Thursday marked the third of the eight scheduled pre-season games along with the return of what can only be described as the lesser of the two squads Claude Julien has put together and it showed with a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Devils. If the Canadiens roster failed to spark much interest, one could easily be interested in the presence of Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on the opposition bench.
To defend the claim of a lesser squad, the Devils came out strong, getting on the board 47 seconds into the game. Mirco Mueller received the puck off a clean faceoff win and put it on net to beat Carey Price after a Joe Morrow deflection. The Devils spent much of the period in the Montreal zone as the Hab defenders simply could not make a pass to allow a controlled zone exit. The highlight of the periods for the Canadiens included a good pinch by Petry which gave him a scoring chance and a good penalty kill by Michael McCarron and Torrey Mitchell. Brett Lernout had a difficult period after a good game on Monday. Then again, it’s hard to make a positive impression when you’re supposed to be the defensive guy and the puck mover is Morrow making terrible passes and even dumber pinches. Finally, Nikita Scherbak needs to stop skating by plays. He gets some bounces and can’t take advantage of any of them because he never stops skating by the play in question.
The Habs attempted to compete in the second as they came out skating, luring the Devils to the penalty box. Then Morrow decided not to skate on the power play, forcing Eric Gelinas to take what was a good penalty under the circumstances of having Taylor Hall barrelling in alone on Carey Price. Soon after, Montreal would be granted a second man advantage. The top line got some zone time with Alex Galchenyuk looking dangerous. This was quickly followed by a nice pass by Morrow to Gelinas who put his rocket of a shot on full display to even the scoring. The Devils were quick to respond to the goal as they completely smothered the Canadiens in the minutes that followed the goal. This would eventually lead to the Devils getting the lead back. Phillip Danault lost a defensive zone draw and then Jakub Jerabek lost a positioning battle in front of the net to Hischier who scored off a rebound. Montreal was then awarded a glorious 5-on-3 opportunity but couldn’t capitalize as the lack of hockey IQ and soft hands were on full display as Montreal simply did not move the puck around quick enough to move the defenders. The Habs would eventually settle for a series of odd angle shots or shots with far too little traffic in front of the net.
The Canadiens once again came out skating in the 3rd period, committing to a more open style of play to tie the game. This created some quality chances at both ends of the ice. In the end, this particular lineup simply lacked finished and the Devils would put the game away. Morrow took a high-sticking penalty; on the penalty kill, Jacob de la Rose inexplicably came down to cover a player Lernout was near while Zach Redmond checked air, allowing Jesper Bratt to put the game out of reach. If nothing else, McCarron and Mitchell proved to be an effective duo on the penalty kill all night long.
1: Galchenyuk Needs Talent
Let’s start by stating the obvious: Alex Galchenyuk has not looked good during this training camp. In fact, this might be the least involved this player has ever been. Now that it’s been said, can everyone take a deep breath and understand the reality that this is a player Montreal needs to be productive. Jumping down his throat after two pre-season games is not a positive reaction, even less so because everyone is in love with newcomers Jonathan Drouin and Charles Hudon. Galchenyuk is still an important piece here, and his need to get going will be largely important if the Habs want to make some noise in the East. Being completely realistic, what can be concluded by this camp is that while Galchenyuk is a skilled player, he isn’t the guy who makes those around him better. He needs to play with skilled players to shine. No disrespect to either of Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher, who are incredible hustle players, but the skill and offensive leadership is lacking on this line, and therefore the line is struggling.
2: Time for Some Cuts?
By now, it has become painfully obvious that some players simply aren’t ready to take the next step and play for the Montreal Canadiens. If Claude Julien is trying to get a good look at a fair portion of his actual squad in the last two games of camp, then the next three games need to be used to make final decisions as to what that club will look like. This means returning many players that are presently in Montreal to Laval (and not just those on minor league deals). Seeing as how the second assembled team is likely to get another game before the cuts take place, the required news release might wait until Sunday morning. Here are the skaters I would keep around:
With current injuries, perhaps de la Rose and Gelinas could get courtesy last chances before a final decision is made on them.