The Montreal Canadiens collected four out of a possible six points this past week going 1-0-2. This was the result of multiple third period leads blown. In all three games, a third-period lead was blown. Canadiens played in overtime in each of their games.
Habs Weekly Report: Third Period Leads Lost
The first game ended in a 4-3 loss in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning after giving up a 3-1 lead in the third period. The Canadiens lacked aggressiveness throughout the third after playing a good first two periods. They played very passively on the penalty kill which killed them.
Carey Price hasn’t been playing his best hockey as of late and it showed in this one. Price gave up yet another four goals on 30 shots and had his third sub .900 save percentage in his last six starts. Tyler Johnson‘s game-winning goal wasn’t a very good shot and something that Price would usually stop. Nonetheless, the team should have had his back during the third period rather than leave him out to dry. Price looks more annoyed than ever with himself and his teammates. For Price to get back to normal, he will need to keep his cool.
Ever since attacking Adam Henrique, it seems like Price has been distracted by emotions. This isn’t the Price everybody knows. It may just be a slump, and he is just annoyed with his performance. All it might take is a great game to get his emotions back into check. Following the loss to the Lightning, Price looked a level of frustration in front of the media that hasn’t been seen in a long time. Price is the best goalie in the world and eventually he will get his game back to the same level. For now, the Habs players will need to pick up their play and help their best player out of his slump.
Brendan Gallagher’s first goal in 12 games
Following the disappointing loss to the Lightning, the Canadiens beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime on a Phillip Danault winner. Like the game against the Lightning, a third-period lead was blown. However, this time it was the Panthers that blew a 2-1 with less than three minutes left in the game.
Brendan Gallagher was the player who tied the game, scoring his first goal in 13 games. It was a huge relief on Gallagher who has been playing hard, but the bounces aren’t going his way lately. Gallagher has only scored two goals in his last 30 games. Hopefully, that goal means that Gallagher’s slump is over. Gallagher only has six goals through 36 games and is usually expected to score 20 goals per season. If one player has the work ethic to fix a slump and get his goal scoring on par with expectations, it’s Gallagher.
Gallagher currently plays on a line with Phillip Danault and Max Pacioretty, which is better for his game. Danault brings a mix of skill and speed that Torrey Mitchell and Tomas Plekanec can’t bring anymore. Despite his work ethic, Gallagher needs the proper amount of speed and skill to be successful. For now, Danault is the best centre to play with Gallagher and Pacioretty. Nonetheless, when Alex Galchenyuk comes back the team will need a proper second line centre to play behind him and play with Gallagher.
Al Montoya’s first Win in two months
Even more impressive than Gallagher’s slump ending, is Al Montoya‘s first win in two months. Montoya has had his struggles since his last win on October 26th against the New York Islanders. That was until Montoya helped backstop the Habs to a 3-2 win against his former team. Montoya stopped 31 of 33 shots he faced.
”It’s emotional. I’ve got a lot of buddies on that side,” Montoya said.
On Monday, Montoya was rewarded for his win by earning himself a 2-year contract extension worth an average of $1.065M per season. However, there is more to the deal than just his performance. As to the rules of the upcoming expansion draft coming up in June each team must expose a goalie under contract for the 2017-18 season. Rather than expose Carey Price, the Canadiens could now officially expose Al Montoya. The Canadiens have other prospect goalies in the system but none of them have enough NHL experience to be eligible for the draft.
On New Year’s eve, the Canadiens lost 4-3 in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The loss included yet another third-period lead blown by the Habs. This time, the Penguins scored with only 50 seconds left in the game to tie it up. In overtime, the Canadiens took a bad too many men on the ice penalty. This lead to one of the deadliest power plays in the league going to work before Evgeni Malkin ended it. While the Canadiens had another one of their third-period leads blown, there are positives to take from the game.
The Penguins played the Canadiens with a much healthier team (with the exception to Kris Letang). With that being said, they played with two of the league’s best centres in their lineup. The Canadiens don’t even have any true top six centre in their lineup. Yet, they were able to keep up with the Penguins and nearly won the game in regulation. The Canadiens played with a lot of heart and lost with dignity, but the Habs must stay disciplined against quality teams.
The Habs could have easily gone 3-0-0 as easily as 0-0-3 on the week. The Canadiens need to change their style of play when leading in the third. The reason they lost to the Lightning was because they sat back with a two-goal lead.
Alexander Radulov and Paul Byron continue to have great chemistry without the centre they played with earlier this season. While Byron may not be a typical top six forward, he seems like the best fit to play with skilled forwards like Galchenyuk and Radulov. His speed complements Radulov on a regular basis. In the three games last week, Radulov scored two goals playing with Byron. Prior to that Radulov had not scored a point since the 10-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche on December 10th.
The Canadiens will be taking on the Nashville Predators at 8pm on Tuesday night to begin the week that will seem them play a back-to-back against the Preds and Dallas Stars before facing the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday.