It’s that age-old chicken/egg question. Were the Canadiens that good in their 4-0 win or was Minnesota that bad?

Respectfully I submit, that Minnesota was bad. And not surprisingly bad. They are old and slow and their roster is filled with bad contracts.  It didn’t help that the Wild were also playing their third road game in four nights.  And now their record is 1-6-0 to start the season.

For the Canadiens all it took was those three goals in the span of 4:46 late in the first period. The rest of the game Minnesota managed only 11 shots on goal, making Carey Price’s 45th career shutout a walk in the park.

THE GORILLA OFF HIS BACK

Tuesday night against Tampa much criticism was heaped on the shoulder pads of Victor Mete from myself included. Forty-eight hours later was really good. His 113th career shot on goal finally ended a 127 game goal scoring drought, the longest among current players in the league.

For what it’s worth, it was also the game winner. But more than that, unlike the Tuesday’s game, he took care of business on defense which is his primary role while also moving the puck confidently. His timing on his milestone goal was perfect, moving deep into the Tampa end to collect Nick Cousin’s pass-out. A redeptive first-star performance on the heals a messy effort earlier in the week.

ANOTHER FIRST

Like Mete, Nick Suzuki had his problems against Tampa.  Eventually he landed on the fourth line.  It seemed logical to me that, with the veteran Nick Cousins coming off the injury list Suzuki would find himself in the press box. To my surprise it was Jordan Weal who got the night off.  Suzuki did remain on the fourth line as Nate Thompson’s right winger.  Unlike Mete, it took Suzuki only seven games to get in the goalscoring column. Nice goal too. Slick backhand in traffic at the side of the net.  I would thing the goal earned him a reprieve from a seat in the press box.  At least for now.

POSTIVE INFLUENCE

Let’s get back to that chicken/egg thing we were talking about.

To wit:  Is Jonathan Drouin making Joel Armia the Canadiens leading goalscorer or is Armia’s attention to the nitty-gritty details influencing Drouin’s once notorious lack of interest in the defensive aspect of the game.  Worthy talking points over a beer sometime.

Armia’s power play goal was his fourth in seven games from a player who’s career high is the 13 he scored last season.  It was Drouin who set him up.  We’ve long been puzzled by Armia’s lack of goal production. He’s always had the shot but has always been reluctant to use it.  Not so far this year.  Not only is he averaging 3 shots on goal a game, he’s been scoring some really nice goals including this one when he he took Drouin’s pass and rifled the puck up under the crossbar. That kind of goal takes skill.

As for Drouin, it’s now at least a point in six of the seven games so far.  And finally, in his sixth NHL season, nobody is complaining about his lack of attention to defense.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

…..Cale Fleury, the Canadiens other rookie, returned to the lineup after sitting out the last four games. Paired with Ben Chiarot, Fleury wasn’t as overwhelmed as he was in his first two NHL games. The fact that his ice time was 16:38 indicated that Claude Julien was also happy with what he was seeing.

….We all understand that Brendan Gallagher never quits. His goal could be held up as yet another example. All alone in the Minnesota end with the Canadiens in the middle of a line change he stole the puck from a pretty good defenseman in Matt Dumba and scored the fourth goal unassisted.

….The Armia power play goal was the Canadiens 6th in 25 advantages. That’s a 23% success rate. They now have a power play goal in six of the season’s seven games to date.

…..According to naturalstattrick.com, Carey Price had to deal with only two high danger scoring chances. The Canadiens had eight.

…..From the scoresheet – Gallagher led the Canadiens with 11 shot attempts with six of them on-goal.  In seven games Gallagher already leads with 30 shots on goal.

Cale Fleury led with four hits. Nate Thompson won 75% of his faceoffs (6 of 8). As usual Phillip Danault took the lions share of faceoffs – 23 of the game’s 48 – winning 52%.

MOVING ON

The Canadiens will practice Friday at their Brossard facility and then travel to St. Louis where they’ll meet the Blues for the second time in a week, Saturday afternoon at 3.00. Sunday at 5:00 they’ll see the Wild again in St. Paul. One can only wonder if there might be a Minnesota coaching change between now and then. Next week the Canadiens will be home for two games – San Jose Thursday and Toronto Saturday.