Well that was a letdown, wasn't it?
After the spectacular high that was provided by the Habs incredible Game Seven comeback win over the Caps, the Canadiens came out flat against the Pens.
To be honest, last night's 6-3 loss to the Pens was entirely predictable. It is difficult for a team to ground themselves so quickly after such an emotional high. Having to turn things around two days after their Washington victory didn't work to the Habs' advantage.
Compared to the Capitals series, last night's game was much more balanced but the Habs looked slow and tired all night long. Even Jaroslav Halak—author of three straight wins versus the Caps—looked to be lacking focus.
That, plus the Habs indiscipline, lead the Canadiens' downfall as the Pens scored on all four power plays they were given to take a 1-0 series lead.
The Pens got scoring from Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Craig Adams, Alex Goligoski, and Bill Guerin into an empty net. The Habs got goals from P.K. Subban—his first in the NHL—Michael Cammalleri, and Brian Gionta.
NOTE** - The Habs lost Andrei Markov on a clean Matt Cooke body check early in the game and he did not return. He will be reevaluated today but the injury to his leg did not look good. His loss could be a crippling blow to the Habs playoff chances.
Jordon Staal also went down with a leg injury shortly after Markov left the game, and he did not return.
Final score: Habs 3 - Pens 6
1. Like the rest of the team, Halak was nothing special.
As much as he was spectacular over his last three games, Jaro Halak was completely ordinary last night against the Pens. Letting in five goals on 20 shots for a .750 save percentage, Halak was a shadow of the player we saw against the Caps.
Not that the goals were really his fault, as the Canadiens let the Pens skate freely in their zone. Missed assignments, cross ice passes, and poor gap control meant that Halak was left to his own devices on for too many occasions.
Halak was pulled in favour of Carey Price, when the score was 5-2 in order to give him a rest.
On an interesting note, the Pens only managed 20 shots on Halak and he tends to excel when he is seeing 30 or more shots a night.
2. Subban continues to impress.
While the loss of Andrei Markov is potentially crippling to the Canadiens' chances in this series, it allowed Subban to take on a bigger role last night.
Playing alongside Marc-Andre Bergeron on the first wave of the power play—after Markov was injured—Subban was thrust into a much more important role on the team.
With Spacek potentially returning for Sunday's Game Two and Markov likely out for at least the next game, Jacques Martin is sure to lean more heavily on the young Subban and he has the skill level to be able to pick up the slack.
3. The team needs some rest.
The biggest factor in the Canadiens loss last night was their visible fatigue. They were missing that spark and jump that allowed them to score timely goals against the Caps. The Canadiens will need to rest up and refocus themselves on the Penguins because if last night was the best that the Pens have to offer, they are an extremely beatable team.
Don't get me wrong, because I do think that the Pens are an excellent team. However, they are not the Penguins from 2009 and Marc-Andre Fleury looked shaky on many of the saves he made. I think that whatever happens in this series, that it will end up going six or seven games.
Look Out Ahead!
Last night's game was a write-off from the Canadiens and an entirely predictable result. That being said, I believe with the veteran leadership in their room, the Canadiens will regroup and challenge the Pens for the split in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Jaroslav Spacek could be making his return to the lineup on Sunday, and not a moment too soon!
The teams have today off before playing a Sunday afternoon Game Two at 2 pm EST. It will be interesting to see how the afternoon game affects the players. It tends to throw their usual schedules off and you never know how they will react.
Suffice it to say, however, that I expect a much stronger effort from the Habs on Sunday.
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