GAME #69 – WEST COAST BLUES – Anaheim-8 Canadiens-2 (March 8, 2019)

Mar 9th, 2019 | By | Category: Canadiens, Canadiens Game Story, Latest News

For teams struggling to squeeze into the playoffs, every play, every goal and every coaching decision is subject to intense scrutiny and, more often than not, heavy second guessing.

For the Canadiens fan base, the second-guess du jour will be Claude Julien‘s decision to play Antti Niemi in Thursday night’s game at San Jose, leaving Carey Price to face Anaheim Friday night.

The second guessers have a point. In San Jose, the Canadiens put in one of their strongest road games of the year but the under-utilized Niemi let in two terrible early goals forcing his teammates to unsuccessfully play catch-up the rest of the night.

Twenty -four hours later it was Carey Price backstopping teammates who playing their second game in 24 hours and third road game in four nights. Predictably, after a fairly good start, they ran out of gas. Anaheim scored the last five goals in an 8-2 win.

HANGING BY A THREAD

The Canadiens continue to cling to that second wild card berth despite their ninth loss in their last fourteen games. They’re tied with Carolina who hold the first wild card berth and they are two points ahead of the ninth place Columbus Blue Jackets. Both of those teams now have two games in hand and the Canadiens face a tough season-ending schedule with eight of the thirteen games against teams already in the playoffs or fighting for a berth and five of those games on the road. And if somehow they wind up in a tie for that final playoff slot, all of the tie-breakers favour the other teams.

FLU BUG UPHEAVAL

Tomas Tatar came down with an untimely flu bug. It forced Claude Julien to shuffle three of his four lines. Jonathan Drouin, who was being hidden on the third line, was back up with Danault and Gallagher. Jesperi Kotkaniemi came back in the lineup which moved Jordan Weal to his wing along with Artturi Lehkonen who came up from the fourth line. Joel Armia dropped down to the fourth line with Thompson and Weise. Julien also replaced Brett Kulak with Mike Reilly. I can’t say any of the moves produced positive results. Drouin was typically ineffective. Armia played one of his worst games on the fourth line. The Kotkaniemi line was minus-3.

THE CAPTAIN

It might not be saying much but Shea Weber was the best part of a bad night.  He was weak on the fourth goal and found himself where he found floundering around on the ice on the sixth one but early in the game he was pretty steady defensively.  . On offense he was back to his rocket-launching best. He scored the Canadiens second goal on one of them. Ultimately Weber attempted nine shots. Seven of them were on John Gibson in the Anaheim nets. After a slump that had many of us questioning his health, Weber has re-established his game over the last ten days.

SPEEDSTER

Paul Byron was another who had recently been looking weighed down to some kind of physical problem. He was flying against the Ducks. He opened the Canadiens scoring on a rebound off Andrew Shaw‘s backhand and missed a second goal when he put the puck in the net a half second after the second period ended. The only intact line was Domi/Byron/Shaw. Co-incidentally they were the Canadiens best. Domi and Byron were the only members of the team that weren’t on the ‘minus’ side of the defensive ratings.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

…..After the loss to Anaheim sportsclubstats.com now lists the Canadiens with only a 52% chance of making the playoffs, compared with the Friday morning rating of 60%.  Among the three teams around them, Pittsburgh is considered a 97.3% chance at the playoffs; Carolina @ 84.5% and Columbus 60.7%.

…. Victor Mete was the Canadiens best defenceman in San Jose Thursday. He had a rough night in Anaheim. Mete’s lack of size was a major factor against the more imposing Duck forwards who seemed to target him rather than deal with the more imposing Weber.

….Carey Price let in 8 goals on 29 Anaheim shots. He didn’t get much help early in the game. In the second half of the game with a comeback possibility unlikely, he seemed to lose his concentration. Outside of Weber, not one member of the defence in front of Price could feel good about the support they gave Price..

….One could point to a terrible four-minute high sticking penalty taken by Jordie Benn during a faceoff as the turning point of the game. The Canadiens had narrowed the score to 2-1 late in the first period. The Ducks scored on their power play to re-open a two goal lead and went on to score six of the next seven goals.

….Thanks to Weber, the Canadiens power play had a few good moments. It produced 10 shots and finished 1-for-6.

