The beginning to the Montreal Canadiens’ 2015-16 has been better than anyone could have hoped for. They came into the game on record setting start to a season at 5-0. Hard to believe that no Habs’ team over its illustrious 106 year existence has not accomplished this. The Bleu-Blanc-Rouge has demonstrated over their first 5 games that they are a quick skating and balanced team.
With the addition late last season of Jeff Petry and the continuing maturation of Nathan Beaulieu on defense and the move to centre and maturation of Alex Galchenyuk, off season additions of veteran wingers Tomas Fleischmann and Alex Semin and late season additions of Brian Flynn, Torey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly to form a fleet skating 4th line have allowed other players to fill their proper chairs in the line-up and decreased the reliance on players like Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec. This balanced line-up will reap benefits over the course of the long NHL season and will allow players to be fresher for the playoffs. General Manager Marc Bergevin has provided coach Michel Therrien with the best team he has had since his return as head coach of the Canadiens. The team has so far (early in the season, I know) shown signs of being a strong team in the Eastern Conference as well as an early season favourite to challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Despite the loss of the respected Mike Babcock as their head coach and the fact that they are a young side that has to start the season without the sublime Pavel Datsyuk and veteran Johan Franzen, the Red Wings with veteran players like Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwell, Mike Green, and Brad Richards and young talent like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin are a team to be taken seriously. They came into the game with a good 3-1 record. Though they had lost their first game of the season the night before against the Hurricanes. As they had played the night before and then had to travel to Montreal you would expect them to tire as the game went on.
Carey Price, coming off a 25 save shutout versus the Rangers, was in the nets for Montreal while back-up Petr Mrazek was getting start for Red Wings. Over his career Price has a 7-3-1 record against the Red Wings. Besides some sparkling saves he has made off Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash other than the opening game against Toronto, Price has not had to steal games for Montreal like he was forced to last season. It has been a team effort so far this season and continued to be in game six.
The 1st period was a scoreless one, but there were chances on both sides. Montreal especially as they had a couple of power play opportunities. The power play is the only aspect of the Canadiens’ game which one could nitpick about this season.
For the first time this season Montreal did not score the first goal of the game. Detroit did early in the 2nd period. It was a goal that Price would definitely like back as shown by his looking to the skies after the puck hit off his right pad from a severe angle and trickled between his pads then over the goal line. The goal was scored by Detroit’s best forward on the evening, the 19-year-old Dylan Larkin. Red Wings rookie Dylan Larking showed his talent. He was the only one to beat Price on this evening and also created other chances. The rookie has points in five straight games. Other players like defenseman Danny DeKeyser and forward Darren Helm were getting their legs under them as it was their first game after injuries.
Though this was their first game in which they did not notch the first goal, Montreal did not panic. Mostly because they tied up the score under 3 minutes later. It was on the power play, but not on your typical goal with the man advantage. The goal happened when Kyle Quincy poked the puck off the skates of the falling/sliding, Brendan Gallagher. Before taking out Wings’ goalie Mrazek the puck crossed the line. It was ruled a good goal after review as Gallagher had not made a kicking motion. It was strange that Wings’ new head coach Jeff Blashill did not use his challenge as it seemed like there was an argument for goalie interference on the play.
The 2nd period ended with the score knotted at 1-1. It was another power play goal by Montreal and the first by a Habs’ defenseman this season that proved to be the winner at 6:32 of the 3rd period. Jeff Petry’s blast from the left point made its way past 2 or 3 players including David Desharnais who was posted right in front of Mrazek and did not see the shot.
Montreal sealed the affair with a late goal by Plekanec at 17:56. The goal was all Gallagher. He used his typical hustle to strip the puck off a surprised Mike Green in the corner and whipped a pass out quickly to the slot where an unmarked Plekanec just had to redirect the puck past Mrazek.
When Blashill pulled his goalie the crowd urged Price to take a shot at the empty net when he went out to get the puck behind his own net. The all world goalie listened to the fans only to see his on target shot stopped by a Red Wings’ defenseman. Brian Flynn, his first of the season, did not see his shot with one second left in the game stopped making the final score 4-1 Montreal. The streak continues!
Montreal has now won seven games in a row against Detroit. Bottom line is that Montreal outworked Detroit especially in the 3rd period. Detroit probably was out of gas in the 3rd with it being their second game in two nights. But to give Montreal the credit they are due they were flying out there. Their team speed is what has separated them from the teams they have faced so far this season. They are quick to get out of their own end and quick on opposing players on the forecheck. Their speed is used in every aspect of the game. The pace of game they impose seems to be wearing down their opponents. Price did not have to come up with many big saves; he just had to play steady on this night. Finally, Detroit took plenty of penalties which gave Montreal 5 power play opportunities and put a halt to any momentum the Red Wings tried to build. Cannot give that many opportunities to a team playing with lots of confidence.
The record for an undefeated streak to start the season is 10 games which the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs have both done. It is a little early to start thinking of that when it comes to the 2015-16 Habs, but…. Especially since they have the tough St. Louis Blues up next on Tuesday night at home then the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks follow.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Marc Joanette and Dave Jackson
Linesmen – Pierre Racicot and Michel Cormier
-Goals: 2nd Period:
4:47: Detroit – Dylan Larking assisted by Henrik Zetterberg
7:44: Montreal – (pp) Brandan Gallagher unassisted
6:32: Montreal – (pp) Jeff Petry assisted by David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk
17:56: Montreal – Tomas Plekanec assisted by Brendan Gallagher
19:59: Montreal – (en) Brian Flynn unassisted
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 41
Detroit – 22
-3 Stars: 1) Jeff Petry – Montreal
2) Alex Galchenyuk – Montreal
3) Carey Price – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal – 4
Detroit – 1