Recap – Maple Leafs vs Canadiens: Too Close, Habs Escape With Shootout Win

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Game 55, Home Game 30 | Saturday February 14, 2015
Bell Centre, Montreal, QC.

CANADIENS
Montreal

teamlogo_canadiens

2-1

MAPLE LEAFS
Toronto

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Lineup scratches: Tom Gilbert, Jiri Sekac

Game Notes:

Two week wrap.  The Canadiens have just completed a two-week period where they earned nine of a possible 14 points.  Not bad, or is it?  Taking a closer look, six of seven of the games were played at the Bell Centre.  Just one of the seven teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, the Boston Bruins, as they presently cling to the final wild card position. Of the rest, they are some of the worst teams in the league: Flyers (22nd), Devils (25th), Maple Leafs (26th), Coyotes (27th), Oilers (29th) and Sabres (30th).

So the question is, during one of the softest portions of their schedule, should the Habs be content with giving away five points?

How did THEY do that? The Ottawa Senators beat the Edmonton Oilers 7-2 on Saturday, the same Oilers who beat the Canadiens on Thursday.  The Senators won for just the second time in six games but had little difficulty dispatching Edmonton.  Oilers goalie Viktor Fasth, who got the win against Montreal, allowed three goals on 15 shots.  Ottawa scored three goals in the first four minutes of the second period, the same number of goals the Canadiens scored in almost 62 minutes.

Seven goals by the Senators matched their season high. They also scored seven against the Arizona Coyotes on January 31st.  The next night those same Coyotes beat the Habs 3-2 in the game that started this two-week stretch.  Not setting off any alarm bells yet?

Struggling with easy prey. On Saturday night the Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team with four wins in their last 26 games. The Leafs have earned just 10 of a possible 52 points.  But the Canadiens could not put this flaying team away in regulation. With the Leafs giving up an average of 3.02 goals per game (25th), the Habs scored one goal in 65 minutes.

Montreal’s poor starts are well-known. They had the perfect opportunity on Saturday against the worst first period team in the league giving up the most goals. If the Canadiens had simply scored first, or maybe went up by two goals, Toronto would have folded their tent.

The usual answer. The opponents will get more difficult. To date Michel Therrien doesn’t have an answer for a lack of scoring other than to put his forward lines in the blender. Part way through the game Dale Weise was dropped from the first to the fourth with Brendan Gallagher moving to the top line and Lars Eller going from the third to second line.

Boxing robe. Kudos to Nathan Beaulieu for standing up for Sergei Gonchar after his head was rammed into the boards by David Clarkson. Beaulieu was overmatched and cost the team his services for most of the second period (he had just one shift) but earned the respect of his team. A blue boxing robe was seen in Beaulieu’s locker post-game indicative of the team-chosen player of the game.  Gonchar did not return to the game and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury.

The spectator.  On the opposite end of the spectrum was David Desharnais who stood two feet away looking at Stephane Robidas after the Leafs defenseman pasted Andrei Markov to the side boards with a dangerous hit in the first period.  Desharnais was also motionless watching Nazem Kadri as he buzzed the Montreal crease placing his stick in front of Carey Price as Daniel Winnik scored from the faceoff circle.

Workhorses.  With Beaulieu sitting for 17 minutes in penalties and Gonchar out with an injury, the load fell to Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, who played 31:57 and 35:21 respectively.  For Subban, the 35:21 in icetime represents a career-high and is the most for an NHL player in one game this season.

Keys to the offense in his hands?  In 65 minutes of play, David Desharnais had little to show for his efforts. Desharnais was a minus-1, had no shots on goal, no hits and no blocked shots in 19:28 including 3:21 of power-play time.  With the coach trusting this player to be his top line centre it is not hard to see why the Canadiens are struggling offensively.

