Game 2: Canadiens vs Panthers, Crushing the Cats

by Jacob Saltiel
Carey Price

The Cycle of Life is Disney, the Cycle of Violence is Hockey
from Yahoo! Sports

Schedule Casualty

Commentators in the NBA refer to the 5th game played in 7 nights on road trips as a “schedule loss”. At that point in the sequence of the schedule, the team is so tried from travel and playing that they chalk up the loss to the schedule over any other considerations. It’s this phenomena of league planning that prompted a $250,000 fine of the Spurs when their coach sent his star players home before the last game of the trip.

In the NHL, there are no 5 games in 7 days, but 3 games in 4 nights will occur several times, and starting the 27th of January through February 3rd, the Habs play 5 games in 8 nights, though mostly at home.

Last night it was the Panthers skating out for the back end of a 3 in 4, and the Habs did well to jump all over them. Michael Caruso played less than 2 minutes after getting injured early, and rotating 5 defence left Montreal’s forwards space to work with.

Crushing Be Here

Panned elsewhere in the blogosphere, the additions of Prust and Armstrong, along with the re-signing of Moen looked good last night. Those three, along with White, battered the Panthers all night long, forced turnovers, and on one particular shift hemmed their opponents behind their blueline, who failed to organize a breakout under pressure.

White showed a little too much enthusiasm in defending Gorges, cruising in on the non-combatant Fleischmann and feeding him rights and lefts. The bill came out to 27 minutes in penalties, and had the Panthers been fresher, might have represented an opportunity to get back into the game. Still, the Habs need to defend their stars and let it be known that crushing awaits anyone who hits anyone in red disrespectfully. As the rap album warns, Violence Begets Violence, and chances are good that the next time these teams meet (Feb. 14th, in Florida), White will have to fight someone who can defend themselves. In comparison to last year, he’s got backup.

Powerplaying

Markov’s 2 goals and return to effectiveness on the powerplay is great, but don’t overlook Diaz. After watching Kaberle and Markov skate all over each other’s plans during Saturday’s game, Therrien split them up, and the results were excellent. There were far more dump-and-chase plays that ended in Diaz and Markov swapping points, changing the point of attack by dumping the puck around the boards. Additionally, Kaberle was able to run to the 2nd powerplay unit, which did more than wind the clock down.

It’s early, but Diaz has 3 assists in his first 2 games, and even when Subban comes back, he should get more time on the 1st or 2nd PP unit. Diaz stopped Panthers penalty kill breakouts on a few occasions, keeping possession and setting up his linemates to make plays.

Having given Diaz his due, it was thrilling to see Markov simply wind up and rip it once again.

Gally, Gally, Gally

Against expectations, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, and Prust formed a solid 3rd line against the Panthers. They were able to cycle, put shots on net, and gave Therrien much better minutes from this 3rd line than he got on Saturday. Galchenyuk’s game is covered elsewhere, but it’s worth mentioning that Gallagher also looked good, and his inclination to burrow right into the crease following shots is both fearless and valuable to the Canadiens.

Meanwhile on the 2nd line, Bourque played well with Plekanec and Gionta, though he had little to do with Plekanec’s goal.* Throughout the game, Bourque showed some speed and some hitting, while the line as a whole performed with some structure.

On a night where the top-line missed a wide open cage- ERIK COLE STAND UP- Therrien needed his other forwards to perform, and that they did. If the top-12 forwards can play like this every night, the Habs might be better than expected. They will, however, have to show that they can play this way against more rested, and more talented teams.

And soon.

The Capitals and Ovechkin await the Canadiens in D.C. Thursday night.

***

*Kovalev backchecked Plekanec on that play like it was 2008 and they were still linemates. He escorted him to the slot rather than battled him, but Turtleneck will take it.

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