Speed on Full Display as Habs Destroy Sabres
In the return from the All-Star Game, the Montreal Canadiens made all fans of the team remember what the 9-0-1 start to the season looked like as they dismantled the Buffalo Sabres in this contest. The first 50 minutes of the night left little hope for the Sabres as Montreal let their feet off the gas pedal for the final 10 minutes to allow the score to be much kinder to the Sabres than the game was. Montreal came out strong and buzzed for large parts of the first period. The shooters seemed to be a little bit intimidated by the presence of Lehner who had played over his head only 10 days ago. With only a few minutes to go in the period, Greg Pateryn made a nice read on a Jake Eichel pass which allowed Danault to spring Radulov. The Toothless Wonder made a remarkable pass to Pacioretty who made no mistake to open the scoring and the flood gates. As the second period started, Danault once again was at the center of a baffling forecheck as he and Radulov pressured the Sabres D until they coughed up the puck, allowing a slick tic-tac-toe from Danault to Radulov to Pacioretty who once again put it home. David Desharnais then found a way to get on the board as he got a nice feed from Andrighetto in the slot and snipped it home. Markov then took a cross-ice pass from Plekanec to find Byron in the slot to really put the game out of reach. Finally, Pacioretty capped off the night and the hat trick with yet another goal off of a Radulov feed. The only point of concern on the night was that the team stopping to hustle in the last 10 or so minutes, which will hopefully not be a starting point for Thursday’s game.
1. While the first line of Pacioretty-Danault-Radulov will justifiably get most of the attention on this night, it is worth noting that the Plekanec line was just as dangerous, minus the elite-level finishing going on by 67 on this night. Lehkonen was really dangerous on the night, he just couldn’t finish.
2. Desharnais’ return was easily the quietest on the night as he was his usual self, randomly hearing footsteps and falling on the ice. Yet, in typical Desharnais fashion, he found his name on the scoresheet which really loads up some interesting questions for GM Bergevin heading into the trade deadline.
3. Markov’s return was the most successful as the ageless rearguard was able to use the long bomb pass from his own zone to spring Plekanec, made his presence felt on the power play and making a savvy pass to Byron on the team’s fourth goal.
4. Pateryn returned on this night as well and was a mixed bag. He was able to win the majority of his races and battles. He was also steadily in the right position on the ice which is great news for this team. He even got a handful of really good shots on goal which created some secondary chances due to the heaviness of said shot. Where Pateryn sometimes failed was in execution as he wiped out early in the game which gave the Sabres a good scoring chance and made a few bad passes in trying to rush some plays. Overall a passing grade for Pateryn regardless.
5. Tonight was also Nikita Nesterov’s Habs debut and he did not disappoint. His overall speed was quite impressive as was his first pass. His coverage in the defensive zone was better than advertised. Where I think he and coach Therrien might eventually find some ruts in the road is that Nesterov was quite brave in committing to offensive zone pinches, a few of which left Markov on his own against an odd-man rush. This area is likely something the coaching staff will want to work with Nesterov on. Otherwise, very successful debut for the ex-Lightning.
6. I’m often quite critical of Alexei Emelin, so I really want to underline that I thought he was a beast on this night. He made great first passes, solid pinches, didn’t get sucked in by the puck when the opposition was attacking on Weber’s side of the ice and didn’t go all-out with monster hits once the game was out of reach, and he had two chances to do so but he slowed up.
Habs are back on the ice against the Flyers at 7pm.
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