It shaped up to be a difficult Saturday for the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Montreal had six-straight losses heading into their matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers, allowing 20 goals in their last three games.
On the other hand, the Flyers had the best record in the entire NHL in the month of November.
In the end, the Habs pushed the flyers to overtime but lost out 4-3.
- Not sure if it is good or bad that Joel Armia is one goal off the team lead more than a quarter of the way through the season. It’s great for Armia that he has nine goals so far, but it also could be saying that some of the expected scorers need to get it going as well. Armia is a beast to take off the puck when he is in the mood to hold on to it. He plays smart defensively as well. The Habs could use another Armia or two. He might be the only forward that can dominate in puck battles. This might have been the best display of what Armia can do while wearing a Habs uniform. Simply outstanding.
- Max Pacioretty for Nick Suzuki and Tomas Tatar. What a trade! One has to wonder where would the Canadiens be without that trade and what would their future look like without the trade? Tatar scored twice in the contest to increase his team-leading point total to 24 in 26 games. And he’s not even the gem in the trade. That honour belongs to Nick Suzuki. His play on the 3-3 goal was sublime. He’s already picked out a wide-open Tatar across the ice when he rotates his body, drops his shoulder, simulates that he is preparing for a shot on the Flyers goalie. Suzuki knows all along that he’s going to bring everyone to him so Tatar can put it into a wide-open net. The clever nature of Suzuki for a rookie is impressive. Heck, his smarts are impressive for any player. Suzuki is on pace for about 40 points in his rookie campaign. He’s going to be successful for a lot of seasons at the NHL level. One catches glimpses of brilliance all of the time from Suzuki. He’s the best of the young crop for the Habs. Over in Las Vegas, Pacioretty is still playing well. He’s a good man for the Golden Knights, but the Habs really needed this future more than they needed his past. Somewhere, Craig Rivet, once traded by Bob Gainey, is thinking of the axiom six degrees of separation that must surely be up to 12 degrees by now for him. It’s the Gainey trade that never stops giving.
READ MORE: Montreal faces New Jersey on 5-game slide
- The Habs team defence was much better, though it could have hardly been worse than eight allowed against New Jersey. The final tally was 13 odd-man rushes allowed by Montreal in the contest Thursday night, so in this one, they sure tightened up. Sometimes a team has to play safe hockey to figure things out. A team can not allow 13 two-on-ones or breakaways and expect to win. Against the Flyers, the Habs allowed a single odd-man rush. Now that does not mean that it’s a win, or a shutout, but it’s a guarantee that better defence is being played by the Habs. The opposition now has to create on the cycle, or on an even-man rush. This makes it much harder to score. Credit to the Habs coaches, and the players for tightening up the entire game. It was not a barn-burner, that is for sure, but it was one where the Habs played the style of hockey that usually leads to having a chance to win. Remember, when you watch the conference finals or the Stanley Cup finals, you won’t see an odd-man rush the entire game on many nights. The teams who allow a significant number of odd-man rushes were out of the playoffs long before, or perhaps even more so didn’t even make the playoffs. The Canadiens must work on the other aspects of defending still, but this important odd-man rush issue was corrected at least for a day.
- Sadly for the Habs though, the one odd-man rush that Montreal did allow was early in the third period and the Flyers scored on it. Cale Fleury was picked out of the play meaning Jesperi Kotkaniemi had to play defence which he did, but poorly. The Flyers took the lead 3-2. No margin for error it seems for the Habs these days for even the smallest mistakes.
- Earlier this season, Jeff Petry was playing the best hockey of his career. He was playing more minutes than Shea Weber and was seemingly moving into the number role among defencemen on the team. Recently, Petry is struggling mightily. Second period, Petry has a puck behind the goal line defending near the corner boards. He retrieves the puck. He doesn’t look up. He just passes it up the ice to absolutely no one but the Flyers. One pass later, it’s in the net. It was a blind pass. Not sure, if he didn’t want to take a hit, or he saw someone who wasn’t there, but it was completely thoughtless. It was a bizarre moment to watch from a defender who has been so good. In the end, it’s a clear and powerful reminder of how much that confidence plays a role in a player’s ability.
- Montreal can scarcely afford another injury, especially on the blue line where they can’t seem to find six players who will put in a good night’s work. Victor Mete suffered an injury early in the second period and did not return. It appeared that in a mild collision that Mete hurt his left leg. He was seen favouring it as he left the ice on his own. No word on Mete’s status in Boston for Sunday, but it did not appear to be a serious difficulty.
- Seven straight loses with the overtime angst. Just the way it goes really: Max Domi is playing defence because that is how 3-on-3 goes. He gets undressed by Provorov, then Kincaid is beaten under his arm with a soft one. Game over. it’s a casino. It’s an extremely enjoyable casino, but it’s a casino. The Flyers continue their solid run. The Habs made strides system-wise, but that’s not going to matter in the playoff push to get one point again as the losing run hits seven games with the Boston Bruins tomorrow at the TD Garden.
- The Laval Rocket continues to be successful so far this season in third place in the North Division of the American Hockey League. On Friday night, the Rocket won 4-2 over the Syracuse Crunch. Karl Alzner picked up two assists for the Rocket. Jake Evans scored his third of the season. Charlie Lindgren is finding his game recently. He was in the net for the win. The Rocket have not had anyone take over scoring-wise this season. Just a lot of balance all over the line-up. Ryan Poehling was once again held off the scoresheet. He has found the going a bit tough in his first pro season. Poehling has played 21 games this season counting only four goals with two assists. The AHL is not an easy league to score in. The leading point man is Chris Terry with only 27 points. By contrast, the leading point man in the NHL is Leon Draisaitl with 48 points.
- There is some worrying news from Laval for Noah Juulsen. His mysterious health issues have taken another poor turn. Juulsen has gone to a specialist for migraine headaches that are impacting his play and his quality of life. Juulsen is playing well when he is healthy, but he can not stay healthy. After the game against Syracuse Friday night, Juulsen complained of headaches again. He will be left out of the line-up when the Rocket play on Saturday night.