Much to the chagrin of the fans who want the tank to be in full swing, the Montreal Canadiens keep putting points in the standings as the young players show they may just be ready to shine next season. A difficult test tonight though as Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town. Here’s the Call Of The Wilde…
– Alex Galchenyuk continues to roll. It’s amazing to watch a player take more seriously his defensive responsibility and then play better in the offensive zone as a result. It’s just part of playing hockey the right way. It’s what happens when you’re going the entire shift instead of just one direction. You’re more into the game. Your feet are always moving and naturally so without stops and starts. With another two points, Galchenyuk has ten points in his last nine games and he has moved into a tie for the team lead in points with Brendan Gallagher.
– Artturi Lehkonen went almost a half a season without a goal. Now he has four goals in his last four games. He now has nine goals on the year. It’s not 18. But do you remember how long it was two? Next season 20 plus.
– I’m loving what I am seeing from veteran defenceman Noah Juulsen. But seriously… doesn’t he already seem like the team’s veteran D? Can you be a team’s best D as you hit the dozen mark in your career for games? He is already so steady. His decision making is so good. His reads. What’s the upside? He’s a 3-4. Unless he falls back because he can’t maintain the pace of concentration required, this is one of the great second half revelations of this season and one solid reason for sure to believe next season can be better than this one. Juulsen is a better pro than he was a junior. This style and this organization of play seems better suited to his game.
– That was a hell of a shot from Nic Deslauriers. Just ripped it into the top corner. Hockey sure has changed from the days fourth liners were just fighters. Deslauriers was a high level sniper on the goal.
– Credit too to Jonathan Drouin on the goal too. He refused to give up as the F1 on the play. He forced the turnover that led to the goal. Like the paragraph higher about Galchenyuk, do you notice that Drouin’s success comes with a higher work rate. Drouin’s got hands but without a desire to get them dirty, you’re going to show limits. Drouin’s best hockey of the season right now. Work and win. Simple.
– While all of that was positive and worthy, the real story tonight is JDLR. Head coach Claude Julien gave him one very difficult task. He was asked to stare down the best player in hockey Sidney Crosby. One on one taking on a player who can make you look foolish every shift. The Pens held a wide shot advantage in this game. Kessel’s line with Brassard was a nightmare to handle for others to handle but JDLR against Crosby? That was a different story altogether. JDLR held his own and then some. He was rarely in trouble. The line of JDLR with Lehkonen and Galchenyuk put points on the board. This is a revelation. This is huge.
Here’s what Grant McCagg thought of his night and his play recently: “I have watched DLR closely since the deal, like a scout, watching him instead of the puck. He has been outstanding – the best center. You can see the offensive confidence starting to come too. He’s driving to the net. They need his size and speed down the middle. I’m not dismissing him having top two center upside. I thought it when he was 18 and 19 and I’m thinking it again. Simply a question of opportunity. You could see from the first shift that he was not going to be intimidated by the prospect of checking Crosby tonight, getting inside position on him, outskating and outworking him, anticipating his plays. He accepted the challenge with flying colours. When the opposing coach starts to try to get Sid away from the 22-year-old, that is quite a compliment”.
What this growth means and what this taking on and succeeding one on one against Crosby means for the Habs is huge. JDLR as one of the team’s centers automatically obviates the need for Tomas Plekanec to come back to Montreal. Ryan Poehling admittedly is still a year out but next season looks like Drouin, Danault And JDLR as three of the four centers. The hope of course is acquiring John Tavares which would be a game changer. However, other centers are also on the board like Stastny. Remember that DLR was a top junior at the WJC. He was an early second round pick. His pedigree is good. Never discount a player too early. Getting comfortable at a higher level takes time. Now dare to imagine him as a shutdown center. Suddenly the future looks a lot brighter. Now I know you’re saying it’s just one game. And I agree. But if you can’t do it once, then you can’t ever do it. If you can do it once, then you can repeat it. Get better at it. Be a better player still. The trend is your friend. Let’s watch for this and if it happens…. remember this was the night that JDLR showed he could do very good things by taking on Sidney Crosby and going toe to toe.
– There has to be some middle ground that Mike Reilly can find. He seems to think he’s supposed to go on the rush every shift. Reilly is way too aggressive. He rushes up ice more than forwards do. Like Dude, hang out at the blue line a little.
– Man, Petry is an enigma. He’s like the Charles Dickens novel’s first line of A Tale Of Two Cities: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Petry makes you think that not only in one season. He can pull that Dickensian stuff off in a single shift. One minute he’s dancing through three players and the next he’s passing it perfectly on to the tape of an opponent or getting nutmegged. He gets a pass though right now because let’s be honest. What does Jeff Petry have to prove at the moment.
– Carey Price practiced with his teammates today leading into the game tonight but my oh my I hope they’re not going to risk injury and play him before this season is over. Can you imagine another concussion or a knee injury in a nothing game? He’s the 10.5 million dollar man and there’s a thought to playing him? No foul so far just taking shots from mates in practice. I would shut him down for the season. What does Price need to play for? To what end? Confidence? Please say Carey Price doesn’t need to work on his confidence. Marc Bergevin is taking enough heat already. I would hate to think the level of heat he would take if Price blew out his knee playing for the fun of it.