of back-to-back with travel between? Or perhaps a combination of all of those things that cau
sed the Canadiens to run out of gas after a dominant first period against Philadelphia Saturday night. Problem was the Canadiens didn’t score on any of their multiple first period chances and they became sitting ducks for the Flyers late in the second period. End of the four game winning streak, but one of those games in a long schedule that a team can rationalize and quickly forget.
The Canadiens did everything right in the first period. They outworked the Flyers; controlled 75% of the play and produced fifteen scoring chances. The only Philadelphia shot was a 182 foot dump-out by Flyer defenceman Travis Sanheim in the period’s thirteenth minute. The Canadiens lost their edge during the first intermission. They weren’t bad through the second and third periods, just not as good as they were and after giving up two goals in 1:33 late in the second period the lights went out.
Tomas Tatar had a very good night in Columbus Friday and he carried it right into this game. It was one of those nights when the puck seemed to be following him around, especially in the first period. At the end of the night he recorded four scoring chances on six shot attempts. He also led the Canaadiens in takeaways.
Don’t blame the goaltender for this one. The first of the two quick second period goals came off a rebound through traffic. 1:33 later James van Riemsdyk deflected a shot past Niemi. The way the Canadiens offence was going, there was no coming back from 2-0 in this game.
SAME SAD SONG
The Canadiens got their only power play opportunity when the game was still scoreless. Jonathan Drouin managed the only shot and it was easily handled. Claude Julien‘s reaction in his post game meeting with the media said it all. “One power play and it was a dead one.” Kind of says it all. After showing signs of getting it together the Canadiens have one shot in four power play opportunities over the last two games.
GETTING A CHANCE
Paul Byron served the second game of his three game suspension and Charles Hudon replaced him. It was only his fourth opportunity in the Canadiens last twenty-five games and a rare occasion with linemates who have a least a modicum of offensive ability (Kotkaniemi & Armia). I thought he made the most of 15:13 ice time with three shots on goal and four scoring chances. Then again, Hudon’s offense is not what’s keeping him out of the regular lineup.
….Since his return from that brief stint in Laval we’re seeing Victor Mete take a much more confident approach when it comes to joining the offense. This was his best effort in that direction yet. After 88 NHL games he’s still looking for his first goal.
….Once again the pairing of Jordie Benn and Brett Kulak had a strong game. Like Mete, Kulak shows little hesitation to rush the puck when the opportunity presents. He finished with four shots and the Canadiens second goal.
….The NHL made shots-on-goal and official statistic in the 1955-1956 season. Since then the Canadiens have prevented an opponent from getting a shot in a period four times. The Canadiens came with a 182 foot dump from deep inside the Flyers end from making it five.
….In the four games being separated from Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi has two goals and four assists. His goal was his 16th.
…..We alternate between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ Drouin. He was a ‘better’ Drouin than his absentee performance of the Columbus game. He’s capable of giving more however. Much more.
…Brendan Gallagher led the Canadiens with eight shots on goal.
The Canadiens have three days off before they face the Arizona Coyotes Wednesday at the Bell Centre. Carey Price must serve a mandatory one game suspension for not accepting an invitation to the All-Star game. It can be served either the game before or the game after the break. In other words the Arizona game or the February 2nd New Jersey game on Super Bowl weekend which is the first of back-to-back weekend games. Niemi is going to get the start in one of those games.