Canadiens fans are mostly left analyzing the team’s future via it’s youth, with some attention to newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk. We’ll get to him in a moment.
With this loss the Canadiens drop to 25th in the league standings, which is deep into draft lottery territory.
To Montreal fans home ice has become essentially meaningless. Dating back to late November the Canadiens have won only two of thirteen home games (2-7-4). It’s not that they’ve packed in their season. In fact, even in losing they’ve shown intensity. Ultimately though, they are crippled by an offense that is a brick shy on most nights. Witness is that fact that eleven of the last thirteen home game were decided by a single goal including each of the last six.
So we move on with an eye only on the future.
Considering the fact that the Los Angeles Kings completely gave up on Ilya Kovalchuk after a game at the Bell Centre on November ninth, it’s best to take his presence in a Canadiens uniform one game at a time. That noted; his debut was a pretty good one. He had a slow start which was understandable after sitting in league press-boxes for almost two months and participating in one option practice in the Canadiens uniform. By the second period his legs were under him and in the third period he had three terrific scoring chances. In the second period eh won a board battle that paved the way to the Canadiens first goal and then assisted on the Canadiens second goal. Kovalchuk definitely had the most impressive statistical line in the game including 19:25 ice time; a team leading 4 shots on goal and six hits, which also led the team. The expectations bar is set pretty low for Kovalchuk. At least for one game, he played like he had something to prove.
It was hardly a revenge game for Ben Chiarot. After all it was his decision to leave the Winnipeg Jets as an unrestricted free agent last July. Still it must have felt pretty good to record the first two goal game of his career against them. Both goals were impressive. The first on a hard slap shot, the second on a surprising wrist shot. He has seven goals this season, two more than his previous career high.
THE ROOKIE WATCH
Rookie mistakes hurt the Canadiens in this game. Nick Suzuki’s soft pass to Tomas Tatar on second period power play led to a two-man breakaway and the first Winnipeg goal. And Cale Fleury coughed up the puck at the Jets blueline alloiwng Andrew Copp to score what turned out to be the game winner. Carey Price could have looked better on it, but it was still a clean breakaway.
Of the three rookies in the game Ryan Poehling was the most mistake-free but he is now 16 games into his season without a single point.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Among the forwards, only Max Domi drew more ice time than Kovalchuk’ 19:25 which included 2:28 on the power play.
….Price may have liked the winning goal back but, for the second game in a row he had a strong night highlighted by stopping Kyle Connor off a quick goalmouth pass on a 2-on-1 late in the second period.
….Suzuki also spent some time in the quiet room after taking a blind side hit from Winnipeg defenseman Tucker Poolman that probably should have been called for interference. He returned to the game in the third period.
….Jesperi Kotkaniemi used his size in this game, which we don’t see often enough. He was given four hits. They were not cheap hits. In each instance the check resulted in a Winnipeg turnover which is what body checking is supposed to be all about.
….As we expected might happen after the Pittsburgh game, Marco Scandella was moved up to play with Jeff Petry replacing Victor Mete. He finished with 22:28 ice time which was more than both Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot.
….Brendan Gallagher may be close to returning to the lineup from that concussion. Claude Julien announced that he was making the trip to Detroit but would not play.
The Canadiens will play the Red Wings in Detroit Tuesday night, their second game in twenty-four hours. Considering where they are in the standings it makes little sense to play Carey Price for the second night in a row, so expect Charlie Lindgren in goal. The Canadiens have already lost twice to the league’s worst team. They will then return home face to Edmonton Thursday before meeting the Senators in Ottawa Saturday. That will be their fifth game in eight days.