Habs Complete Two Game Sweep of Senators
With a second game in as many nights, both with the head of the Atlantic Division on the line, the fans were expecting another entertaining battle and they were right for the first 40 minutes of this one. A slick and smart play by Andrei Markov allowed the Canadiens to earn the lead with only 27 seconds expired on the night. An ill-advised pass by Beaulieu negated a Galchenyuk face-off win. With his usual low percentage, Galchenyuk did not win a second as Ottawa put the puck on net and had the puck bounce off Pyatt to beat Price. I don’t want to make excuses for Galchenyuk, who needs to improve in the face-off circle, but that goal can’t be solely blamed on his lost draw with the needless high risk play by Beaulieu and the bad bounce as Benn clearly had Pyatt covered. Before the end of the period, Montreal showed an excellent example of a whole-line goal. Galchenyuk wins a battle in the defensive zone, Radulov wins a race deep in the Ottawa zone, Pacioretty then wins a battle to allow Beaulieu to find Benn who ripped one off a Senator stick to the back of the net. The second period was perhaps the most boring of the entire 6+ periods between the two teams. At least the first half of the period was void of any emotion or tempo. While play was mostly 50-50 for the entire period, Montreal had much better scoring chances except for the one spectacular save Price had to make. The third period was all Montreal as the third goal destroyed the effort-level for the Senators. Byron scored his 20th of the season (no need to adjust your glasses, you read that correctly) by beating Anderson between the legs… again. Beaulieu capped off the scoring with a power play blast from the blue line. The first PP unit needs to take note that the PP needs to keep battling for pucks and then can play fancy once they’ve set it up in the opposition zone. Quite frankly, Ottawa looked so intent on being physical against the Canadiens in the third that I’m not entirely surprised this game ended this way. They may need to view some Bruins-Habs tapes to understand that this type of play will not get them the result they want. Anyways, it was a gigantic 4-point weekend for the Habs, both standings and confidence-wise.
1. Phil Danault had himself one heck of a weekend. I spoke about Lehkonen at length yesterday, but that entire line was a thorn in Senators’ side, with Danault adding some stellar penalty killing during the first period last night. If this trio can play this way into April, there is absolutely no reason to break this line up. Let the ultra talented top line figure it out, they have enough skill to do so. Let this line be the momentum creator it was over the weekend.
2. It’s being said by many media outlets, but Jordie Benn may well be the best acquisition made in the entire NHL at the deadline. His presence might mean that Bergevin will be forced to trade away Nathan Beaulieu before losing him for nothing at the expansion draft. But it’s a good scenario since Montreal gains a solid and consistent defender in Jordie Benn.
3. It wasn’t perfect in either case, but Emelin and Petry played much better tonight than their respective last efforts. Petry limited his risks and played the game that was presented to him instead of trying to create offense that isn’t there. Emelin kept things simple and got back to hitting which is what will make him an effective defender.
4. How about Paul Byron. No one can be sure that he’ll ever repeat the exploit, but at such a cheap rate, even 75% of this year’s production is excellent. He is a threat from everywhere on the ice with his speed. Most interesting is that his presence on the ice has created time and space for Gallagher and Plekanec, so it’s a real good sign for the third line with only 10 games to go.
5. I feel like I need to make this point. I’m tired of seeing fans dump all over Dwight King. King is not the most physical guy, or the most enthusiastic. Furthermore, the role of the fourth line on any team is firstly to tire the opposition. Martinsen might be a flashier 4th liner with big hits and some flashes of speed, but King never gets caught defensively and when he gets cycling down-low, he is a force on the puck. Watching Ottawa defenders like Phaneuf and Methot bounce off him all weekend confirmed that while he is a fourth liner, he is an excellent one and replacing him with Martinsen in an effort to get some big hits for the team would be an error in my opinion.
Montreal now see a much easier schedule into the next week with 5 of their next 6 opponents being non-playoff teams. I have to believe that the bulk of Julien’s work will be to keep his team on their toes so they fall into the over-confident trap after such excellent games with weaker opponents ahead. First up is Detroit tomorrow night at 7h30.
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