GAME #82 – A MAGICAL SEASON FINALE – Canadiens-6 Toronto-5 (Shootout) April 6, 2019

Apr 7th, 2019 | By | Category: Latest News

What romantic literary hack wrote this script?

It was a game in which neither team had anything to gain or lose. It turned out to be something very special.

Two weeks from his last college game, 2017 first round draft choice Ryan Poehling played not only his first NHL game, but his first game as a professional.

It was something to behold.

With the Canadiens trailing 2-0 midway through the first period, Poehling fearlessly drove to the crease and somehow managed to force a pass-out from Jordan Weal past Frederik Andersen. It was challenged of course. That’s what the analy-retentive Mike Babcock would do in a ‘nothing’ game.  Overruled!  First NHL goal on his first pro shot on goal.  As you might imagine, it brought the Bell Centre house down.

Second period, Poehling again. This time he pounced on a cross-bar rebound  to score into the open side. That was a goalscorer-style goal; quick and surgical. Two goals on two shots.  The last Canadiens rookie to score two goals in his NHL debut was John Ferguson in 1963. It tied the game 2-2.

Third period, Toronto in a 5-4 lead. Arturri Lehkonen breaks loose on a two-on-one with Poehling. Perfect pass and a rifled shot over Andersen’s glove. Tie game and the Bell Centre erupted again and the hats rained down. A hat trick debut. Could we ask for more?

Well, the fans got more. The shootout tied 1-1 after three rounds, with Domi, Gallagher or Shaw still available, Claude Julien sent out Poehling for the Canadiens fourth shot.  Calm as could be he snapped the shootout game-winner high over Andersen’s glove.

Poehling scored three goals on only three shots on goal and then added the shootout winner.  His total ice time in his first NHL game was 10:47.  

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn’t have painted a better picture.

THE OTHER SEASON DEBUT

Charlie Lindgren also started his first game. I’m hard-put to get a handle on his performance. Toronto’s two opening goals  were flukes; the first off Shea Weber‘s skate and then a high floater on a screen to make it 2-0.  On Toronto’s third goals Lindregren got tangled up and was slow across on the Nylander wraparound.  On the fourth Toronto goal, Jeff Petry flat-out went to sleep on Kasperi Kapanen.

But Lindgren also stood tall on three second period breakaways. He also stopped Kapanen with his facemask on Toronto’s final shootout attempt. 

But, along the way I never had the sense that Lindgren wasn’t totally in control of the game.  We’re so used to the way Carey Price plays that it’s perhaps unfair to be critical of lesser beings.   And it has to be said, that, after giving up that opening goal to Auston Matthews he stopped  Marner, Tavares and Kapanen in that shootout.

Next year, Lindgren will be Price’s backup.  If we can get twelve wins out of him in twenty starts or so, everyone will be happy.  

POND HOCKEY

It was hardly a masterpiece of disciplined hockey but it was certainly a lot of fun. 

There were no brownie points given for defense.  Shots only goals were 49-49. The 98 total shots is a record in a Canadiens game, breaking the old mark of 96 set at Anaheim in October 2017. (The Canadiens lost that game 6-2). All tolled there were 157 shooting attempts. The Canadiens defence blocked 21. Shea Weber led the Canadiens with eight shots; Andrew Shaw had six.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING 

….It’s apples and oranges but, the Canadiens 96 points put them ahead of Vegas and Dallas (93 points) and Colorado (90) all of whom made the Western Conference playoffs.

..Three of Poehling‘s brothers – two of whom he was played with at St. Cloud State this season, were at the game for his NHL debut, along with his parents.   Poehling was the first player in the so-called modern-era to score a hat trick in his first NHL game since Alex Smart 76 years ago (1943).  (Smart’s entire NHL career lasted eight games). 

