Saturday’s Original Six Saturday night matchup had red flags all over it. The Canadiens had won four in a row and appeared to be surfing on a wave of positivity that realistically will come crashing down at some point. On the other hand, the Red Wings were losers of six in a row and they had to be feeling the pressure to perform after coach Jeff Blashill was heavily critical of his group after Thursday’s contest. None of these fears would materialize as Montreal were once again ready to go as they extended the win streak to five to confirm their presence in the early season playoff picture. In what ended up being a laugher, Montreal skated to a 10-1 win, scoring 16 goals in the two games versus the Red Wings this week.
From the opening faceoff, it appeared evident that the Canadiens were hungrier for a win on this night. After an opening five minutes controlled by the Canadiens, Jordie Benn bobbled a zone exit. The puck luckily found Paul Byron on the opposite wing who chipped the puck past the several Wings. As is often the case, Byron won the race to the puck and was off to a breakaway that he shelved on Petr Mrazek. The goal really gave the Habs momentum as 32 seconds later, the Wings were soft on a zone exit which allowed the Montreal fourth line to establish the forecheck. After a strong play by Daniel Carr to keep the puck deep, Byron Froese cycled the puck and found Nicolas Deslauriers who one-timed it home for a quick 2-0 lead.
This one-sided play continued as Froese, Max Pacioretty, Victor Mete, and Jeff Petry all missed some good chances to extend their lead further before the midway point of the period. Near this same midway point, Gustav Nyquist was sent to the box for an offensive zone tripping call. Much like Thursday, Detroit was able to take advantage of strange decisions by the Habs during the man advantage to get the better scoring chances of the two-minute sequence. In the final eight minutes of the period, Detroit showed signs of life, forcing Carey Price to make some important saves to keep them at bay.
The second period started with a great first shift by the Red Wings. After this first shift, Byron decided that he preferred the narrative of the first. He chipped a puck past Niklas Kronwall to exit the defensive zone and skated past both defenders for another breakaway and a similar looking second goal to extend the lead to three.
Immediately following the goal, David Schlemko was guilty of a bad change which forced Phillip Danault to take a hooking penalty. After Detroit was quite successful Thursday on the power play, the Habs had different ideas on this night. After the Wings were sloppy in entering the Montreal zone, Deslauriers broke out on a 2-on-1 where he found a streaking Jacob de la Rose to make it 4-0.
Near the midway point of the period, Detroit started to push back and attempt to get back into the game. Just when it looked like the Wings were going to take control for a bit, Montreal was able to create havoc in the Detroit zone which ended up with both Pacioretty and Nyquist being sent to the penalty box. Montreal used their speed on the four-on-four which caused Trevor Daley to take a penalty. On the ensuing 4-on-3 man-advantage, Alex Galchenyuk and Shea Weber played catch on the blueline and hypnotized the defenders. With the forwards cheating high, the puck was sent down low to Charles Hudon who walked out and fired one home to chase Mrazek from the game.
Jimmy Howard had to shine quickly as Galchenyuk embarrassed Daley only to be stopped by the new goaltender. Seconds later, Howard would fail his second test as de la Rose won a draw to Galchenyuk, who fumbled the puck. Byron found it and fired it through a maze of bodies to complete his first career hat-trick. Deslauriers didn’t want to be outdone and came right back on the attack. Unfortunately for him, he whiffed on his one-timer attempt, and the score remained 6-0 after two periods.
Montreal continued to humiliate the Wings to start the third. With the puck coming back to Mike Green on the blue line, the puck took a bounce to send Montreal in 3-on-Howard. Gallagher made no mistake to make the score 7-0. Five minutes later, Carr and Deslauriers got back in on the forecheck and won the battle. Deslauriers sent the puck to the blueline where Jordie Benn took his time to score his third of the season on a slap shot.
Price’s shutout bid would be ruined at the midway point of the period as Anthanasiou dangled Karl Alzner and took the puck to the net to find his shot trickle past Price. Carr apparently didn’t appreciate the Red Wings goal as he got sprung on his own breakaway a few minutes later, making the score 9-1. This was obviously the plan all along as the Habs really wanted to honour the 22-year anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Canadiens history as Patrick Roy was forced to stay in the net for nine goals against in his last game wearing the uniform. Back to the action as the scoring was not yet over. Montreal ended the scoring as with 3:34 to play, Danault found Shaw at the top of the zone who put one on net which appeared to surprise Howard to make it 10-1.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars Of The Night
1st Star – Paul Byron
Byron used his biggest asset in his speed to put the Wings on their heels early. He scored his third when a lucky bounce found him in the slot. I’m reminded of the adage here that one creates his own luck; in this case, Byron definitely deserved that bounce. Consider that he started the season on the fourth line despite coming off a 20-goal campaign, never complained, kept working hard, and earned his way back up the lineup. Here’s hoping he remains in a scoring role where he can continue to utilize his speed to its most effective usage.
Stats: 3 goals, +3, 4 shots, 14:04 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Nicolas Deslauriers
When the team announced the call-up of Nicolas Deslauriers on November 15th, I was somewhat baffled by what the team could possibly want from a goon. 17 days later, I must admit that Deslauriers has grown on me. He’s a huge body that can skate, doesn’t cheat in positioning, and appears to be rather intelligent on his forecheck decision making. If, like tonight, he starts to contribute offensively from time to time, this is going to look quite excellent on Bergevin’s resume, as a player he acquired for so little. (Deslauriers was acquired October 4th from the Buffalo Sabres for defenceman Zach Redmond)
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +4, 2 shots, 4 hits, 12:29 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Alex Galchenyuk
If Galchenyuk was waiting for some confidence to get his game going, tonight was a step in the right direction. It was his first career four-point game and if not for some nice stops by both Howard and Mrazek at his expense, he could have easily chipped in with a few goals as well. He’s looked progressively better since Byron has been on this line; if he can return to form, this would create three very dangerous lines on the team and that’s without Artturi Lehkonen in the lineup.
Stats: 4 assists, +3, 3 shots, 15 :24 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Jacob de la Rose
Everyone rolled their eyes when it was announced that de la Rose would be replacing Jonathan Drouin on the line with Galchenyuk and Byron, and yet this line has scored five goals in their two games together. I’m not advocating that he should remain here once Drouin is ready but simply that perhaps we as a fanbase have been unjustly critical of this player who is usually asked to play a very different role on the team as the fourth line centre.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +4, 1 shot, 1 hit, 13:39 T.O.I.