Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings @ Bell Centre – December 14, 2019

So the most exciting part of last night’s game was when a man won $50,000 for putting the puck through a tiny hole from the opposing blue line. He got a standing ovation from those who had not left their seats in between the 2nd and 3rd periods. Don’t get me wrong, it is not something you see everyday, but it does not say much for the game we had all paid to watch.

In regards to that, somewhere between a few decades ago and today professional athletes seem to have forgotten who has made them millionaires. The fans. Those people who pay for tickets to the games. The idea that you should take pride in the city you play for went away when sports became more of a business. Now the Brendan Gallaghers are few and far between. What I mean is that there are precious few players who come to play every night. Sad, really. As a result we often get games like last night. Games in which it looks like the two teams would rather be anywhere else. I have seen Pee Wee games with more passion and interesting moments.

Montreal was coming into the game in the midst of one of the ups in an up and down kind of season. After losing eight in a row they had won three straight. Detroit had just ended a 12 game losing streak having defeated soundly one of the class teams of the league, the Boston Bruins. So I went in expecting two teams playing well and with confidence. What I got was a snoozer.

That despite the fact that Montreal had peppered the Red Wings’ netminder Jonathan Bernier with 43 shots. Throughout this season Montreal has been a big riddle. The type of team which you are never sure of what you are going to get on any given evening. So far it has been solid play when they are playing a strong side and rather limp when they play the weaker teams. Detroit is one of the worst teams in the NHL this season. Earlier this season in Montreal’s home opener, Detroit had already defeated Montreal 4-2. While this wasn’t the home opener, the 2-1 defeat stung just as much.

Stung because despite injuries to players like Paul Byron, Victor Mete and Jonathan Drouin, Montreal is still the more talented side. I mean, the Red Wings have Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, but not much else other than a couple of players like Valteri Filppula and Mike Green who are past their due dates. All Montreal had to do is put in an honest effort.

Goal number one for Detroit came courtesy of a Shea Weber turnover behind his own net in the 1st period. Dylan Larkin, back from injury, made a good play picking his pocket and feeding an uncovered Tyler Bertuzzi, who notched his 11th of the season.

That was all in regards to scoring for a good long while. Montreal came closest with both Weal and Armia hitting the post. It wasn’t until past the midway point of the 3rd when the next goal came and it was the game winner for Detroit. Mike Green wired a shot past a partialy screened Price on the power play. It clanged in off the post on his blocker side. The Habs would score in the last minute courtesy of a nice shot from the point by Tomas Tartar which went in and out of the net very quickly. After a mini conference the officials decided on a goal. While there was a flurry over the last 30 seconds or so, Montreal could not put one past Bernier.

Montreal dominated almost every aspect of the game. Possession. Scoring chances. Faceoffs won. Takeaways. Shots on net. They made jouneyman Jonathan Bernier look great. Loads of shots, but not a ton of grade A scoring chances. They sabotaged themselves by getting a lot of penalties, including three in the offensive zone. Some were weak calls, but still…

Looking for the silver lining in this mess of a game….once again the defence pairing of Weber and Ben Chiarot played a strong game. Since being put together for a victory against the Bruins, they have done well together despite some people’s worries about their lack of foot speed. Chiarot has been a surprise. Getting better as the season goes on and faster than anyone thought.

Montreal has seemed to work out their defensive woes. During their eight game losing streak they were awful, but now they seem to have tightened up. Playing a tight system which allows them to stay in every game. For instance, last night over the two first periods Detroit only mustered 12 shots on Carey Price.

Once again, Nick Suzuki, centering the third line between Nick Cousins and Jordan Weal, showed his skill between two (not to disparage them) borderline NHLers. He played the second most minutes amongst forwards to Phillip Danault. Suzuki was strong on the puck, worked hard and laid a sublime saucer pass in between two Red Wings defencemen right onto the stick of Cousins, who could not convert the high quality chance. His passing skills continue to impress me. Showing great development in his rookie season.

Finally, it was another rookie who caught my eye. Ryan Poehling, who was on the wing on the 4th line with Nate Thompson and recent call up Riley Barber, played his second best game in the bleu-blanc-rouge. He did not score a hattrick like he did in his debut game last season against Toronto. He did not even score, but he played well. Strong, physical and dangerous in the opponent’s end of the rink. Poehling brings a game to the team which no other forward does except maybe Joel Armia.

The next seven games for Montreal will be on the road. Including an always deadly swing across the Canadian west with games against Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. Things do not get any easier. Though some good news is that speedy winger Paul Byron has started practicing and Jesperi Kotkaniemi will make the trip. Them coming back will bring a welcome injection of skill into the forward position.

Game Stats:

Goals: 1st Period:

3:21: Detroit – Tyler Bertuzzi assisted by Dylan Larkin and Mike Greene

3rd Period

7:42: Detroit – (pp) Mike Green assisted by Valteri Filppula and Andreas Athanasiou

19:13: Montreal – Tomas Tartar assisted by Shea Weber and Joel Armia

-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 43

Detroit – 20

-3 Stars:

  1. Jonathan Bernier
  2. Mike Green
  3. Tyler Bertuzzi

-Attendance: 21,302

-Final Score: Montreal – 1

Detroit – 2

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