…..Poehling came to the Canadiens with a well established college reputation for being responsible defensively.  For anyone playing close attention, it was a strong point in his game against the Leafs and something that might stand him well when he tries to make the team out of training camp in September.  His fearlessness in front of the net won’t hurt him either.  While not a career-breaker, the jury is still out on his skating which is better than average but seems sometimes awkward.  His coaches can take care of that  Along with his five-on-five work, Julien also used him as part of the PK unit during the game’s only Toronto advantage.  

…..Jordan Weal again made a strong case for an off-season Canadiens contract. He was the one who dug the puck out to set up Poehling for his first NHL goal. And he finished off a tic-tac-toe power play with his 8th goal of the season and his 4th in sixteen games with the Canadiens.

.Honorable mention could be made of the play of Max Domi in this game. Same for Joel Armia. Loosened from the shackles of his defensive responsibilities, Armia showed some pretty impressive stickhandling skills especially in the first period.

..Phillip Danault won 70% of his faceoffs (23 of 33).  Thanks to his faceoff win it took only six seconds for the Canadiens to score the Weal power play goal.

.The Canadiens finish the season with 96 points, the third largest one season improvement in the history of the team – 25 points.  They gained 33 points between the 1943 and ’44 seasons and 35 points between 1925 and ’26.  Their win total went from 25 last season to 44. 

….The end of a perfect night would have been seeing Victor Mete end his career goal scoring drought.  He had a breakaway in the overtime but Andersen stopped him.  He will go into next season with zero goals in 120 career games, the longest active goal-less streak in the entire league.  

.Jonathan Drouin was nothing to write home about, but he did draw an assist on the power play goal and he showed his skill by scoring the Canadiens first goal in the shootout. Beside that, only two shots on goal. 

….:Paul Byron sat the game out.  Wrist injury.  He hasn’t been himself recently.  Apparently the injury has hampered him for about a month.  

.The Canadiens lost 160 man-games due to injury/illness this season. Last year that figure was 377 which partially accounts for their dreadful season and the Canadiens improve.

A SUBJECTIVE VIEW OF THE SEASON PAST

Canadiens leading scorerMax Domi – 72 points in 82 games (28-44) career highs. (His previous best was 52 points and 18 goals three years ago)

Top goalscorer Brendan Gallagher (33) career high.

Most Valuable Player Carey Price – despite a November slump he carried the Canadiens down the stretch. Won the Molson Cup.

Rookie of the Year Jesperi Kotkaniemi – and not just because he was the only rookie on the team.  

Best Defensive ForwardPhillip Danault.  He really reminded me of Guy Carbonneau as he was coming into his own this season. .  Played against the league’s best centres and finished the year even in plus-minus.   

Best Defenceman – I’ll take Jeff Petry over Shea Weber. Petry carried the defence until Weber came back in December and it was Petry who shored things up when Weber’s play noticeably sagged in those games in early March.  

Biggest Surprise – It would be easy to say Domi but I’ll take Tomas Tatar. He was literally a throw-in as part of the Pacioretty trade (Vegas even had to absorb some of his contract)   He came to the Canadiens with the reputation of being inconsistent.   Turns out he was as reliable as….well Brendan Gallagher.   Career highs of 28 goals and 55 points are nothing to sneeze at.  

Biggest Disappointment Jonathan Drouin and it isn’t even close. ( distant second was the Canadiens power play).    As we’ve been saying here since February, if Drouin had come anywhere close to bringing his energy and intensity even close to the level of his innate skills  the Canadiens wouldn’t have had to battle down the stretch the way they did.   

Most Improved Player – Among the returnees I would have to go with Jordie Benn. Once Weber returned the Canadiens were able to slot him in an area where he could succeed.  As a third pairing guy his game took off.   (Could also mention the major steps taken by Brett Kulak after he arrived from Calgary, but he wasn’t with the team last year.)

Comeback of the Year –  Price or Weber could be mentioned here, but I’ll take Andrew Shaw. Returning from last season’s serious concussion issues he scored his 19th goal Saturday night in his 63rd game.  