….Phillip Danault won 12 of 16 faceoffs (75%).

….It was the Canadiens fifth straight loss at Anaheim. Over the last six years the Canadiens record in California is 3-13-2.

MOVING ON

The Canadiens return to Montreal Sunday. They’ll take Monday off and start their stretch drive at the Bell Centre against Detroit Tuesday. Then it’s Thursday against the Islanders in New York and back home to face Chicago next Saturday. The Canadiens just completed a stretch of seven of eight on the road during which they were 3-5-0. Seven of their thirteen remaining games will be played at the Bell Centre.

One Comment to “GAME #69 – WEST COAST BLUES – Anaheim-8 Canadiens-2 (March 8, 2019)”

  1. Andrew in NDG says:

    Funny Ron, but when Price let’s in 8 …it’s always stuff like “he didn’t get much help” or…or…(some other lame excuse) but the fact is when it comes to clutch games , the playoffs or late in tight games Price doesn’t pass the smell test. He constantly is on the losing end vs some of the better goalies in key games (see salary figures below) and quite frankly I don’t get this “other worldly” stuff. Where was he vs Pittsburgh or Toronto- in those mega huge 4 pointers recently? He lets in 3 goals in no time flat in Toronto and its like (read your own article Ron)… but Niemi is hung out to dry by you and countless others because he lets in a couple weak goals -this, after coming in colder than an iceberg off the east coast of Newfoundland in April (and moving just as fast lol)….You just can’t keep a backup goalie, any goalie on the bench for 3 weeks, a month-like the Habs have done this season with Niemi and expect him to perform. Am a huge fan of the Habs and love this Pacioretty and Galchenyuk-less version thereof but Habs management has to own the fact that they have totally mismanaged the integration of their backup into the schedule this season…It doesn’t matter whether a goalies’ name is Antti Niemi, Jacques Plante or Carey Price …none of them would fare very well having to come in cold that -like he had to do in SAN Jose the other night.

    And,the Habs have pretty much done this to AN since December. Up to that point he was 8 and 4 albeit with a lousy save % and GAA but up till then he was and has been quite serviceable as a backup.

    But of late it’s like, uh, sure, why not feed him to the Sharks – after riding the pine for 3 weeks – this with the Sharks playing in their own barn ….where they happen to boast the best Home record in the league?

    A recipe for disaster don’t you think?

    Of course the guys’ going to be a little shaky / nervous out of the gate till he shakes off the rust but Niemi settled down after that first 10 minutes apparently…but by that time it was too late.

    The Habs left two important points on the table in San Jose- don’t blame Niemi.

    Let me tell you something about Carey and those eight goals however – teams sag when those 3rd goals go in (when a teams’ competing hard and only have one) …yet if ” he” stands on his head, THIS team’ll find that extra gear!The Habs kept coming but Carey kept letting them in…defencemen have bad nights, teams don’t always play great in front of you but truly great goalies find a way to win it nonetheless.

    Seriously,did Geoff Molson get his money’s worth last night? Or against Pittsburgh and Toronto recently?

    Big time goalies step up to the plate in BIG games- Carey doesn’t seem to be able to and…While people are making a big fuss about Price being tied with Jacques Plante in the all time win category-at the same juncture in their respective careers in terms of games played- good old Jacques was hanging up his skates after winning over 700 games and many a Stanley Cup (5 in a row at one point!)…and yet at 31 Carey is just starting a mega lucrative 8 year contract?

    Having not won a single cup?

    With a losing playoff record?

    SCarey stuff and reason for concern don’t you think?

    OK it all doesn’t count against the cap but Carey Price is THE highest paid player in the NHL this year at 15 million yet he can’t step it up against the better teams (let alone Anaheim) and win when it counts?

    You’re not the only one wearing rose coloured glasses when it comes to Carey btw Price Ron…in that recent players poll when players were asked who “they”would want in goal for a game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals?

    Carey of course-but the fact of the matter is that he’s lost more game 7’s than he’s won!

    Until this guy shows me that he can carry THIS team on his back the way many a truly great Habs goalie have done in the past and win a Stanley Cup …take this “all world” stuff and ….

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