With knowledge of Anaheim’s performance during their current road trip and their status in the league standings, what happened Tuesday night at the Bell Centre was hardly surprising. The Canadiens ran up a 3-0 first period lead and coasted home with a barely contested 4-1 victory.
Off their seventh win in the last nine games the Canadiens have now won thirty this season. Last season their win total was twenty-nine. They are one point short of equaling last season’s 67 points with twenty-eight games remaining.
CONSIDERING THE OPPOSITION
The once-competitive Ducks are truly a mess. This was their seventeenth loss their last nineteen games. The reasons for that record were there for all to see. Anaheim is a team that has lost it’s heart. But for a slight loss of concentration in the second period, the Canadiens owned them. They had fifteen high danger scoring chances to Anaheim’s six; 57% territorial advantage including 62.5% in the first period when the Canadiens pretty much put the game away with three goals.
It says something about the state of the bottom of the Western Conference that Anaheim is one of six teams within three points of Vancouver and the final wild card berth.
WHEN HE IS GOOD
We were all over Jonathan Drouin for his sad defensive work in Saturday’s loss to the Devils. He was back in the good books when he scored a spectacular overtime goal against Edmonton Sunday. An even better Drouin turned up against Anaheim. He delivered first assist on three of the Canadiens four goals. The two Brendan Gallagher goals came off quick passes from Drouin. The third was a slick against-the-flow drop behind the net for Phillip Danault. He and his linemates collected a total of seven points in the game.
It is harder and harder to ignore the contribution being made by Joel Armia. As the Canadiens were pretty much putting the Ducks away in the first period, Armia was the best player on the ice. Along with drawing the assist on Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s game-winning goal, he was credited with four shots on goal and five scoring chances, three of them high danger. And I haven’t even mentioned his defensive work, especially along the boards and on the forecheck. This was Armia’s 14th game since returning from injuy. Seems to me, with each game his performance has gone up a notch.
Tomas Tatar missed the game with a flu virus. Paul Byron has an arm injury that’s going to keep him out a week. That meant Max Domi had Charles Hudon and Matthew Peca as his wing men. The line had a lot of speed but absolutely no chemistry. In reality, despite a valiant one-man show from Domi, they were the Canadiens worst line with a possession rate of just 42%. Kind of a blown opportunity for both Hudon and Peca to move up in the depth chart.
….In his first 45 NHL games, Kotkaniemi scored four goals. With Tuesday night’s game winner he has five in the last nine games.
….From the land of obscure statistics – Kotkaniemi is the first 18 year old to score goals in three consecutive games.
….With his two goals, Gallagher has twenty-one for the season which puts him on track to equal his 31-goal total of last season. He’s still looking for his first career hat trick.
….Carey Price posted his sixth win in a row, his first six game streak since February/March 2017 . During the streak he has allowed only eight goals for a goals against average of 1.33 and a save percentage of .957.
….The Canadiens have had recent faceoff success but in this game they ran into Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler who won a combined 21 of 30. The Canadiens finished the night at 42%. Danault was at 38%. Interesting to note that Kotkaniemi (16) took more faceoffs than Danault (13).
….Off the scoresheet – Armia led with five shots on goal and eight shot attempts. Fourth liner Michael Chaput had five hits and the line had 10 of the Canadiens 25 in the game.
….The Canadiens power play had looked promising in recent games. They fell back to the same-old in this game. 0-for-3 with five shots on goal.
The Canadiens still hold third in the Atlantic Division one point behind Toronto and a point ahead of Boston.
Now it gets tough. The Canadiens wrap up their seven game home stand with Winnipeg Thursday and Toronto on Saturday. Then, after four days off they are at Nashville Thursday and back-to-back at Tampa Bay and Florida the following weekend.