Montreal Canadiens vs. New Jersey Devils @ Bell Centre – September 24, 2013

The Habs were going into their last week of the preseason with 3 more games to play and the first one was against the New Jersey Devils. When you are going to watch a Devils game you pretty much know what you are in for.  They are going to check and trap the daylights out of every team they play.  It does not make for exciting hockey, but it has worked well for Jersey for the past 20 odd years.  No matter what kind of offensive talent they have had over the years like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrick Elias, Jason Arnott, Dave Andreychuk, David Clarkson, Scott Gomez, Bill Guerin, Bobby Holik, Jamie Langenbrunner, Claude Lemieux, John MacLean, John Madden, Alexander Mogilny, Kirk Muller or Scott Niedermeyer.  Defense has always come first for New Jersey.  That is especially the case when you have as great a goaltender as Martin Brodeur has been for so long.

Montreal was attempting to win their first game of the preseason at home.  Coach Michel Therrien was going with a line-up that pretty much will look like what they will go with when the season begins. After being out of the lineup with minor injuries Francis Bouillon and Travis Moen were back.  George Parros, Nathan Beaulieu and Brian Gionta were still out with injuries. Rookies Jarred Tinordi and Michael Bournival were also in the lineup with both making it very difficult for Therrien to send them to Hamilton.  Tinordi has been playing solid D and using his size and reach to his advantage.  Bournival has scored 4 goals being the Habs top scorer in preseason.  In other words Montreal went into the game with plenty of veterans while New Jersey only had 13 regulars in the lineup with Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Elias, Ryane Clowe, Brynce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Anton Volchenkov, and Travis Zajac not dressed for the game.

The 1st period was pretty uneventful with the only thing that got a real rising from the crowd being a fight between Brandon Prust and Alexander Urbom.  Urbom initiated the fight against the veteran and paid the price.  I guess he thought because he was bigger (6’4”, 215 lbs) than Prust (6’0”, 194 lbs), but what Prust gave up in size he made up for in veteran savvy and strength.  I think Urbom, if he makes the Devils, will be rethinking his strategy vis-à-vis taking Prust on in a fight.

In what can be accurately described as an outburst of goals in a single period in regards to a game involving the Devils the teams opened the floodgates scoring 4 goals in the middle frame.  2 goals by each side with Montreal’s both coming courtesy of the power play and power forward Max Pacioretty.

Therrien stated that Pacioretty has matured over the summer and seems determined to become the power forward of the ilk people have predicted.  He reported to camp in better shape and has been playing with power and energy.  Couple that with his speed and great shot and you have a dangerous weapon.  No better example of that was his second goal.  The power play seemed to have been wasted when out of nowhere PK Subban spotted an open Pacioretty and sent him in alone on Martin Brodeur.  Coming in on his off wing Pacioretty had to employ the backhand and boy, what a backhand it was.  He totally fooled the veteran goalie with the shot in the upper part of the net. Power and strength were on full display on Pacioretty’s 2nd goal of the game.  The entire line of Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Daniel Brière had a good night.  Desharnais was skating and creating chances while Brière showed his leadership side by taking on the much larger Adam Henrique when he felt the Devil player was making life miserable for Habs’ goaltender Carey Price.

Due to a couple of unlucky bounces and partially screened shots Price surrendered two even strength goals so going into the 3rd period the game was tied at 2-2.  With less than 4 minutes remaining in the game it seemed like we were definitely going to overtime and possibly shoot out.  Suddenly the Habs’ 4th line of Ryan White-Moen-Bournival struck for the winning goal.  White won the faceoff and Moen played it back to Bouillon who passed the puck over to Tinordi on the left point who wristed a shot towards the net.  White happened to be in the right place and got his stick on the Tinordi shot to deflect it past a helpless Brodeur.

As to be expected in a game involving New Jersey both sides had under 30 shots on net with 2 of the 5 total goals being scored with the man advantage.  There was a lot of neutral zone play and neither team really hemmed their opponent into their own end for too long.  Montreal did improve in a few facets including penalty killing with them shutting out the Devils in their 3 power play opportunities. There are, however, always things to tinker with.  I did notice two things that I would encourage Michel Therrien to rethink.  First being the pairing of Andrei Markov and Rafael Diaz.  Both are smaller defensemen and neither are big hitters.  If I was the opposition forwards I would not fear paying any price going into the corners when they are on.  The pairing does need some beef.  Almost the same thing can be said of the Lars Eller-Brendan Gallagher-Alex Galchenyuk line.  At points during the game they had a hard time getting the puck out of their own zone.  I think though that I will reserve judgment because on paper I like the line.

Montreal’s last two preseason games are against the Ottawa Senators with a back-to-back home and away duo of games.  The home tilt will be Thursday and then for fans it is just waiting until the drop of the puck at the season opener (at the Bell Centre) on October 1st against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Game Stats:

-On-Ice Officials:  Referees – Francis Charron and Eric Furlatt

Linesmen – Michel Cormier and Scott Driscoll

-Goals:  2nd Period:

2:22:  Montreal – (pp) Max Pacioretty assisted by PK Subban and Daniel Briere

4:05:  New Jersey – Michael Ryder unassisted

8:32:  Montreal – (pp) Max Pacioretty assisted by PK Subban and David Desharnais

16:47:  New Jersey – Adam Larsson assisted by Dainus Zubrus and Andy Greene

3rd Period:

16:08:  Montreal – Ryan White assisted by Jarred Tinordi and Francis Bouillon

-Shots On Goal:  Montreal – 25

New Jersey – 21

-3 Stars:  3)  Adam Henrique – New Jersey Devils

2)  PK Subban – Montreal Canadiens

1)  Max Pacioretty – Montreal Canadiens

-Attendance:  21,273

-Final Score:  Montreal – 3

New Jersey – 2

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