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A Leopard Doesn't Change Its Spots

August 4, 2020, 1:09 AM ET [1325 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
While the Canadiens admirably backstopped by Carey Price came away with a win by the tinniest of margins in game 1, tonight they were completely outclassed by a much more talented team.

For a second game in a row though, Price was brilliant. Pittsburgh shot 38 times on Montreal’s net and while there were no acrobatic saves from number 31, there were still some challenging ones. The Montreal goaltender is not Dominic Hasek, when he’s dialed in, he’s got flawless positioning which means he does not need to do cartwheels in the net. To the untrained eye, it might look like the shots taken are aimed at him but they aren’t. This is the brilliance of Carey Price, he makes it looks easy because he’s always in the right spot. When the final whistle blew tonight, Price had saved 35 of the 37 shots he received for a .946 save percentage in a 3-1 defeat. This kind of goaltending performance should give any team a chance to win, but not for tonight’s Montreal Canadiens.

And for the second game in a row, the Habs just couldn’t stay away from the penalty box.

In the first period alone, they received 3 minor penalties, 2 of which were bench minors for having too many men on the ice. That’s just downright embarrassing… While teams may get away with those at times in a normal setting, when there is no crowd in the arena and the whole of the opposite team is telling the refs that there’s an extra man on the ice, he can hear them. While the Pens failed to convert on any of their power play opportunity, the time spent on the penalty kill is time where you are stuck defending and you can’t attack. Furthermore, it becomes rather taxing for your penalty killers and you end up having to sit some players for much longer than it is advisable to. Aside from the bench minors, Joel Armia took 3 penalties tonight while Shea Weber received one for roughing. At one stage, Armia had spent 9:45 minutes on the ice and 6:00 in the penalty box.

Once again tonight, Jonathan Drouin was a liability.

As soon as training camp started, Julien decided that Drouin would play on the second line with Suzuki and Armia stating that he saw chemistry there. So far, the line has produced one goal, an unassisted marker by Suzuki… On top of that, tonight, Drouin committed 3 giveaways, 2 of which were on the same power play. Unfortunately for him, the other team is all too aware that more often than not, he will try a no look back pass and they are just waiting to pounce on it.

In a best of 5 series, the coaching staff hasn’t got the luxury to wait until he gets his game together, something has to be done now. The way I see it, it’s time to move Max Domi up. Some will say “but he doesn’t want to play on the wing”, that might have been true earlier this season but now, faced with a choice to either centre the 4th line or to play on Nick Suzuki’s wing, I think he’ll be receptive to the idea. Domi looked quite menacing in the third period, full of energy, trying to create opportunities. It was rather obvious that he doesn’t trust his wingers though and he spent most of his time trying to throw the puck on net, clearly hoping for a good bounce. Julien may say that he wants to spread the talent across all 4 lines but the truth of the matter is that he doesn’t have enough talent to go around. If he wants to keep Weal and Weise in the line-up, he has got to have more of a traditional 4th line, you just cannot saddle a skilled player with those 2 and hope that some good will come of it.

On the bright side of things, Jesperi Kotkaniemi got his second goal in as many games, didn’t commit a single turnover and even dished out 3 hits. He was clearly comfortable and the line he completes with Byron and Lehkonen was very efficient. Unfortunately for the young Finn though, all the shorthanded time meant that he played less than he could have on a night on which he was flying on the ice.

Once again, Nick Suzuki also had a good game. He was held off the scoresheet but we saw him make the right decisions time and time again. For instance, on the penalty kill, he was under pressure with 2 Pens closing him on him and instead of panicking and passing the puck to a teammate in a vulnerable position, he took his time and simply pushed the puck behind the net where one of his blueliners was ready to collect it. Being used in all kind of situations also meant that he very nearly got 20 minutes of ice-time for the second night in a row. There’s no denying that he looks like the real deal. I must also say that so far, the Canadiens’ defense is not looking awful out there. Chiarot, Petry and Weber all logged in 24:00 of ice-time or more while Julien tried his best not to expose his third pairing too much. Special mention to Brett Kulak who did try to pitch in on the offensive side of the game, he very nearly got himself a goal for his efforts.

It will be interesting to see if Claude Julien decides to make some changes to his line-up before Wednesday game. Of course, it could be worst, after all the series is tied one game a piece but if it wasn’t for Carey Price’s inspired play, the Canadiens would be on the verge of elimination right now. It’s about time that the coach does something to jump start his attack and support his goaltender wouldn’t you say?

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