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4 Months Later...Not Much Has Changed

July 28, 2020, 11:17 PM ET [900 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
After 140 days without hockey, a bit of rust was to be expected... The problem was though, only one team looked rusty out there. It took just over 30 seconds for the Leafs to open the score on a 2 on 1 after Chiarot decided to join the attack and Gallagher failed to cover for him. Price had next to no chance to make the save on the first shot he faced. It's impossible to be annoyed at Gallagher on that one though considering how rare it is that he makes a mistake. Aside from that opening goal, the first was pretty uneventful aside from the fact that Belzile was hit and propelled into the boards by Muzzin and had to leave the game. The hit came after the play had ended but not one of his teammates stepped up to Muzzin... Of course, this is only an exhibition game and you do not want to see any injury but still, would have been nice to see a bit of team spirit.

The Leafs doubled their lead with a shorthanded goal thanks to a Tatar backwards no look pass on the PP which sent a couple of Leafs towards Price's net at high speed. The goalie made the first save but neither Weber nor Suzuki were able to collect the rebound Kerfoot has no trouble whatsoever burying it. Tatar would make up for that brain cramp a bit later by scoring the Habs' first goal on assists from Suzuki (such a great feed) and Gallagher to make it 2-1. Unfortunately though, 4 months later, last minute gut wrenching goals are still a thing and Kerfoot allowed the Leafs to regain their 2 goal lead scoring at 19:35. To be fair, it was a beautiful deflection and Price had next to no time to react but those last minute goals are just about the best way to lose any kind of momentum.

Paul Byron gave Habs fans a bit of hope when he made it 3-2 8 minutes into the third, but that would be their last occasion to cheer. It's worth noting that Kotkaniemi made a couple of heads up plays in the run-up to that goal and that Ben Chiarot took 2 quality shots as well. Just over a minute later, Morgan Rielly scored the Leafs' second shorthanded goal of the game to make it 4-2 and that score would hold until the final whistle.

So, what can we take away from that game? Well, first and foremost, the special teams are still awful. Not only did the Habs give up 2 shorthanded goal (they had given 5 in the 70 games they played this season) but it wasn't until their 3rd power play that they could put together a credible attack. Until then, they even struggled to enter the Leafs' zone. As for the blue line, it's definitely still a big concern. The third pairing of Mete and Ouellet wasn't particularly reassuring and both of them took little tumbles early on. To have any hope to win against Pittsburgh, this team will have to do a better job at clearing the rebounds from the front of the net. Julien stuck with the lines we've seen in at practice this week and while Domi's line created a couple of great chances, Dale Weise was the player by the net who needed to put them in... needless to say, that did not happen.

On the bright side of things though, if they play this way against Pittsburgh starting Saturday, they'll be in great shape to have 12.5% chance of winning the Lafrenière derby come August 10. Meanwhile, the Penguins lost 3-2 to the Flyers in the first game of the day. Crosby was on the ice for the Pens even though he had dealt with a nagging injury lately and he looked as fit as a fiddle out there. The second half of the Pens double headed monster didn't look as good though, Evgeni Malkin struggled to find his rhythm out there but chances are, he'll be all better come Saturday night.

The Habs will play their first playoff qualifying game on Saturday, August 1st at 20:00. That's right, a Canadiens game on Saturday night, you could almost believe that life is getting back to normal...
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