Riding high off an emotional opening night win versus the heavily favoured Maple Leafs to kick off the season at the Bell Centre on Wednesday, the youthful Habs travelled to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Friday night. Detroit had quite a busy summer as they signed many veterans including Ben Chiarot and David Perron to join their own youthful squad from a season ago. They were playing their first game of the year which was also their home opener, so Montreal fans wanting a win had to hope the team wasn’t still thinking of their opening night victory because the Wings were going to be motivated. In the end, the Wings played a much better game and while Canadiens Habs were able to keep it close thanks in large part to Jake Allen, they eventually fell by a 3-0 final score.
It was unsurprising that coach Martin St. Louis kept his lineup together after Wednesday’s effort, but this meant that Jonathan Drouin, Michael Pezzetta, and newly recalled Corey Schueneman all had to wait a little longer before getting into game action. After the performance offered on this night, they will likely get that chance tomorrow. So too will Sam Montembeault as he figures to get the chance to mimic Allen’s performance on this night while the team needs to improve significantly to get back into the win column.
The start of the game saw the Red Wings fly in the face of the inexperienced Habs and the lack of experience showed more in the first few moments of this game than it did in all of Wednesday. The Canadiens were fighting the puck and Detroit was first on every loose puck. To make matters worse, Kaiden Guhle left seven minutes into the period with what appeared to be a shoulder injury but returned early in the second. Five minutes in, Arber Xhekaj was sent to the box for hooking Jakub Vrana. As the midway point of the period arrived, shots were 16-6 for the Wings which is a crazy amount in a half period. It also showed that Allen was easily the best Hab out of the gate.
Montreal skated a bit better near the midway point of the period as Cole Caufield missed a first scoring chance as he elected to shoot on an odd-man rush just before Filip Hronek committed interference to send the Habs to their first power play of the game. The Wings were extremely aggressive on their penalty kill and the Habs had no answer as Dylan Larkin had the best scoring chance of the sequence.
After a few more Allen saves, Josh Anderson took a penalty for interference in the offensive zone. The Wings second advantage had the Habs scrambling, but Allen was once again outstanding as the period ended scoreless with a 25-10 shot advantage for Detroit. Allen’s 25 saves tied a club record that he set last season.
The Habs came out a bit stronger for the second as a line that didn’t get much ice time in the first, that of Christian Dvorak, forced the Wings to take a penalty. The man advantage still couldn’t figure out the Wings’ aggressive kill, though they were at least able to get some zone time out of the ordeal. The end of the penalty marked a positive sign for the Habs as Guhle returned to the ice and immediately got a shot on net. Pace of play settled for a few minutes afterwards.
The Wings again took control in the second half of the period, but Allen continued his stellar play to help his struggling blueliners. Rem Pitlick was absolutely crunched in the defensive zone by an aggressive forechecker. The best line of the period for the Habs then went to work as Brendan Gallagher and Juraj Slafkovsky worked down low to get the Habs some much-needed offensive zone time.
With a little under four minutes to play, Nick Suzuki was assessed a tripping minor which was a terrible call. Allen once again came up huge as he even got a paddle on a wide-open shot to keep the Wings off the board. The Habs pushed in the final moments, and it once again came from the Gallagher-Slafkovsky duo, but the rookie missed the scoring chance to end the period still scoreless.
Two and a half minutes into the third period, Xhekaj made an errant pass in the neutral zone that sent the team spiralling into defensive zone chaos. While Xhekaj and Chris Wideman could not get on the same page, the Wings took advantage to finally pounce on an Allen rebound and score the game’s first goal as Elmer Soderblom potted his first career NHL tally.
This evidently got Montreal up and running as they finally started to control the puck and control the puck in the Detroit zone. Sean Monahan got the first real good chance as he was once again the one willing to attack the middle of the ice.
After a great shift by Slafkovsky who physically took it to Ben Chiarot, Michael Rasmussen took an offensive zone penalty as he clothes lined Christian Dvorak. The power play needed to produce and it was quite dangerous as Ville Husso was forced to make excellent saves against Caufield and Josh Anderson, the latter of which was of the highlight reel variety. The game was quite physical here as the Wings were taking some free shots on the young Habs who will have to learn that they too can get mean.
Mike Hoffman then sent in Gallagher on a breakaway that forced Husso to make another nice stop. The Habs kept pushing and would vacate Allen’s net with a little over two minutes to play. A whiff by Suzuki in the offensive zone finally allowed Detroit to exit their zone and bury the empty netter with a minute to play as Rasmussen put this game to rest. The net remained empty and a faceoff win allowed Detroit to score a third moments later with Olli Maatta scoring that one.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jake Allen
For the first two periods, the Habs simply did not deserve this game. Allen was unbelievable in making 25 stops in the first period alone before that number went down in the second period, but the quality of chances did not. He was less solicited in the third after finally giving up a tally as he watched his team try to fight back, but 20 minutes is rarely enough of a positive effort for a win, so while Allen deserved better, the team did not really.
Stats: 37 saves, 38 shots, 1.03 G.A.A., .974 save %, 58:32 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
After barely playing in the first period, the Gallagher, Slafkovsky, Dvorak line was the only one generating much offence in the second period. Gallagher was the most consistent of the trio, so he gets this spot on a night where it didn’t require much to land here if we’re being honest.
Stats: -2, 3 shots, 14:20 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Sean Monahan
While the rest of the Habs were soundly asleep in the first period, Monahan was busy registering four of the ten shots for the team. I felt he and Dach got cute in the second period and ended up on the wrong side of some odd-man rushes because of it. Add to this a 70% in the faceoff circle and Monahan had a second successful outing as a Hab.
Stats: -1, 5 shots, 2 hits, 16:19 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Juraj Slafkovsky
Slafkovsky is still hesitant on the ice suggesting that this should be nothing more than a nine-game trial for the youngster. Having said that, I felt that he got more comfortable as this game moved along. By the third period, he was using his big frame to make room for his linemates. Too bad his linemates were Gallagher and Dvorak who don’t really have the skill to take advantage of the extra space created.
Stats: -2, 4 hits, 9:37 T.O.I.