After getting shut out for two consecutive games and throwing his lines into a blender looking for a magic solution in game four, Head Coach Kirk Muller opted for a roster change in game five against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Charles Hudon played his first contest of the post-season in the ninth match inside the bubble in Toronto.
The Montreal Canadiens looked to stay alive and they did with a 5-3 win on a night with a lot of great stories. They’ll play a game six.
Jeff Petry and the Montreal Canadiens have a decision to make next year, and it’s a vital one for the franchise.
Petry will be an unrestricted free agent and will command good money after becoming an absolute force for the Canadiens. And Bergevin certainly can’t argue that he wasn’t there when the big games were being played.
In game five against the Flyers, Petry played more than half of the contest. The third pair of Xavier Ouellet and Victor Mete barely played while Petry was on the ice every second shift for much of the game.
Petry’s game never faltered despite the overuse. The Habs are going to need this player to want to stay or they’ll have a giant hole on their roster again. At the trading deadline last year, they could have gotten a first-round draft choice for Petry. They elected to keep him.
This trading deadline, he won’t be worth that for six weeks of service before free agency. Bergevin needs to secure a solid future for his team by signing Petry. Here’s hoping he can convince Petry that the future is still looking good and he could be a part of better days ahead for the Canadiens.
Joel Armia has a great shot but he forgets to use it most of the time. When he does fire it, goaltenders are reminded how heavy the shot is.
Armia had two goals on the night for three in the playoffs. His input was vital as was the frustration for Brendan Gallagher finally ending. Gallagher, with his league-leading 37th shot in the playoffs, finally got his first goal. Gallagher was hungry and angry in game five. He did not lie down after getting benched in the third period for 10 minutes in game four.
But did you expect anything else from Gallagher? Gallagher is a warrior. He only knows how to compete. That’s been his way from his very first pro camp.
Nick Suzuki is a remarkably mature player for a rookie. He just thinks the game so brilliantly already at the NHL level. He does definitely appear to have the potential to be a number one centre in the NHL; he would be more of a Ryan O’Reilly type or Patrice Bergeron. It’s hard to see him being an elite scorer in the 100 point range, but you can see 75 points and very solid two way play. That would be 1C calibre.
It’s the first time in 20 years that you can see a player who might be able to fill the role for the Canadiens. He doesn’t get schooled by the best centres in the game that he has faced for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He is holding his own well which is remarkable considering his NHL experience.
It looks very good for the Canadiens suddenly at centre. Suzuki has shown these playoffs that he is a competitor and a battler, that he does not back down when it gets difficult. As Bergevin says, it appears he’s a ‘get you through the playoffs’ player.
Talent. Smarts. Competitive fire. That’s a hell of a package.
Late in the contest, Brendan Gallagher was cross-checked right across his face. His face was a mess: blood coming out of his mouth, his teeth appearing loose when they’re attending to him at the bench. And he just can’t wait to get back out so he doesn’t miss a shift.
Gallagher is an absolute warrior. How dare anyone doubt his desire? He has always been a battler, and he will be a battler until his legs and his hands are leaden. Even then, his heart will still be pounding and his mind will be thinking of new ways to stay in the game. He’s got only one goal on a league-leading 37 shots. Sometimes it goes that way when the puck doesn’t go in, but he’s always been battling.
Your best players have to be your best players. The reason that this is a well-worn phrase in sports is because you simply cannot rely on your average players to keep up any type of heightened success that they are able to garner in the short term.
The teams that win games are the ones where the players that got you there are able to elevate their level and play their best hockey in the big games. If not, you are done.
In the first round, Evgeni Malkin didn’t look like Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins are done. For the Canadiens, they need Jonathan Drouin to play like the third overall pick that he was. Though considering he made an outstanding play to set up Nick Suzuki for the Canadiens fourth goal, the timing of this passage may seem odd, but the body of work in these playoffs from Drouin is not good enough.
They need Drouin to be the player who mesmerisingly skated around for 40 seconds once for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs leading to a goal. He looked elite for the Lightning many times in the post-season. That Drouin is nowhere to be found in 2020. He’s just not able to compete.
He is just not able to implicate himself in the game. He has to be the goal scorer that a team that struggles for goals needs. However, he has only one goal in nine playoff games.
Someone show him tapes of his glorious playoff performances in Tampa. That must have been what GM Marc Bergevin was dreaming of when he acquired him, that Drouin was going to be a ‘get you through’ player. But that is simply not the case here. For now, you can only show patience, because there isn’t another choice.
The return for a trade would be abysmal after this playoff. All you can do is hope that he will figure it out one day, but we are very much running out of days. There were some sparks in game five. He will look to build on those sparks because perhaps it is just a question of confidence, and confidence can come, and suddenly you want the puck so you can show your magic.
We’re still waiting for that day, still believing he can get there.
There was a call in the contest that is worth dissecting.
It was the second period when Jesperi Kotkaniemi wanted to finish his check in the neutral zone. Travis Sanheim had the play in front of him as he attempted to dump the puck into the offensive zone. Sanheim saw the hit coming and just before there was a collision with Kotkaniemi, the Flyer actually turned his back to the Canadiens’ centre and chose to receive the hit with his back turned, which caused maximum damage against the glass where his face was slammed.
It looked awful. It looked like he could have suffered a concussion, though he was on the ice in the first minute of the ensuing power play. Kotkaniemi got a five-minute major and was ejected from the game.
The Flyers scored two goals on that power play. Hitting from behind is a five-minute major, and technically this was most certainly at contact a hit from behind. The issue here, though, is that at the very last moment Sanheim created the hit from behind more than Kotkaniemi did.
Sanheim could have — and considering he saw the hit coming, should have — faced Kotkaniemi and battled him head-on. He could have met the hit with his chest and his arms fighting back instead of causing himself maximum physical damage. But Sanheim made the conscious decision to have his face slammed against the glass and Kotkaniemi made the decision to hit his opponent in the chest, but then was presented with his back.
The league got this one wrong.
Technically, they got it right. Any freeze frame of the hit will back them up that they are right. However, players around the league know exactly how they feel about a hit like that.