The Montreal Canadiens are hanging around the final playoff spot in the East Conference, but it’s that time of the year where every game is close to a must-win. Put the Detroit Red Wings in the category of two points that you have to have. If you can’t beat the Wings at home fighting for a playoff spot, you’re probably not going to win that playoff spot.
On Tuesday night, the Canadiens beat the Red Wings 3-1.
Max Domi is everywhere for the Habs on many shifts; his work rate is outstanding. On any given night this season, if you’re wondering what the energy level and jump in the legs that the Habs have, just look at Domi. He is a representation of their fatigue-factor every game.
When Domi is going, so is the team. In the first period, it seemed a miracle that the Habs were unable to score when Domi was on the ice. He was a buzzsaw creating space and chances. The Wings had no answer except the final line of defence goalie Jonathan Bernier.
In the second period, the deadlock of zeroes was finally broken by Domi as he did the hard work and went right to the front of the net to re-direct the Andrew Shaw pass. It was one of the most important goals this season; the Habs absolutely had to have that first goal. The longer a game goes without a goal, the more it’s an advantage to the road team. Domi added the empty-netter with some tremendous hustle in a 3-1 win. Domi already has career bests in goals and points this season.
At 24 years of age, this is his breakout season. This is when it happens for many. Expect many great years to come for Domi in a Habs uniform.
Andrew Shaw continues to play some of the best hockey of his career, and certainly the best hockey of his time in Montreal. Shaw brings a lot of energy. He doesn’t back down from anyone, regardless of their size. He is a difficult player to battle because he wants the hardest space on the ice. He gets to pucks first in the corner, rather than give up positioning to avoid taking a big hit. Shaw takes the hit and the puck — that seems easy, but it’s remarkable how many players will not make this sacrifice.
Shaw’s pass on the Domi goal was an example of getting to it first, then, knowing a hit was coming, he made the play to the front of the net where good things happen.
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When goals are hard to come by against a goalie who was in the mood to upset Jonathan Bernier, if you score one, you are automatically a much-needed horse in the contest.
Brett Kulak scored his fourth goal of the season on a hard slap shot. Kulak has been a surprisingly good defender this season, and the argument can easily be made that when he left the line-up for some inexplicable reason, the Habs’ consistent defence went into a skid. The Habs had three strong pairings for the longest time, and each of the pairings read each other’s movements. They were comfortable. Kulak with Jordie Benn was working. Suddenly, Benn is pulled off that unit and moved to the second pairing, Kulak is in the press box, and the Habs are discombobulated.
Kulak has filled an important role this season. It was a strong trade with Calgary for two players who will never be in the NHL. And on this night, they needed someone to get that second goal to put some distance between the Habs and an upset, and Kulak delivered to make it 2-0.
Victor Mete just might be the best defenceman on the Montreal Canadiens at the moment.
It’s been at least three weeks that Mete has brought his game to another level. He simply looks more comfortable. He seems to be buying more time to choose his moment to either head-man the pass or bring it up with speed himself. He is able to slow down the game to the moment that he is ready to make his best decision.
This is not an easy skill, and few are actually able to do this — to have the puck, then begin to spin, weave, stickhandle, whatever it takes to take the tension out of the game when it’s dicey in your own end. It’s quite a thing to see how Weber is starting to use Mete. It’s how it should be in a partnership of the player with speed and the player with size. When Weber wins the puck in his defensive zone with his size, he is always looking for Mete now to do the next phase of the breakout. He has developed a lot of confidence in Mete who has come a long way in his second year as an NHLer.
It was thought by most that Mete was a third-pair defenceman, but he has clearly shown that he is more than that, and he is just starting his career. Mete was a fourth-round draft choice taken 100th overall. That’s one heck of a pick by Trevor Timmins. Hard to excel more than that at the drafting game.
When Carey Price was drafted in 2005, there were many that didn’t like that pick fifth overall. They thought it was too early to take a goalie. Price didn’t even have a good save percentage for a poor Tri-City Americans team in the Western Hockey League.
The pick certainly worked out, though.
Price became the winningest goalie in Habs franchise history on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Montreal has seen more than a century of hockey with some of the greatest goalies in the game, but it’s the gentle soul from Anahim Lake, B.C. who holds the record of 315 wins, passing Jacques Plante.
The Habs certainly didn’t make it easy to get that win record breaker — the game was tense from start to finish. Price had to come up with many huge saves. The biggest was midway through the third period when Tyler Bertuzzi had a clear breakaway, looking to have Price beaten with a deft move. Price, however, stretched out, showing dexterity not expected from someone six-foot-three-inches tall, but this is why Price is Price — that rare combination of size and agility. He doesn’t always have to move, he is so big, but when he does, he can.
Price has many years left in Montreal to obliterate that wins record. It’s hard to imagine a day when someone will pass him, but it will be at best 20 years from now because Price owns the net for the next seven. Congratulations, Carey Price! It honestly could not happen to an older soul — a man of great heart and kindness.
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The Habs took a vital two points. Carey Price became the winningest goalie in team history. Goats? A hard no.
It’s extremely difficult to get help at the end of the season in a fight for a playoff spot. So it was again for the Habs, as two rivals for the playoffs both won. The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to roll to such an extent that they are almost out of the conversation now to catch. The Pens beat the Washington Capitals at home to now have 85 points on the year.
The Habs, meanwhile, are four points back at 81 on the season. The Habs really were hoping for a favour from the Boston Bruins, and one surely seemed possible seeing as they have the second best record in all of hockey, but they couldn’t get it done against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. This means that the Blue Jackets have the same total of 81 points as the Habs, but Columbus has the tie-breaker over Montreal, so the Habs actually need to finish one point better than Columbus to grab that last spot.
Next up for Montreal is the Islanders in New York Thursday night. Next up for Columbus is a home date with the Hurricanes. Carolina is also a part of the playoff picture at 83 points, so the Habs will hope for anything in that contest in Ohio, but overtime so they split three points.
The Penguins’ next game is Thursday night in Buffalo.
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