Saturday, 17 December 2016

Game 31: Canadiens 2, Capitals 1

Dave Randorf and Gary Galley on the call for Sportsnet, which is suboptimal, but certainly preferable to the meandering Bob Cole.  Meanwhile, Pierre Houde and Marc Denis are relegated to Antichambre duty.  Thank you Gary Bettman.

Last night, we observed after a disappointing effort against the Sharks that observers figured the Canadiens, after losing their #1 centre Alex Galchenyuk and centre David Desharnais, and after having won 'should-win' games against weak sisters New Jersey and Colorado, needed to maintain a .500 pace in the next 6 to 8 games against tougher opposition.  That should suffice to stay near the top the of the standings, with the healthy cushion built up early in the season.

Well, so far so good, despite the latest fanbase Chernobyl after the 4-2 loss against the Sharks.  The Canadiens have lost in OT against the Bruins, lost against the Sharks and tonight put up a 2-1 win against the powerhouse Capitals in their barn.  So 3 points in 3 games, that's .500 hockey according to my math.

It could be a costly victory though.  Andrei Markov left the game with a 'lower-body injury'.  Shea Weber took a slapshot to the knee, and had to leave the game for a while but managed to return.  If either or both miss time, it's going to be hard to replace them with AHL callups.

And it should serve to blunt any discipline headed Nathan Beaulieu's way.  He took a costly penalty in the second period, and when it turned into a two-man advantage for the Caps, they easily scored.  When Nathan was let out of the penalty box, he mockingly tapped his stick on the ice, and had a few choice words for the ref, 'congratulating' him for his efforts.  This landed Nathan back in the box with a ten-minute misconduct.  Nathan isn't secure enough in the Canadiens organization, in the NHL, to take these types of penalties.  He'll be lucky if he doesn't have to sit out a game.  And his luck could be due to Andrei and/or Shea being out action.

Mike McCarron and Chris Terry, who were lightly used early on, started logging heavier minutes as the game wore on and the coaches saw that they were being effective, while other more senior Canadiens weren't.  They had some noticeably effective shifts in the third period.

Lars Eller was basically invisible.  We saw an occasion when he tried to outstickhandle three Canadiens backcheckers in a corner, and promptly lost the puck.  He didn't quite put up a Desharnais-worthy night on the scoresheet, with his shot on goal and three hits marring the otherwise perfect string of zeroes.  He'll have to wait to savour his revenge.

Meanwhile I'm starting to worry a little about Brendan Gallagher.  We see the effort, but maybe not the swagger he used to have, the confidence verging on arrogance.  3 shots on goal in 15 minutes of action.  Maybe the dam just needs to break for everything to right itself?

Carey Price stopped 20 of 21 shots to earn his 250 career victory.  Fan-manufactured mini-noncrisis, averted.

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