In losing 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday, the Montreal Habs put a damper on an otherwise exciting evening.
The list of interesting plot twists was plentiful as the Habs prepared to dispute two huge points in the standings: Carey Price playing his first back-to-back games since January, Josh Gorges in the lineup after taking a puck off the back of his head the previous game, P.K. Subban playing his first NHL game (as Markov was scratched due to injury), newly acquired Dominic Moore playing his first game in a Habs uniform, and the whole thing taking place with the Olympic opening ceremonies only hours away.
The Habs came out flat, however, from the drop of the puck and hung Carey Price out to dry. Sadly, this has become an all too familiar pattern.
While Price was looked shaky and unsure of himself during the first two periods, the Habs defensive zone coverage was atrocious for most of the game, making him look even worse.
The Flyers opened the scoring at 18:14 of the first with a shot that Price stopped, resulting in a goal-mouth scramble. Philly's Hartnell was tussling in the crease and pushed Price into the net with his stick. This left an opening for Jeff Carter to shovel the puck into the open net for his 25th of the season.
The Habs went to the first intermission down by one and it didn't take Philly long to extend their lead.
At 1:17 of the second, Jeff Carter fired a rocket from the point which went through Price's five-hole to make it 2-0 for the Flyers. Price was unscreened on the play and should clearly have stopped that shot. With such fragile confidence, however, Price tends to fall apart after getting scored on.
The Flyers weren't done, potting a third goal only two minutes later as a harmless looking Matt Carle shot from the point was deflected by Ryan O'Byrne past Price.
Philly simply dominated the rest of the second frame, outshooting the Habs 12-7 and 23-13 after two.
The third period started differently, as Price seemed to settle into a groove, coming up with several excellent stops to keep it a three-goal game.
P.K. Subban played an excellent game, and his hard work led to the Habs first goal. Using what will soon be known as his patented end-to-end rushes, Subban brought the puck into the Flyers zone and passed it behind the net. The Habs' Glen Metropolit jumped on the puck and just threw it out front, bouncing it off of Daniel Briere and into the net. Three-1 Flyers.
This goal gave the Habs a lift, as Dominic Moore scored his first goal in a Habs uniform less than a minute later off of a scramble in close.
With less than a minute to play in the game, Philly's Darroll Powe slammed Jaroslav Spacek into the board, resulting in an injury to Spacek and a five-minute major penalty to Powe.
Despite the powerplay and carrying the momentum to the final buzzer, the Habs were not able to score that elusive tying goal and lost, 3-2. The game ended with a melee of players in the Flyers zone, none more prominent than Gomez, who attacked Kimmo Timonen.
Tempers flared and blood boiled, and I am sure it will only carry over into today's grudge match at the Bell Center.
Final: Habs 2-Flyers 3
1—Like Rodney Dangerfield, Price gets no respect. Yesterday was the same old story that we have gotten used to: Price in nets, no support in front of him, terrible defensive zone coverage, no shots on net, tons of turnovers, and Habs unable to score more than two goals.
There is no question that the second goal was one that Price would like to have back, and that he looked very shaky for the first two periods, but my question is this: Where was the team in front of him?
Price's fragile confidence is evident, and I think that the team knows it. As such, they don't generally play the same in front of him as in front of Halak. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a vicious cycle and Price has to figure out a way to get out of it.
2—Ryan O'Byrne is finding his game. Last night, OB looked solid out there and you can see his confidence growing each game. OB delivered solid hits, made great, unhurried first passes, and exhibited good defensive zone coverage.
The best illustration of his confidence was when he and Simon Gagne were racing for a loose puck in the neutral zone. Gagne got to the puck first, but O'Byrne dove and knocked it away from him, preventing a clear breakaway. It's nice to see him settling down and finding his groove.
3—P.K. Subban was the best player on the ice for the Habs. Not only does he look NHL ready, but he has the swagger of a veteran. Paired with Hal Gill, Subban made great plays, he looked calm with the puck, and he's not afraid to try dynamic things offensively.
His offensive prowess was on display as he made a spin-o-rama at the blue line to lose his checker, leaving him open for a great shot from the point.
Subban looks like a mini-Markov.
Also apparent was the fact that Subban was raring to go every time he stepped on the ice. He just wanted to make things happen and often did, whether it was with solid defensive plays or his end-to-end rushes.
Give this guy a little time to season at the NHL level, and he will become a star.
The last note on Subban is that it's nice to see his level of confidence. When interviewed during the intermission by RDS, Subban was asked why he didn't look nervous. His answer was, "Why should I be nervous? I've been playing hockey since I was three."
4—Habs cannot play against physical teams. While the Habs seem to play well against skill-based teams such as Washington, Vancouver, and Pittsburgh, they tend to have a tough time against physical teams like Philly.
Philly plays a physical brand of hockey that puts a lot of duress on the smaller Canadiens' players. As a result, the Habs lose more battles than they win and tend to have difficulty getting things going in the offensive zone.
If there is one thing that Gauthier should try to address at the deadline it is the Habs lack of size.
Standings and Next Game
This loss leaves Montreal with 64 points in 62 games, good enough for seventh overall in the East.
Philly leapfrogged the Habs and are now one point ahead at 65, with three games in hand.
Behind the Habs are Boston and Tampa with 63 points and three games in hand each.
The Habs now take on the Flyers again in Montreal in their last game before the Olympic break.
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