HabsWorld.net -- 

After pulling out a shutout victory over Columbus on Tuesday, the Habs looked to close their home stand on a high note as they hosted Boston on Thursday night.  It was a tight-checking contest but the Bruins were able to pick up the 2-1 overtime victory.

Martin St. Louis made a trio of changes to his lineup for this one.  Samuel Montembeault got the start in goal after Cayden Primeau had a shutout against the Blue Jackets.  On the back end, Jordan Harris returned after being scratched versus Columbus with Jayden Struble getting the night off.  Meanwhile, Colin White was activated off injured reserve, giving the Habs four actual centres for this one; he took Michael Pezzetta’s spot in the lineup.  The team lined up as follows:

Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Roy – Newhook – Armia
Gallagher – Evans – Anderson
Harvey-Pinard – White – Pearson

Matheson – Guhle
Xhekaj – Savard
Harris – Kovacevic

10 Thoughts

1) After putting forth a weak effort despite the win on Tuesday, I was curious to see how the Habs came out in this one.  As it turns out, they were just as bad to start this game.  Boston had their first goal before the Canadiens had their first shot; Montembeault stopped David Pastrnak’s initial shot but the rebound bounced out right to Danton Heinen.  Juraj Slafkovsky defended it pretty well – he knocked him to the ice – but while falling, Heinen was able to slide it home.  Not a good start, to say the least.

2) One thing I noticed early was that the Bruins were shooting for rebounds on Montembeault.  Not just on the goal but it looked like a concerted effort to try to take advantage of his penchant for iffy rebound control.  They went away from it later but early on, it was effective.

3) It looked like things could snowball after Kaiden Guhle went off for interference on Brad Marchand.  Boston was all over Montreal’s penalty killers and considering how their last meeting went, a goal there could have opened the floodgates; the Habs were that out of it to start.  But full credit to the penalty killers (and a post) who were able to kill it off.  The penalty kill has been surprisingly effective in recent weeks after struggling for pretty much the entire season.

4) The turning point of the period came after a commercial break.  The top line had a good forechecking shift in Boston’s end and the Habs found their skating legs after that.  It’s fitting that it was the top line who got the Canadiens on the board.  Cole Caufield made a good play on the boards to force a Brandon Carlo giveaway.  Nick Suzuki sent the puck to Juraj Slafkovsky in the slot but instead of shooting, he slid it back to Suzuki who had plenty of net to shoot at and made no mistake.  Over the final few minutes, it was relatively even between the two sides, a significant improvement over how the first half of the period went.

5) The second period was, to put it lightly, uneventful; there was a ten-minute stretch where neither team had a shot on goal.  How often does that happen?  Both coaches must have gone back to the room after the first intermission and talked about defensive structure as there wasn’t much ice for either side to work with.  Considering the talent disparity, Montreal would happily take that.

6) Things got interesting with a little over five minutes left.  Pastrnak got a clear-cut breakaway and beat Montembeault but not the post.  Coming back the other way, Heinen hooked Slafkovsky, sending the Habs to their first power play.  The highlight of that man advantage was Mike Matheson’s strong defensive play on Brad Marchand on the rush to knock the puck away.  That tells you all you need to know right there.

7) That said, Montreal put a couple of good shifts together after, the best of which came from Alex Newhook’s line.  They technically didn’t even record a shot on goal but had a couple of chances with some sustained pressure which was nice to see.  Parker Wotherspoon fired his clearing attempt into the crowd, giving the Habs a late advantage.  They didn’t score on the first half of it but it was at least spent in Boston’s zone.

8) The Habs couldn’t do much with the carryover advantage and the first half of the third period was a lot like the second with scoring chances few and far between.  Again, I think St. Louis would be pleased with that as the defensive structure the Canadiens had has also been few and far between this year.  To do so with some consistency against one of the better teams in the league is worth highlighting.

9) One of the key parts of the game came a little past the midway point.  Jakub Lauko held Brendan Gallagher, giving the Habs a power play.  However, a minute in, Suzuki caught Charlie McAvoy with an errant high stick, ending the advantage while giving Boston a three-minute power play of their own.  That could have been trouble but Joel Armia helped lead a strong penalty kill to keep the Bruins off the board and eventually, send the game to overtime.  More on Armia shortly.

10) The overtime was short-lived and felt a bit discombobulated for the Habs.  Matheson carried the puck in early but didn’t get any support.  Eventually, Caufield entered the zone but the puck was turned over, causing Suzuki to be the lone man back on a two-on-one.  Marchand sent the puck to Jake DeBrusk and while Caufield had hustled back, he wasn’t able to tie DeBrusk up, allowing him to deke and slip the winner past Montembeault.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Samuel Montembeault – The start of this game was ugly for the Habs who were on their heels early and often.  Montembeault, whose rebound control admittedly wasn’t great, made up for it with some key stops to let Montreal eventually get into the flow of things.  He made a few key stops after and didn’t have much of a shot at the winner.  Overall, a pretty steady game for the netminder.

Stats: 22 saves on 24 shots, 2.00 GAA, .917 SV%

2nd Star: Joel Armia – Offensively, he was one of Montreal’s better threats in a game where chances were difficult to come by.  But that’s not why he’s here.  Defensively, he was quite strong, both at five-on-five and the penalty kill.  Armia can be a real difference-maker on that end even when he’s quite offensively but hasn’t been able to do so consistently until late.  This has been one of his better extended stretches, punctuated by an impressive showing here.

Stats: 0 points, even rating, 3 shots, 3 hits, 17:53 TOI

3rd Star: Nick Suzuki – He had the lone goal for the Canadiens which has to count for something.  He was also quite sharp at the faceoff dot for the second straight game as well.  On a night when there wasn’t much else going on, that’s enough to land the third star.

Stats: 1 goal, -1 rating, 4 PIMS, 2 shots, 12/17 faceoffs