When the Montreal Canadiens made two signings of veteran players during the off season I bet there were not many fans who thought that Tomas Fleischmann would be the one reaping offensive benefits. Both Fleischmann and Alexander Semin were afforded professional try outs during the Habs training camp. Both did well enough that they were signed to contracts. Despite the fact that they both were players who were coming off poor seasons the contracts were not seen as big risks because they were for $750,000 and $1.5 million respectively. We are now 11 games into the 2015-16 NHL season and Semin has been a healthy scratch for the last 3 games whilst Fleischmann notched his 3rd and 4th goals during last night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
A big part of Montreal’s (11-2) success in the early part of the season (besides using their speed in all parts of the rink and a slight change in their overall game plan) has been the fact that all four lines have contributed offensively. Montreal was supposed to be a team that would have trouble scoring. Through 13 games they have scored 50 goals which is 10 more than the next team (Dallas Stars). More importantly the goals are coming 5-on-5, power play and shorthanded and from each line. The first line has 17 goals, the 2nd 7 goals, the 3rd 13 goals and the 4th 7 goals. Offensive contributions from surprise players like Torrey Mitchell (5), Fleischmann (4) and Dale Weise (6) has really made the Montreal Canadiens a tough side to game plan against.
After it was announced on Sunday morning that the Habs’ all-world goaltender, Carey Price, would be out with a lower body injury for one week I am sure some hearts fell into the stomachs of fans. The team had an excellent 10-2 record going into the game against the Jets, but how would they continue at that pace without Price for any length of time. Left to carry on was rookie Mike Condon and call up (and last year’s back-up) Dustin Tokarski. Condon won the back-up job away from Tokarski with a strong training camp. He continued the strong play winning his first 3 games of the season. Now he would have to be the man during a tough week in which the Habs would face the Jets, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, and New York Islanders.
Winnipeg under coach Paul Maurice was also enjoying a strong start to the season with a 7-3-1 record. They are a prototypical Western Conference team in that they have speed and size. It would be interesting to see how the smaller Habs would deal with a team that could skate with them and were much bigger.
From the very beginning of the game, despite the fact that Montreal had to kill off 3 minor penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game, it was plain to see that it was Montreal that would be in control of the game. They scored 5 goals in almost every way possible starting with a shortie by claimed off waivers Paul Byron. Byron is a handy player to have in that he has speed to burn and can kill penalties. It was the second game in a row he scored a shorthanded goal by blowing by the defenseman to go in alone on the goalie.
On this night it was the 3rd line’s turn to shine. Between them, David Desharnais, Weise and Fleischmann, scored 3 of the team’s 5 goals. Fleischmann scored two of them with several opportunities to notch a hattrick. Desharnais, the game’s first star, had one of his better games in a long time. Every time he was on the ice he created something, really controlling the puck.
Even Lars Eller, a man who was in Therrien’s doghouse recently, joined in on the fun scoring a power play goal late in the 2nd period. It was a lucky bounce off his skate from the slot, but who cares? A goal is a goal and they all count.
Montreal totally dominated the game while Winnipeg looked like a tired team who had played the night before. They only managed to get one past Condon late in the 3rd period. Habs’ fans should take heart in how the young goalie played in that he made some tough saves when called upon. If as the organization says that it is a minor injury with Price and he is staying out for a week just as a precaution (groin?) then Condon has shown he can handle it.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Ghislain Hebert and Steve Kozari
Linesmen – Shandor Alphonso and Tony Sericolo
-Goals: 1st Period:
6:34: Montreal – (sh) Paul Byron assisted by Torey Mitchell and Jeff Petry
16:26: Montreal – Tomas Fleischmann assisted by David Desharnais and Alexei Emelin
00:35: Montreal – Tomas Fleischmann assisted by Dale Weise and David Desharnais
3:02: Montreal – David Desharnais assisted by Tomas Fleischmann and Nathan Beaulieu
17:51: Montreal – (pp) Lars Eller assisted by Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban
13:57: Winnipeg – Chris Thorburn assisted by Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 26
Winnipeg – 19
-3 Stars: 1) David Desharnais – Montreal
2) Tomas Fleischmann – Montreal
3) Paul Byron – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 5
Winnipeg – 1