Oh, what a difference a few weeks makes! The Habs tried to right the ship after a fourth consecutive loss in what as an abysmal effort on Saturday night. This is such a different scenario than where the Habs were on November 5th when the Habs handled the Bruins.
With no spare forwards, no changes to that group were foreseeable. However, Coach Julien surprised this writer by keeping his defensive units as they were on Saturday. In the blue paint, the matchup featured a throw-back as Carey Price faced Jaroslav Halak which was sure to bring about many memories for a small group of fans in Montreal.
The memories were soon to turn sour as the Habs piled on the horrible play of Saturday and were soundly beaten to the tune of 8-1 by Boston leaving many to wonder what moves will be made between now and Thursday’s contest. Will they be moves within the roster or is something more serious happening to snap the team out of this funk?
The Habs had a strong opening to the game as Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Brendan Gallagher, and Tomas Tatar all had scoring chances stopped by Halak. The top line, who struggled mightily on Saturday, came out strong which created momentum.
This enthusiasm cost the Habs though as Gallagher took a tripping penalty on a forecheck only six minutes into the period. The Habs killed the first 90 seconds of the penalty until Joel Armia finished a check in the defensive zone that opened up some passing lanes. The result was a tic-tac-toe play which ended on Jake DeBrusk’s stick in the slot as he roofed the puck to open the scoring.
Montreal’s top line had a strong period and this finally paid off. Gallagher sacrificed his body to get the puck out of the defensive zone. Shea Weber joined the rush which created a 4-on-3 as the puck was dropped to a late Gallagher who fired on net and Weber put home the rebound to tie the game.
A minute later, an absolutely horrible call against Nate Thompson in the offensive zone was the end of the night for the Habs. The Bruins spent 30 seconds on the power play before Artturi Lehkonen committed the same mistake as Armia. He went to finish a hit and took himself out of position which allowed Charlie Coyle to find David Pastrnak for a one-timer to make it 2-1.
An immediate make-up call happened, but the power play was ineffective. One has to wonder why Mike Reilly is being used on the man advantage while Victor Mete sits on the bench, it’s about as intelligent as having the fourth line plugs on the power play up front.
With 30 seconds to play in the period, Jeff Petry completely whiffed on a breakout pass. Brad Marchand took the puck and out-waited Price. Another goal allowed in the final minute for a 3-1 Boston lead despite a 13-8 shot advantage for the Habs.
The second period saw things completely unravel for Montreal. Only eight seconds in, David Pastrnak went completely unchecked through the neutral zone; he cut to the centre in the offensive zone where Weber didn’t check him either and he put an easy puck on net that beat Price in the centre of the net. Complete nonsense all around.
A minute later, Petry whiffed again. This time it was a dump-in while the other four players were changing. The result was an Anders Bjork breakaway which also easily fooled Price.
This goal was the end of the night for Price and Julien called a time-out to try to rally the troops. It somewhat worked as Charles Hudon and Kotkaniemi answered the bell with some scoring chances that were stopped.
At the midway mark, the game was put away for good when the Habs failed to clear the zone three times and the result was a Brandon Carlo point shot that Pastrnak tipped home for a hat-trick and a 6-1 lead.
A minute later, the Habs were handed another power play but they continued to look for the perfect pass across the ice instead of shooting pucks and grinding for the rebounds. Nick Suzuki created a chance but Phillip Danault missed the open net. Once again, the Habs outshot the Bruins 13-7 for a 26-15 overall advantage but everything came with no traffic so the Habs remained scoreless.
The third surprised no one as both teams glided through their motions anxiously awaiting the end of the game. Tatar and Keith Kinkaid made nice plays to stop Pastrnak who was still playing to continue scoring. Reilly decided to check air near the midway point of the period which allowed the Bruins to pass around the zone and eventually find an unchecked Coyle in the slot for a 7-1 lead.
With only four minutes left, Max Domi decided to go after Jack Studnicka who was playing in his first NHL game. The resulting 4-on-4 sequence almost produced for the Habs as Lehkonen beat Halak only to see the puck slide wide. Studnicka responded to the attack by scoring his first NHL point as he outworked both Suzuki and Petry to gain the puck in the offensive zone and found Danton Heinen as Mete was left to cover two players in the slot.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Shea Weber
Weber continues to be a rare bright spot for this roster through this dry spell. He is joining the rush and looking good doing it. He has to be careful defensively though as that opening goal in the second was a pretty weak play on his part.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 1 hit, 23:18 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher continues to be a workhorse. He takes hits and pucks to the body and continues churning. I would have liked Julien to dial back his ice-time in this one once the score was out of reach.
Stats: 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 8 shots, 15:33 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Kotkaniemi continued to skate and create offence in the second and third after his teammates had stopped playing. I continue to think that all he needs is a bit of confidence to get going. He does have to work on his decision making at this speed though.
Stats: 0 points, -1, 2 shots, 4 hits, 15:04 T.O.I.
What to do?
Instead of an honourable mention tonight, some advice to right the ship. Some of it is crazy, but here goes:
- Send Price home for a week or two. Seriously, he hasn’t been right all season. Braden Holtby went through this a few seasons ago, Henrik Lundqvist went through it, and so did Pekka Rinne. It’s not a slight against Price. Call up Cayden Primeau and give him a split of the next six games with Kinkaid (three apiece) so as to give him an eye-opener to what he needs to do over the next few seasons to get here. Then Price comes back mentally fresh and renewed. Fans are likely to get a wake-up call in that time frame too. Then he can go back to being Price.
- Stop the Petry-Mete experiment. Who would have thought that this would be the comment when these pairings were first assembled! Chiarot and Weber have worked fine, but both Mete and Petry need someone to protect them a bit. Notice that Mete has become invisible since playing with Petry. If Julien really likes Chiarot-Weber, then it may be time for a move to help Petry and let Mete play with Fleury.
- Enough with the plugs on the power play. It can’t be motivating if you’re Victor Mete or Phillip Danault to continue to sit on the bench while Mike Reilly and Jordan Weal continue to be sent out on the power play. Do these players deserve this extra ice-time at 5-on-5? No. Are they definitely helping the man advantage? No. So why do it? It makes absolutely no sense.
- Set-up a drill where the players have to move a little bit everywhere in the offensive zone. Randomly select a moment where they have to SHOOT THE PUCK and have a consequence if they don’t hit the net for crying out loud!