Price Shines, But Habs Stumble in Defeat

Last’s night well hyped game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Guy Boucher-coached Tampa Bay Lightning delivered on all of its promise. Fast paced, lots of scoring chances, great hits, and an overall entertaining match to watch.

This game showcased the difference between a coach who can adapt and one who cannot as the Canadiens outplayed the Lightning in the first stanza, but were outcoached the rest of the way. Boucher’s team made the necessary adjustments after the first period and took the play to Habs for final 40 minutes—outshooting the Canadiens 48-25 on the night.

But the story of the game was again Carey Price. Stopping 44 of 48 shots, he was the only reason this game wasn’t over in the second period. Price was two minutes and twelve seconds away from banking another well earned victory until P.K. Subban took a bad, late-game penalty that lead to Tampa’s tying goal.

There was a questionable trip on Dustin Boyd on the play that fans thought should have been a penalty. However, nothing was called and Steven Stamkos had the empty net to tie the game.

Subban was at is again in overtime trying to beat three Tampa defenders himself, leading to a scoring chance the other way. Tampa scored the game winner of off the ensuing faceoff to seal the deal.

This game was a victory that Price deserved but the team in front of him did not.

Final Score: Tampa 4 – Habs 3 (OT)

Habs scorers: Maxim Lapierre (1), Tomas Plekanec (1), Andrei Kostitsyn (1)
Tampa scorers: Brett Clark (1), Martin St. Louis (1), Steven Stamkos (3), Ryan Malone (1)

Ugly Moment of the night

Jousting with Steve Downie for most of the game, Lapierre had a dangerous push/hit on Downie in the second period that sent the Tampa forward flying head-first into the boards. This was a dangerous play by Lapierre and I would not be surprised to see him get a couple of games for his act.

Here is video of the hit. You be the judge on whether or not this deserves a suspension…

Game Notes

Price was the only reason this game wasn’t over in the second period.

Price looked stable and confident all night and it looks like his victory against the Penguins did him a lot of good. Out of the 44 saves that Price made on the night, several were of the stupendously spectacular variety; glove saves, standing tall in his net, giving them nothing to shoot at, and deftly handling the puck—which is Price’s “tell” that he is feeling good.

If he keeps playing like this, goaltending will not be an issue for the Habs this year. For all the haters out there, try to remember last night’s performance if/when things don’t go so well for Price later in the year.

Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri are magic together.

Plekanec looks like a man possessed on the ice and looks even better than last year. The chemistry that he and Cammalleri have together is palpable and evidenced by the sweet pass Cammy made to Pleks to make it a 2-0 game.

Plekanec also setup Andre Kostitsyn for his first of the year and really looks like he is hitting his peak as a player. If he keeps playing like this I fully expect him to get close to 80 points this season and challenge for the Selke Trophy.

Cammalleri, for his part, also came to play this year. He’s just got to stop taking dumb retaliatory penalties. He knows better than that and is only hurting the team when he has those brain cramps.

Pouliot played a great game.

Last night, Pouliot was shooting, hitting, skating, digging pucks out of corners, and doing what he has to do to be an effective top-6 player. When he plays that way, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta suddenly have so much more room to skate and they become much more effective.

While that line hasn’t done anything yet this season, there were a few flashes of greatness last night. If Pouliot can keep it up, they should start finding the scoreboard soon enough.

Subban needs to calm down at try to do “less”.

It is no coincidence that Subban played his worst NHL game the same night he was facing a team coached by Boucher—his former coach in Hamilton.

Boucher knows Subban’s tendencies and had his team taking advantage of his sometimes wild play. Often being pressured, Subban was pinching at the wrong time, missed assignments, took unnecessary risks, and turned the puck over a few times leading to scoring chances. He’ll soon learn that you don’t have that extra split second in the NHL.

On the play just before winning goal, Subban tried an end-to-end rush that was broken up at Tampa blue line. This sent the play back into the Canadiens zone for a scoring chance that was stopped by Price.

On ensuring defensive zone faceoff, Tampa scored off of a goal-mouth scramble. None of this would have happened if Subban had passed the puck rather than trying to beat three defenders all by himself, with about one minute left in overtime.

Subban needs to learn how to pick his spots a little better, and he will. But right now he is young and full of exuberance and he just needs to settle down and simplify his game in order to be more effective. Last night it almost seemed like he was trying to please or play to the crowd instead of sticking to his game.

Subban also took bad and untimely penalties—like his perhaps questionable slashing call that lead to Tampa’s tying goal with about 1:20 left to play in the third period. This is actually becoming a trend for P.K. over the first three games of the season and is a result of the extra attention he is getting from the opposition. Once Andrei Markov is back in the lineup, that should help deflect some attention off of Subban and perhaps settle his game down.

Eller-Lapierre-Halpern were excellent

This trio looks like they have started to develop some chemistry together. Last night, Lars Eller was on fire and his skill and hard work lead directly to the Tampa turnover that ended up on Lapierre’s stick and in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead. If they can keep it up, that will be a formidable third line that should provide about 40-goals this season and some necessary secondary offensive support.

Markov can’t come back soon enough

The Canadiens’ power play went 0-for-3 last night and has yet to score a goal over three games this season. That is just not good enough.

With each game that passes it becomes more and more evident how important Markov is to the Habs defense and to their power play.

Roman Hamrlik returned to the Habs lineup last night and provided a stabilizing presence—playing with Ryan O’Byrne—on the back end.

The problem is the duo of Subban and Jaroslav Spacek is just not working together. They have been playing together since the beginning of the season and, for whatever reason, they do not complement each other very well. Each player seems to be doing their own thing and there is very little communication or cohesion. The surprising part is the Jacques Martin is still keeping them together.

Subban should clearly be playing with Hamrlik, and maybe once Markov is back, that is what will happen. For now, however, the coach should be trying something else. But alas, Martin is not usually the quickest to react and tends to be a bit rigid.

Standings and Next Game

Despite the loss, the Canadiens did pick up one point in the standings entirely due to the strong play from Price.

The Canadiens are off today before taking on the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night in Buffalo before taking on the Ottawa Senators in Montreal on Saturday. With two games in two nights, Alex Auld might get his first game action on Friday or Saturday depending on what Martin decides.


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