After a tough loss against the Golden Knights on Monday, the Habs were back in West Coast action on Thursday as they were visiting Mullett Arena and the Coyotes in the desert (I mean that geographically, not the state of things inside the arena). The Habs were the better team for the first half of the game and then they went to sleep and let the Coyotes absolutely dominate them, allowing Arizona to pick up the 3-2 win .
Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Rafael Harvey-Pinard
Josh Anderson – Alex Newhook — Juraj Slafkovsky
Tanner Pearson — Sean Monahan — Brendan Gallagher
Joel Armia — Jake Evans — Jesse Ylonen
Mike Matheson — Johnathan Kovacevic
Kaiden Guhle — Justin Barron
Arber Xhekaj — Jordan Harris
1) Strong start for the Habs who were up 6-1 in shots early on. On the first offensive shift of the game for the Coyotes, a puck found itself behind Allen. Luckily for Allen, Barron saved the day. What was less fortunate was that he grabbed the puck and threw it out of the crease. This meant a penalty shot where Nick Schmaltz beat Allen to open the scoring. The stat line won’t agree, but I felt Allen struggled in the first as the rebounds were aplenty and the seven shots against didn’t count a few posts that beat Allen.
2) Monahan tied it up 54 seconds after the penalty shot with a laser to the top corner. Noteworthy on the play is the effort from Gallagher to win 2-3 battles in the defensive zone to create the rush for Monahan. Mea culpa here as I was quite critical of Gallagher earlier in the season. He has bounced back admirably for the Habs and has been excellent in his identified role by the coaching staff.
3) Suzuki was given way too much space which allowed him to freeze Connor Ingram and then deke to his backhand with 4:28 to play in the first after a nice zone entry by Caufield. Unfortunately, Suzuki was clearly offside, and the goal was disallowed as a relatively low-event period ended with a 1-1 score.
4) The Habs were all over the Coyotes for the first seven minutes of the second period, until Andre Tourigny figured out that matching the Clayton Keller line versus the Habs’ second line was a winning formula. Good thing Allen was much sharper in the second half of the game because he really saved that line (and the whole team really) from an ugly stat line.
5) Harvey-Pinard got hurt at the end of the first period but came back. Early in the second period, he got hit in the same leg and left the game. As everyone expected, it was Joel Armia who got the call to play next to Suzuki and Caufield. Results were about as excellent as one would expect when the forward that was sent to the AHL to start the year is the one getting a shot on the top line.
6) After whiffing on three man-advantages, the Habs were unable to kill their first penalty of the game to Armia. Lawson Crouse capitalized on an awesome cross-ice pass by Matias Maccelli. Something about special teams and good units being able to create momentum even when they aren’t scoring by delivering a well-timed strong power play. The Habs really need to figure it out.
7) Not liking the second period from his team and missing Harvey-Pinard, Martin St. Louis opted to shuffle things in the third period. Newhook found himself on the wing of the top duo. The Monahan line remained intact as Slafkovsky and Anderson joined Evans on the team’s third line and deservedly so. Unfortunately, all of Slafkovsky’s hesitation and poor decisions due to the hesitation from last season have returned. I will now add my voice to the many in the fan base clamouring to get the kid some ice time in Laval. His development may depend on it.
8) The teams exchanged goals to start the third period. Gallagher for the Habs after a nice exchange with Pearson before the Coyotes power play restored the lead and momentum as they controlled most of the period.
9) Old habits die hard as the Habs spent far too much time in the third period in the penalty box which really eliminated any possibility of getting momentum to get back in the game. They pushed hard in the final three minutes, but all Arizona had to do was puck manage for less than a quarter period. There is not enough talent on this team to consistently capitalize on a three-minute push.
10) In the final minute of play, Matheson let go a shot from the blue line that Ingram never saw. The puck hit the post and that was the difference for this game. Too little, too late for the Habs who honestly didn’t deserve to tie the game this time.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Sean Monahan
Sometimes it’s difficult to identify the top player because there are a few candidates or because there are none. Not the case in this game as Monahan was the best Hab by a wide margin. Expect some changes to the lines next game and for both Monahan and Pearson to find themselves higher in the lineup.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 6 shots, 1 hit, 21:08 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
He’ll never be what he once was, and he’ll never be worth his contract. Now that that’s out of the way, can we all admit that after a terrible first few games, Gallagher has been very effective in the limited amount of ice time he gets and it might be time to let him cook without worrying about the contract too much, for now.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 4 shots, 16:20 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Jake Allen
Excellent bounce-back performance after a tougher first period that he got through with limited damage. In the second and third, he absolutely saved the team from being totally embarrassed. Seems like the team allows itself to have all their off nights when he’s in the crease. Poor guy gets hung out to dry a little too often for my liking. Wonder if that veteran ability to not let a tough start snowball increases his trade deadline value for contending teams.
Stats: 33 saves on 36 shots, .917 save %, 3.12 GAA, 57:45 T.O.I.