Overachiever of the year. Brendan Gallagher. Who else?

Have a nice summer.  See you in September.

3 Comments to “GAME #82 – A MAGICAL SEASON FINALE – Canadiens-6 Toronto-5 (Shootout) April 6, 2019”

  1. BAY_bYE says:

    well Tartar and Dome were the biggest surprises and glad to sse them perform….Price was Price..the best goalie in the NHL and World.. Weber is running out of time fast and Drouin needs to be traded as he will never perform to be the greatest French Canadian Player. his defense is one of the worse in the NHL and he only plays when he feels like it..not a team player..time to trade

  2. david deVries says:

    What a way to end the season!
    Poehling was unbelievable in his first NHL game.
    I enjoyed watching a wild scoring game, it was entertaining.
    A number of players had career high years. Even if they missed the playoffs
    the team is moving in the right direction, except Drouin.

    I thought the San Jose game was the turning point in missing the playoffs.
    Julien should have started Price to continue the momentum in beating LA
    the game earlier. That one error I believe cost them the playoffs. Had they
    beat San Jose they might have also taken the Ducks later.
    Well, that is how the puck bounces.
    Thanks Ron for your insights shared on the games this season. I have enjoyed
    your web site. I was able to watch every game and appreciated your analysis.

    What a treat to hear Bob Cole announce the game. Regret, the legendary
    announcer will not be back next year. Nice tribute to him.
    I have been a Canadiens fan since the early 60’s and became a Hab’s fan
    listening to Danny Gallivan on the radio. Oh, how things have changed
    since the days of the 6 team league.

  3. Ned Stark, Warden of the North says:

    Season ender:

    Well I am looking forward to seeing Bergy and MOLSON deliver their year ender, As Bergy with Tears in his eyes tells everyone that he did everything possible to get the Habs into the playoffs. But once again it was Those Players that let the team down. If only guys like: Price, Domi, Petry, Tatar, Byron, Armia, Danault and Gally11 had played up to their expected levels. But no they chose not to give their all each game. Only our FCSS(French Canadian SuperStar) Lil Jonny Drouin and Breaking Down Badly Weber lived up to expectations as did our backstopper Niemi. …….and then Molson taking over and praising Bergy for working 4 days a week all season to ensure this team made it deep into the playoffs.

    Seriously, this Act by the bumbling duo has worn very thin each year. They both need to take off those stupid Rose Tinted glasses.

    Bergevin needs to step up and correct one of his major mistakes: the trade that brought us #92 Drouin.

    If you watched the last 3 weeks or so of the season. You saw how well the Top 2 lines were doing without Drouin weighting down one or the other lines. Instead Julien knew that to get the Habs into the playoffs he had to get Drouin away from the Top 2 lines. So he dropped him onto the 3rd line. He at once did what he always does….anchors the line into submission. He forces the other 2 teammates to play shorthanded. Watch the line out there and you see K2 and Armia carrying the puck or chasing it. But what you don’t see is Drouin anywhere in the picture. He isn’t even in the same zone as the other two. Once the whistle goes he will coast into view. He was brought in to score goals and accumulate points. He was signed to a 6 yr – $5.5M/season contract. In English that translates into a terrible waste of money and a poor value for the #1 prospect we gave up to get the French speaking Drouin.
    Lets see Drouin scored 1 goal in his last 27 games. Part of that slump according to Bergy and Julien is due to his adjusting to playing in Montreal. This is a most difficult process. Of course I have never heard of this excuse being used on any other player coming to MTL in the 50+ yrs that I have been a fan of this team.
    Bergy and his sick fixation of everything French is always better when it comes to the Habs. Well this fixation on Drouin was a huge mistake. But in Bergy’s eyes he is the 2nd coming of Gretzky. Of course I don’t mean Wayne of course.

