Regular season game #29
We’ve all heard about it, and tonight we saw the embodiment of it: the Habs, regardless of the year, regime, coach, roster and ocean tides take “lesser” opposition lightly. How else do we explain the Habs first-period performance against a team spiraling the drain, waiting for the inevitable? Sure, we could say the Habs were on a 13-1-3 run prior to this game, and that surely we can cut the team some slack. But does that make it acceptable? For a team with designs on first place in the division, if not the conference, the Habs can ill afford to leave points on the table against conference bottom-feeders.
From the tone of that opening paragraph, you’d get the sense that the Canadiens lost in regulation and walked away empty-handed. The truth is, they did not. In fact from the second period, until the end of regulation, the Canadiens ran the Sabres out of the building, outshooting them 26-8. The trouble is, a sluggish start to the first period cost the Habs, as they fell behind 2-0. As the game wore on, the Habs gathered their legs and began to pour it on. It was a strange performance from Sabres backup goalie Jhonas Enroth, who was shaky and dominant in equal measure. The game turned ugly on the Habs early in overtime when P.K. Subban went for a highlight-reel hit on a rushing Sabres player. With his stick up around the player’s head (but not making contact), Subban effectively took himself out of the play, and in to the penalty box. It was an ill-advised attempt for a home-run hit given how his teammates were dominating the game. At that juncture of the game, the only play was to keep skating the Sabres in to the ground and use the extra open ice to bury a game winning tally. Of course, we would be remiss to not mention the brain-dead penalty that Max Pacioretty took in the latter stages of the third period with his team still in full flight. Carelessly barging in to the blue paint with nobody around you is not smart. Although the Sabres did not score on the powerplay, it cost the Habs two minutes of time which could have been better spent trying to end the game in regulation.
In all, it was a decent effort from the Habs, minus the god-awful first period, which, in tandem with the Subban overtime penalty, and to a lesser extent, the Pacioretty penalty cost the Habs the win. With the Islanders and the Sabres yet again on deck this week, the Habs can set things right, or they can continue to waste the points that true contenders would happily snatch up. The Habs have given us precious little to complain about this year, so let’s take the point and hope for a more heady, complete performance on Thursday.
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PS – we are all still gobsmacked by Lars Eller’s rapid ascension, right?