Tampa has now put plenty of doubt in Montreal Canadiens’ fans’ and players’ minds after sweeping the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge 5 straight games this season. Not only sweeping them, but totally dominating them. The 5-3 scoreline was a little flattering to Montreal as they did not deserve to be that close. After sitting through that disaster of a game (ok, the 3rd period was good) I have a few things to get off my chest and I am going do it in point form. Here goes:
-The Montreal Canadiens are winning despite their coach. Almost every time it counts Michel Therrien is outcoached by the man behind the other bench. Last night it was obvious that Jon Cooper had studied Montreal’s break out routine and adjusted his team’s forecheck accordingly. Therrien seems incapable of changing things up (other that the cop out juggling of lines) in game. In game adjustments is not his forte. It makes me crazy when I hear people saying that because of Montreal’s record over the last two seasons Michel Therrien should be considered for the Jack Adams (best coach) trophy. Someone standing behind the bench doing nothing would be just as successful…and maybe more. The Montreal record this year is largely due to the excellence of goaltender Carey Price and the scoring of Max Pacioretty.
-The Tampa Bay Lightning is a strong team. Stronger than Montreal, for sure. That team is filled with depth and can get scoring from all four of their lines. They handled Montreal last night despite the fact that they had four players out of the line-up due to injury – Jason Garrison, Tyler Johnson, Andrej Sustr, and Braydon Coburn. They have really put time and energy into developing their young players like Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Andrej Sustr, Nikita Nesterov, and last night’s big star – Vladislav Namestnikov. They have loads of young talent surrounded by veterans like Ben Bishop, Steven Stamkos, Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula, and Ryan Callaghan. If they stay together, the Lightning will be good for years to come.
-Michel Therrien is retarding the development of his younger players. Imagine how good Brendan Gallagher (he of 23 goals in this offensively stifling style of play) and Alex Galchenyuk would be if they had a coach that supported their skill sets instead of trying to force them into his mould. In last night’s game you saw on occasion what Galchenyuk could do when put in the right position and surrounded by the right players. No better example of that was when in the 3rd period with Stralman on his back, Galchenyuk bulled his way into the slot and wristed a shot that had Bishop beaten, but unluckily it hit the crossbar. Even someone like P.K. Subban has suffered. Only occasionally do we see the flashes of the player he could be. But the reins are on too tightly instead of encouraging each player to bring the skill set they possess to the mix. You see the development of the players on the other side and kind of shake your head.
-Easy to forget in all this mess that Montreal started off the game with some jump, which is usually not their way. But then indiscipline killed all the momentum they gained. Torrey Mitchell (hooking), Jacob De La Rose (tripping) and Jeff Petry (tripping) all got back to back penalties and suddenly Montreal was being outshot 10-1 and several players were cold having sat on the bench for much of the 1st period.
-This was the night to beat the Lightning as their goaltender was shaky and emotional throughout the game. Shots that were directed at him were often an adventure involving rebounds and bobbles. Plus any time a player in a red sweater came near his crease he seemed agitated and ready to drop his gloves. Not the kind of calmness that the Canadiens’ get from their great goalie.
-Instead of turning Dale Weise’s double minor into a lesson and/or inspiration for his player(s) Therrien decided to take the easy way out and bench the player. Useless. Yes, what Weise did was selfish and showed he had allowed his emotions to get away from him, but he was showing emotion. As the coach, tap into that and tell him he owes his teammates a Superman effort the rest of the game. For his team that killed off the first penalty and even notched a shorthanded goal courtesy of a quick release and wicked accuracy by Pacioretty (37th goal of the season) use it as a way to amp up your team. Instead he stood silent during television timeouts and sulking while the game was going on. Not the greatest of leadership by the coach.
-Carey Price is fantastic. Even though he gave up 4 goals he played really well. Two of the goals were on breakaways with the players making nifty moves. If not for him the game would have been over long before the 3rd period. Price was being bombarded with shots and Montreal was being outshot 31-13 going into the 3rd period. He does not get rattled when opposing players barrel into him. Price remains calm and focused on the game while making all sorts of saves from routine to spectacular. Too bad he is going to have to wait at least another game for his 42nd win (tying a club record held my Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante for most wins by a goalie in a season) because he deserved a better effort from the men in front of him.
-Tampa’s bad luck stretch when it comes to injuries seemed like it was continuing with defenceman Hedman leaving for the dressing room very early on in the 3rd period and not returning to the game.
-The first two Tampa goals were scored on breakaways by players that got behind or were forgotten about by the Montreal defense. A bad line change led to the first goal by Namestnikov and then while on the power play Drouin was able to make himself invisible straddling the Montreal blue line. A pass from Stralman sprung him for his first goal since December
-Not sure about the identity of his team Michel Therrien is trying to forge. He is insistent about his team playing and not deviating from “the system”. As someone who has been an ardent Montreal fan and has devotedly watched hockey for 40 years now I have to admit I have yet to figure out what this system is. It is not a puck possession one as Montreal is routinely way behind their opponents in this statistic. They are not a defense first side as they are routinely outshot as they were 43-28 last night. I don’t understand how he believes a ring it around the boards in your own end or look for long break out passes then dump and chase once you get to the opponents blue line is effective for a team that is on the small side.
Next up from Montreal is a game at the Bell Centre against the Washington Capital on Thursday evening.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Gord Dwyer and Graham Skilliter
Linesmen – Brad Kovachik and Bryan Pancich
-Goals: 2nd Period:
1:24: Tampa Bay – Vladislav Namestnikov assisted by Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop
4:24: Montreal – (sh) Max Pacioretty assisted by Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov
4:57: Tampa Bay – Jonathan Drouin assisted by Anton Stralman and Ben Bishop
18:07: Tampa Bay – Nikita Kucherov assisted by Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat
00:23: Montreal – Jeff Petry assisted by Lars Eller
6:21: Tampa Bay – Vladislav Namestnikov assisted by Ondrej Palat
16:10: Montreal – (pp) P.K. Subban assisted by Nathan Beaulieu and David Desharnais
19:03: Tampa Bay – (en) Anton Stralman assisted by Brian Boyle
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 28
Tampa Bay – 43
-3 Stars: 1) Vladislav Namestnikov – Tampa Bay
2) Ondrej Palat – Tampa Bay
3) Jeff Petry – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 3
Tampa Bay – 5