Three-straight wins for the Habs changes the whole outlook on the season after an especially trying start to the campaign. Here’s a look at the good, bad and hopeful from a 3-2 win versus Vegas.
Shaw – He seems to be getting better with every game – I’m not sure there has been a better Habs’ player in the past three weeks. After getting two assists in his first ten games, Shaw has three goals and three assists in his last six games. He’s winning important draws as the first-line center on the power play and doing the spadework on the newly-formed Danault line that has clicked quite well since being put together. Last year it was tough to suggest that Shaw was a top-six forward…the past half dozen games he has played like one. Smart, competitive and highly determined…he’s not the biggest or most skilled, but now that he’s fully recovered from his concussions, playing tons for a coach who truly appreciates his contributions and staying away from dumb penalties. The deal Bergevin made for two second-round picks is looking better and better.
Pacioretty – Credit to the captain for picking up his play since the disastrous “effort” versus Minnesota…he has two goals and three assists in the last three wins, but more importantly is competing harder than he had all season. Patch led the team in hits tonight in addition to his game-winning goal
Morrow – Sometimes the best thing you can say about a defenceman is that he is barely noticed. Tonight that would sum up his play…no glaring mistakes, turnovers or needless trips up ice. Morrow has improved his gap control and cut down on the errors since his disappointing end to the preseason, and against Chicago scored the all-important insurance goal with his bomb from the point. He keeps playing like this there may be an NHL career for him yet.
Lindgren – He only had 13 shots through two periods, but at least four of them were excellent stops..and if any of them had gone in the net it’s a one-goal game and who knows what happens. Lindgren made a few more key saves in the third; not something the Habs were getting from the other two goalies. Two goals against in two games? That’s not something the club came close to in any of the previous 14 matches – the Habs best defensive effort in a two-game span before Lindgren arrived was five goals against. He looks confident…big in the net, competitive..and most important of all…he looks like a winner. I don’t think there’s any doubt what you do when Price returns – you put Montoya on waivers. The first Habs goalie since Ken Dryden to win his first five games? Not bad company.
Hudon – What a terrific third-period from the rookie. With a little luck he scored two or three goals and puts the game away. Despite starting the game on the fourth line and only playing 12 minutes Hudon had an assist and led the team with five shots on goal. He played like someone who doesn’t want to be on the fourth line any more.
Julien – Early-season Julien puts Mitchell at center with Drouin out….now he moves Galchenyuk over. Has the old dog learned a new trick? I didn’t really think Galcehnyuk had a particularly strong game up until he was moved to center so kudos to Conservative Claude for doing it anyway…but he had a very strong third period, including defensively. Sensational moves and pass to Lehkonen for the one-timer 13 minutes into the third…he doesn’t likely get the chance to do that playing the wing.
McCarron – You wouldn’t normally consider a skater who saw less than seven minutes of ice time a gladiator…but I’m not sure any other Habs spent as much time screening the opposing goalie in that limited time as McCarron. An unofficial assist to McCarron on Benn’s goal for the 6-6 screen, and he gets credit for a strong first period after sitting on the bench for the first seven minutes of the game; never easy to play two or three shifts in a period and be effective, but McCarron has been playing solidly the past few games as the Habs’ fourth line has outplayed whatever line it’s been matched up against. He did a solid job of screening the opposing goalie in tonight’s game several times following the Benn goal and that’s not possible unless your line is playing in the opponent’s end with frequency…obviously the coaching staff pointed out to him how important it was on the first goal even if he didn’t find the scoresheet.
I’m noticing a subtle adjustment in his style of play. McCarron isn’t going looking for fights like he did in every other audition with the Habs, and also not seeking the hit along the boards well after the puck has moved that took him out of the play. He’s also not missing his hits nearly as often as he was in previous NHL stints, and winning more in-tight puck battles.
Late Note: McCarron got sent down after the game…which is actually good news for him. He needs to be playing a regular shift. Keep improving, and come back even stronger next call-up. Byron Froese was called up.
Grant’s Gladgoat – Half gladiator, half goat.
Benn – It’s Benn nice to see his improved play since the 1-6-1 start…and he had earned his ice time playing with Weber with his play lately. Is he a top-pairing defenceman? No…most would argue he’s not even a top-four blueliner given his lack of offence, but last year in the playoffs he was quite solid in the top four, and since being used in both the second and first pairings this season he has not looked like a fish out of water. Benn even chipped in a goal and assist in the first period, and was pretty solid in the first half of the game.
Every Habs’ defencemen is well into double figures in giveaways except Benn, who remained at five giveaways on the season for several games now going into this game. Tonight though, he had three giveaways…perhaps thinking that with the goal he’s an offensive whiz…not really sure…but as the game went on, Benn struggled more and more. I think it’s a clear message to Daigneault that he shouldn’t be giving Benn the most ice time at more than 25 minutes. Reward him for improved play..but don’t get out of hand, folks. Jordie Benn will NEVER be a 25-minute defenceman.
Benn really struggled in the last two minutes, which included leaving Vegas’ goal scorer alone for a one-timer that made it 3-2 – and it sure looked like he had a giveaway in the last 30 seconds that almost led to the tying goal that should have been his fourth of the night but didn’t count as one. It’s too bad…Benn up until he ran out of gas had been improving more than any other defenceman the past ten games. Hopefully it was just a question of him being overplayed.
A pretty slim list tonight. Weber had one of his worst games of the season I thought..but even then it still doesn’t fit in the Goat category. Petry was a candidate after being schooled on Vegas’ first goal…but to his credit was quite solid the rest of the game.
Keep Galchenyuk’s solid period playing center in the memory bank, and no return to Conservative Claude if Drouin misses some time by moving DLR or Mitchell into the first-line center spot.
Even if Drouin is fine and returns next game….don’t be afraid to move Galchenyuk into the middle if the team is struggling offensively in the future, and play half a game when trailing with Drouin and Chuck a one-two punch at center. Push the offensive envelope when it’s called for – there is some skill up front on this team…utilize it when necessary to its full extent. Throw Hudon or Shaw up with Drouin and Lehkonen and put Chuck between Gallagher and Pacioretty or whatever the combos tht might work when the team falls behind by a couple of goals on occasion…what’s the harm? Lose by four instead of two?