Tuesday night in Columbus the Canadiens offense effort was pretty good although lacking in results. On the defensive side it was not very good. And they gave up five goals to a team that has been having trouble scoring two per game.
I don’t know we should read much into the loss. It was only the Canadiens first loss in regulation time in the last five games. And the game was in Columbus where the Canadiens have lost six of the last seven over the last five seasons. But, it should also be said that this was their second loss in a row against beatable opposition. We can only imagine what those lost points might mean at the end of the season.
Claude Julien had some success over the last week by pairing Ben Chiarot with Shea Weber and Victor Mete with Jeff Petry. He decided to switch it around for this game, putting Chiarot with Petry and re-uniting Mete and Weber. It didn’t work out very well, especially for Chiarot who’s game can be generously called a mixed bag. Early in the second period he won a board battle and set up Joel Armia to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead. Before the period was over he was stripped of the puck for the Blue Jackets tying goal. He was on the ice for three of the five Columbus goals and looked completely disorganized on all three of them. In hindsight pairing of Petry/Chiarot turned out to be a bad idea. As an aside, Chiarot has been on the ice for eight of the last 12 goals scored against the Canadiens. Not all have been his fault, but he shoulders a lot of blame in this game.
After a series of very good performances, I don’t think Carey Price was particularly good in Columbus. Not that he was terrible. He just wasn’t up to what we were seeing the last two weeks. And the the Blue Jackets game winning goal was something else. A hard shot by Emil Bemstrom hit the glass behind Price who for some reason turned 180 degrees to face the rebound which hit him in the chest protector and bounced into the net. Whatever the Canadiens were doing right up to that point disappeared. They weren’t worth a damn the rest of the game and Columbus tacked on two more before it was over.
PUCK LUCK GONE
If there is one thing the Canadiens can always count on it’s an all-out effort from Brendan Gallagher. Usually his effort is rewarded. This night if he had any luck it was no luck at all. By game’s end Gallagher had at least five opportunities to score. Everything went wrong. He either missed the net, was checked at the last instant or was knocked flat by the Columbus defense or, as in the first ten seconds of the game, the goaltender was brilliant. Gallagher was credited with only two shots on goal. And no points. But, as we mentioned at the outset, there are two sides of the game of hockey and Gallagher, Danault and Tatar were very good defensively.
Long term injuries to Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron have thrown a monkey wrench into Claude Julien’s plans. His most notable adjustment up front was moving Max Domi back to the left wing he occupied in his junior and Arizona days and moving Nick Suzuki to center. The bar is low, but there was a notable improvement in communication between the two than Saturday against the Devils. The best part of that line however was Joel Armia who seems to have lost much of that early season scoring touch but excels in every other part of the game. Armia did score the game’s first goal.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….That was a pretty cheap penalty called on Max Domi in the third period. After going 18 games without a penalty, he was in the penalty box for an important goal for the second time in the last two. This one gave the Blue Jackets a two goal lead with eight minutes left.
….And we have to mention the penalty killing. Still 30th in the league. The Canadiens have given up almost one power play goal per game this season – 19 in 21 games.
….With the injuries, we are going to need more offense from Artturi Lehkonen. He was much better in that department against Columbus. His night included his 3rd goal of the season and four shots on goal.
….While Lehkonen was good, his center Jesperi Kotkaniemi continued what is a season-long struggle to get his game in shape. No points his last six games now and not even coming close most of the time. We have to keep reminding ourselves he’s only 19.
The Canadiens return home to play the Senators to complete their second set of back to back games in six days. The Senators are coming off a win over Detroit Tuesday night, so they won’t be fresh either. No excuses. The New York Rangers will be at the Bell Centre Saturday night.