On a day in which the bombings at the Boston Marathon made us realize that in the overall scheme of things that sport is really not that important. A moment of silence before the game for the victims of the bombing was a classy and needed move by the Montreal organization. When the puck was dropped the tragedy of the day was pushed momentarily to the back of hockey fans’ minds. A welcomed diversion. But Habs’ fans had to deal with another sort of tragedy.
Within every season every NHL team goes through a little slump or down period. On its own it is not a reason to panic, but in the case of the Montreal Canadiens there are some worrisome things going on. Number one is the play of their number one goaltender. Carey Price has allowed 9 goals on 33 shots over the past two games and has been pulled from both games. It is the first time in his career that he has been pulled in back-to-back games. By the time he was taken out of last night’s game he had allowed 6 goals on 29 shots. The worry on my part comes not just from the high amount of goals that have been going in rather how they have been going in. Too many shots have found their way beyond him by dribbling between his legs or sneaking in under his arm. Price does not seem focused or competitive in his last couple of games. That is not the form that you want your top goaltender to have with only 6 games remaining before the playoffs. He has to find his form and quickly if the bleu-blanc-rouge want to make any noise in the playoffs.
A couple of games ago Alexei Emelin made the imprudent decision to take on Bruins’ forward Milan Lucic physically. Emelin came out of it with a season ending ACL tear. Since that point the Montreal defense has been more porous than a sieve and veteran Andrei Markov has been awful. Is it just a coincidence or is Emelin that important to the team? I believe it is the latter because what Emelin brings to the team cannot be replaced. Forwards coming into the Montreal end have learned to keep their heads up or they will be run over by Emelin. He is a physical presence that other players on the team feed off. New addition Davis Drewiske is a fairly big guy, but he does not play the same style so expecting it from him is unrealistic. Is calling up a physical presence like Jared Tinordi from Hamilton a possible solution? Maybe. It couldn’t hurt to try.
Team toughness seems to have gone out the window. Without Emelin and Brandon Prust, who is out once again with a shoulder injury, they have looked very soft over the past 2 games. After 40 minutes last night they had only 2 hits. Soft. Ryan White was back in the line-up due to the injury to Prust and some toughness was expected from him. After early goals by Wayne Simmonds, which deflected in past Price off of Nathan Beaulieu, and Erik Gustafsson, a wrist shot from the point which found its way between Price’s pads, White must have thought it was time to get some momentum for his team by laying a big hit on one of the Flyers. Not a bad idea, but like several occasions earlier in the season the execution was not great. White targeted Flyers’ defenseman Ken Huskins and though he did not lead with the elbow or leave his feet the area of contact was the head. Huskins went down in a heap and after a tussle with Kurtis Foster White was out for the game after being assessed an intent to injure major penalty. The NHL disciplinary office have communicated to White that they want to meet him in person, so that usually means that he will be suspended for more than 6 games. Making things worse for White is the fact that during the game the Flyers announced that Huskins had a concussion and would not be returning to the game. This latest incident might mean the end of Ryan White’s career with Montreal. Third time for this type of thing is not a charm.
Showing some character the Canadiens were able to claw their way back into the game late in the 1st period and early in the 2nd. Both were on the power play and power plays that rookie Brendan Gallagher had drawn. Max Pacioretty redirected a Tomas Plekanec pass from the slot at 19:02 of the 1st and Gallagher scored a goal of his own at 0:38 of the 2nd period off a nice set up from behind the net by Pacioretty. Tying the game up at 2-2 gave Habs’ fans a glimmer of hope, but it was short-lived as 24 seconds later Josh Gorges coughed up the puck behind his own net and Jakub Voracek regained a lead for the Flyers that they never gave up again.
The Philadelphia Flyers have not had a good season. They are pretty much out of the playoffs and were in the midst of a 4 game losing streak. Well, they broke out of that losing streak in fine fashion. A player who was also having a miserable season was Flyers’ power forward Scott Hartnell. Early on he missed a ton of games due to a broken left foot. When he returned to the team (about 15 games ago) his timing was off and a slump ensued. Up until last night’s game he had only scored 4 goals this season. Montreal was certainly the cure he was looking for as he scored a hattrick against them. He was the first player to score a hattrick against Montreal in 3 years.
Coach Michel Therrien has been a different man in his second go around with the Habs. He seems calmer and more confident in what he is doing and what he wants from his players. But after last night’s game he was visibly angrier than he has been all season. Therrien expressed his disappointment in how little his team seemed interested in competing, how they were not paying attention to the details and that their work ethic was poor. You cannot blame the guy as his team had lost back-to-back games by 4 goals. This hopefully is a case of a team taking their foot off the gas after having clinched a playoff spot. Though they have to realize that bad habits cannot be turned off and on very easily. Pride and working hard every game goes a long way.
In the midst of a very busy week, next up for the Canadiens is the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Things are not going to get any easier and if they play like they have their last 2 games they will get shelled once again.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Francois St. Laurent and Steve Kozari
Linesmen – David Brisebois and Pierre Racicot
-Goals: 1st Period:
2:45: Philadelphia – Wayne Simmonds assisted by Sean Couturier and Luke Schenn
5:49: Philadelphia – Erik Gustafasson unassisted
19:02: Montreal – (pp) Max Pacioretty assisted by Tomas Plekanec and PK Subban
0:38: Montreal – (pp) Brendan Gallagher assisted by Max Pacioretty and PK Subban
1:02: Philadelphia – (pp) Jakub Voracek assisted by Claude Giroux and Simon Gagne
7:30: Philadelphia – (pp) Scott Hartnell assisted by Claude Giroux and Kimmo Timonen
9:11: Montreal – Alex Galchenyuk assisted by David Drewiske and Lars Eller
10:46: Philadelphia – Claude Giroux assisted by Jakub Voracek and Kimmo Timonen
19:27: Philadelphia – (pp) Scott Hartnell assisted by Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds
12:45: Philadelphia – Scott Hartnell assisted by Daniel Briere and Braden Schenn
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 28
Philadelphia – 33
-3 Stars: 1) Scott Hartnell – Philadelphia
2) Claude Giroux – Philadelphia
3) Brendan Gallagher – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 3
Philadelphia – 7