The Canadiens have a completely different look when they know Carey Price is on his game. There’s a confidence that comes from knowing that your goaltender is capable of covering for most of the mistakes made in front of him. It wasn’t happening through the season’s first thirty games. It’s happening now and Price’s return to form has been echoed by a rekindled confidence in the Canadiens as a whole.
Of course, coaches hate the opposition odd-man rushes that are the result of an uptick in the five-man offense the Canadiens have shown this month, but Price has been take care of most of that over his last six starts. It was especially true in Calgary Thursday night.
Price helped the Canadiens survive a shaky first period despite giving up two goals he never had a chance to stop. Importantly, he saved his best for the final act in the 4-3 overtime win in Calgary. In the third period he made four five-bell stops, two of them after Nick Suzuki had tied the game and then another in the overtime when he shutdown on Elias Lindholm’swith a .942 save clear breakaway seven seconds before Max Domi scored the winning goal.
In his last six starts Price is now 5-1-0 with a .942 save percentage and the Canadiens are well on the way to balancing the deficit created by that eight game losing streak.
The Canadiens had to come from behind twice en route to the win. It was the Canadiens fourth road win in a row and they have points in eleven of fifteen games on the road (9-5-2).
And who in his right mind would have guessed at the end of the eight game losing streak that the Canadiens would find themselves in second place in the Atlantic Division only three weeks later.
There are a lot of things to like about this game but my eyes kept returning to the play of both Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling. Suzuki’s third period game-tying goal was his team leading sixth shot in the game. Suzuki is one of those players who makes his linemates better. In terms of shot distribution and puck possession, Suzuki/Nick Cousins/Jordan Weal were the Canadiens best at 71.43%.
There is going to be a time when Paul Byron and Jonathan Drouin are going to return to the lineup and another decision will have to be made about Ryan Poehling. It’s going to be a difficult one. Poehling is getting better by the game and on this road trip has not looked out-of-place. Poehling has been a quick study. He has quickly understood that there is more to the game that scoring goals. He is now using his size to better effect. The numbers game almost dictates that he’ll get another stint in Laval but it may be his last trip to the minors.
For the second game in a row Max Domi showed signs of coming out of a season long funk that saw the confident level of last season disappear over the first two months of the schedule. Over the last two games Domi has been in recovery. How long it lasts remains to be seen but in Vancouver and again in Calgary he was finding open ice that wasn’t available to him earlier and he’s been in a strong attack mode. His overtime game-winner came from 40 feet out. First goal in twelve games and three points on the road trip so far; five in his last four games.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Another point for Shea Weber who now has two goals, four assists his last five games. Weber leads the Canadiens at plus-13 and is on pace for close to 70 points this season which, at age 34 would be a career high.
….Ben Chiarot led the Canadiens in ice time at 26:00 and was on the ice for all four Canadiens goals including, very noticeably, the overtime game winner. The fact that Julien had him out in a 3-on-3 situation speaks volumes.
….Brendan Gallagher again proved the adage that a shot on goal is never a bad play. His 15th goal was taken from an impossible angle but he squeezed it through.. Four of Gallagher’s five shots on goal were high danger scoring chances. His goal was not in that category.
….Joel Armia once again used, what was in season’s-past, was a seldom-seen quick release to score his 12th goal of the season. His career high is thirteen set last season. He’s on-track for at least 25 goals this season. Like the acquisition of Canadiens leading scorer Tomas Tatar, the Canadiens got Armia from Winnipeg in one of those salary-cap dumps in June 2018.
….Phillip Danault has influence in a game in a myriad of positive ways including faceoffs. He won 70% (16 of 23).
….During their eight game losing streak the Canadiens managed only three of sixteen available points (0-5-3). In the eight games since then they have taken down twelve of sixteen points (6-2-0). There’s still work to do to even up the losing streak. Over the last sixteen bust-boom games the Canadiens record is 6-7-3.
…..The Canadiens gave up a goal in the final minute of a period for the thirteenth time this season. This one was on a Calgary power play; the fourth power play scored on them in the last four games which harkens back to October/November when they were giving up a PPG at the rate of almost one per game.
….It’s the fifth time this season the Canadiens have come back from two goal deficits. In each instance the game wound up in overtime with the Canadiens winning three of them. Also, it’s the sixth time the Canadiens have come back after trailing at the end of the first period. Only one team has done it more often.
….Both Victor Mete and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are on the trip with the Canadiens but neither is showing signs of returning to the lineup before Christmas. Mete has missed nine games with an ankle injury; Kotkaniemi six games with a concussion.
The Canadiens will try to make it 3-0 on the road trip in Edmonton Saturday followed by Winnipeg on Monday night and then the Christmas break.