    Yes, the off season has a lot of work ahead of it. But some questions needs to be answered prior to the draft in late June.

    1) What is wrong with Weber? you’d have to be blind to see he is a shadow of himself out there. The team of course said nothing about his health status. But he was either playing with an injured: foot, ankle or knee.
    He looked somewhat clumsy flatfotted out there. Inside our end he spent a lot of time standing at the side of Price while Mete chased all over the ice. When he attempted to rub players out along the boards they easily pushed by him because he had no strength in his base.

    2) Drouin: He has to be gone anywhere because we can’t afford a 4th liner making $5.5M/yr who can’t be bothered to play most nights.

    3) Left Defense: we need big bodied defenders who can carry the puck and shoot the puck effectively and be a strength inside our blueline. I’m sorry but Victor Mete is not that answer. He’s a nice young player. But he is not a # 1 or 2 defender. He is too, too small. It was painfully obvious watching him play inside our blueline, He can’t box players out from the front of the net and he’s easily pushed off along the boards. Sorry but he’s a 3rd pairing defender or playing in Europe.

    Also, lots of Habs fans think its guaranteed that Romanov will be skating for us next year. That’s a big if. He has 2 seasons left on his contract in the KHL. If he comes out in the 21-22 season we could be in the midst of a strike/walkout. I don’t think he wants to come over from the K to become unemployed over in North America. There is just as much a chance he resigned over their. We need some top defensive talent that can lineup for us next season.

    So we are entering the 8th draft for Bergy in June. He totally whiffed on the 1st 5 drafts because he was trying to get players that Michelle Therrien wanted: defensive types, 4th liner types that have a nudge over zero scoring ability and about the same level in offensive hockey abilities.
    However, the last 2 drafts was where we began to add proper hockey talent to the organization. We need that to continue.

    However, you can not expose these young players coming up and being on the team with Drouin. They won’t understand why their ice time is reduced, benched, Healthy scratched or demoted. for their less than satisfactory play but then seeing Drouin continue to underperform and not being held accountable for it. It gives them a confusing understanding of their worth and how there is a two tiered justice system on the team that is endorsed by the Head Coach and GM. Bergevin needs to own up to this mistake and rid the team of it. Trade Drouin and ensure that Team rules are meant for everyone and that there isn’t a 2 level system in place. There should be rules in place that Coaches not doing their job properly will be disciplined an iif required relieved of their duties.

    Its an absolute disgrace what Bergy and Julien have done to protect Drouin from accountability for his lack of play. Even worse was Julien publicly running down Kotekamei for being tired and hurting the effectiveness of the 3rd line. But an 18yr old rookie from Finland is taking the heat for not being able to carry that anchor#92. Meanwhile all season with a whirlwind of wingers on his side he was able to rack up over 30 pts and have a positive +/ – rating. Drouin had a negative rating in that category. Bergy even so far s to bring in his QHL junior Coach Dominic Ducharme to bring the most out of Drouin. I don’t know how you measure success on something like that. Drouin improved his year over year points total by a whopping…..6 points. Yup 6 whole points!!! I somehow think being on a 6yr – $5,5M/yr you had every right to expect a lot more than 6 points from a guy that played in 81 games for the most part on the 2nd or 1st lines and 1st line of the power play unit. But when the Habs needed him most in their push for the playoffs Drouin was nowhere to be seen. With a huge 1 goal in his last 27 games. I mean sulking takes a lot out of you and doesn’t leave a lot of time for scoring. and it certainly didn’t help the team any at all.

    Bergy should be fired…….7 yrs….only 3 playoff rounds won, missed 3 of the last 4 seasons in the playoffs. He is now on Year # 8 of his 5 Year Plan of building thru the Draft……..laughable!! But that type pf record would have seen him fired in 30 other organizations. But we have a totally inept owner who is happy just being friends with Bergy and sitting back sucking on a couple of warm Molsons.

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