Give stars to stars.  Needless to say most fans and analysts were stunned when Desharnais was given the game’s first star for his shootout goal by TVA.  Back when the Canadiens experimented with fans picking stars, it was automatic to give the first star to the player who scored the game-winning goal in overtime or a shootout. It was a silly policy then and even sillier that some broadcasters like TVA and RDS still follow it when it is their turn to choose the official stars.  And then there’s the inconsistency of choosing Desharnais for his shootout performance but not Carey Price over Jonathan Bernier.  What about Subban or Markov?  The solution is simple. Try merit.

Grow up.  Since the Los Angeles Kings Twitter account was unofficially declared cool by hockey fans for its clever and sometimes irreverent tweets, other NHL teams have tried to replicate their success with inconsistent results.  Tonight, the operators behind the official Twitter accounts of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs engaged in a self-absorbed, back-and-forth totaling about two dozen mindless gifs.  For fans, it had all the interest in watching two adolescent boys cup their hand under their armpits to see who could make the best fake fart sound.  It was juvenile, unprofessional and unbecoming of two of the greatest organizations in the sports world.

 

Plus / Minus

▲     Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Jacob De La Rose, Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher, Alexei Emelin, Tomas Plekanec

▼     Dale Weise, Brandon Prust, Michael Bournival, David Desharnais

 Statistics
CANADIENS MAPLE LEAFS
32 Shots 29
1 for 5 Power Play 0 for 4
50% Face-offs 50%
30 Penalty Mins 33
21 Hits 31
45 Fenwick For 35
68 Corsi For 52
 Scoring
 FINAL 1 2 3 OT SO T
 Canadiens  (35-15-4) 1 0 0 0 1 2
 Maple Leafs (16-31-9) 1 0 0 0 0 1
Scorers Goalies
  • MTL:  Gallagher (13).  shootout: Desharnais
  • TOR:  Winnik (6)
  • MTL: Price (W) 31-11-2
  • TOR: Bernier (L) 16-17-5
 NHL Three Stars
NHL3stars
  1.  David Desharnais  MTL
  2.  Jonathan Bernier  TOR
  3.  Carey Price  MTL

 Video Highlights

 Post-game Press Conference
Coach Michel Therrien
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  • “It was demanding for [P.K. Subban (35:21) and Andrei Markov (31:57)], they certainly emptied the tank, and that’s the way I see it. It was really demanding for the defensemen, especially in the second period that we ended up losing (Sergei) Gonchar early in the period then we lost Nathan Beaulieu for 17 minutes, so it was really demanding.
  • “We competed [Saturday]. It was not an easy game to play. And the thing is, you know what, I just took a look at the last five games and we ended up picking up nine points out of the 10, so you’ve always got to look at the big picture.”

Nathan Beaulieu

  • “In this locker room, we take care of each other. There’s a little special bond between me and Gonch (Sergei Gonchar). He’s taken care of me since I’ve been up so it was good that I could do that for him. He’s been so good to me so far.
  • “Anyone on this team would have done the same thing.”

P.K. Subban

  • “My training and my fitness comes first and I’ve always put myself in the best shape possible to play at a high level. And it’s one thing to want to be a go-to guy and want to be paid like one, but it’s another thing to go out there and perform like one every night, and that’s my job.”
  • “[Nathan Beaulieu] did a great job. It says a lot when a young guy who hasn’t played that much in the league comes up and commands that type of respect from his teammates. It’s going to really help him in his career. He looked pretty good throwing them out there. He fought a tough guy. We need him on the ice, though. We want him on the ice. He’s a great player. He did a great thing.”

Maple Leafs forward Daniel Winnik

  • “I think it was probably our best 65 minutes of hockey in two weeks or so. We checked hard all night, didn’t give them too much offensively, and I thought we were creating quite a bit of chances. It sucks at this time of year to be having moral victories but, yeah, I think I’d count that as one.”

Maple Leafs coach Peter Horachek

  • “It was a strong effort, the guys played hard all the way through. I don’t consider a shootout loss a loss. That’s a promotion point, a bonus point. It is what it is.”
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