The Habs certainly made things interesting over their last couple of games against Philadelphia. Although they weren’t able to come out with the series victory, they put up a good fight overall. Here’s a look back at their final few games plus a thought on the late-series controversy.
The Week That Was
Aug. 16: Flyers 1, Canadiens 0 – The Habs showed that they were quite adept at hitting the post but unfortunately, that’s not a skill that can help a team win hockey games. An early goal off of a Jakub Voracek deflection wound up being the difference to allow the Flyers to retake the series lead.
Aug. 18: Flyers 2, Canadiens 0 – Montreal didn’t hit as many posts this time around but it didn’t matter as they were far from at their best. Michael Raffl opened the scoring early with what proved to be the winner while Philippe Myers added one in the second and both were goals that Carey Price might like back. By the end of the games, the lines were all jumbled from shift to shift but the Habs couldn’t get anything going.
Aug. 19: Canadiens 5, Flyers 3 – Facing elimination, this was a bit of a strange game. Joel Armia gave the Habs their first goal in what felt like forever but the lead was short-lived as a Jesperi Kotkaniemi boarding major gave Philadelphia a five-minute power play that they capitalized twice on. However, Armia tied it up before Brendan Gallagher scored on the power play and no, that wasn’t a typo; they actually scored with the man advantage. Hart was briefly pulled when Nick Suzuki scored but after it was called back, he stayed in the game. Suzuki did get another one though to seal the deal but Gallagher received a cross-check from Matt Niskanen that broke his jaw and set the stage for an odd tactic from the Canadiens (more on that later).
Aug. 21: Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 – This couldn’t have gotten off to much worse of a start for the Habs as they were down less than 30 seconds in and a few minutes later, the Flyers added a power play goal but it was Montreal players who directed it past Price each time. Suzuki helped bring the deficit back to one on two separate occasions including just seconds after Philly made it 3-1 on another weird goal but while they controlled the play for stretches, they couldn’t beat Carter Hart a third time and saw their postseason come to an end.
Goals: Kotkaniemi/Suzuki (4)
Assists: Jonathan Drouin (6)
Points: Drouin/Suzuki (7)
+/-: Joel Armia (+5)
PIMS: Jesperi Kotkaniemi (23)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (37)
News And Notes
– On top of suffering a broken jaw in Game 5, Brendan Gallagher was also playing through a small tear in his hip, GM Marc Bergevin noted in his end-of-season press conference.
– Of the 16 forwards that were on Montreal’s playoff roster, only Ryan Poehling failed to suit up in a game. On the flip side, four of the ten eligible defencemen on the roster didn’t suit up as Claude Julien and Kirk Muller didn’t make a single change on the back end in either series.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Suzuki – Lehkonen
Drouin – Suzuki – Armia
Domi – Kotkaniemi – Byron
Hudon – Evans – Belzile
Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Ouellet – Mete
Count me among those that thought Matt Niskanen’s suspension was a little light (I thought he’d get the rest of the series as that would have excluded him from a seventh game had it gotten there). But while many are blaming the Department of Player Safety, I blame the Montreal Canadiens.
Their public campaigning for a suspension from both acting head coach Kirk Muller and the team’s Twitter account (a promoted tweet with an exclusive video, really?) was largely unprecedented. There’s a reason for that. No other team would have done it.
Let’s look at the other side for a minute, something they clearly failed to think of. You’re George Parros. A team has now publicly campaigned to get a player suspended for a significant amount of time, going to more lengths than usual to do so. If you grant that request, you’re now setting a precedent which is dangerous as it opens up the opportunity for other teams to do the same and do that while expecting a similar outcome. How does Parros combat that? By coming in light and sending a message to the entire league in the process. Don’t skirt the process. Do it properly; the court of public opinion doesn’t matter. If you think public and media opinion matters at the NHL head office, you haven’t been paying attention close enough. It doesn’t matter and it certainly wasn’t going to start mattering here.
Had the Habs done that, I honestly think Niskanen would have been hit a bit harder but they boxed Parros into a corner. Go high and he tells the league that it’s open season to campaign through the media and social media. Of course they’re not going to do that. Someone on Montreal’s side should have figured that out pretty quickly.
Let’s say the Canadiens went the proper way and the end result was the same. Then you could release the ‘exclusive’ video and get everyone riled up and there’d be a story in there to cover about how the league had the video and still went light. But now, if they’re wondering why Niskanen only received one game, they only need to look at themselves in the mirror to wonder why. It wound up being moot in the end but here’s hoping the Habs learned their lesson for next time.