The Montreal Canadiens played their third game in four nights against the Vancouver Canucks Saturday evening, this time winning by a score of 5-2. The contest concluded their season’s opening six-game road trip where the Canadiens went 4-0-2. The team entered the contest with a 1-0-1 record in the two previous game against the Canucks and a 3-0-2 record total.
The Canucks piggy backed on their power play in the first game and won 6-5 in a shootout. The Habs won the second game handily, 7-3 after a four-goal outburst in the second period. Game 3 looked a little more like the second game. And with that in mind, I would like to breakdown my three takeways from the Canadiens’ victory over the Canucks Saturday evening.
Canadiens Capitalized on Turnovers
Although I cover the Canadiens, I live in British Columbia (fairly close to Vancouver to be a little more precise) where I hear a great deal about the Canucks. I have heard frequently from friends and others who have taken to the radio to vent about their frustrations with the Canucks costly turnovers this season. Truthfully, the team made several puck blunders leading to odd man rushes and breakaways. The story was the same on Saturday night and the Canadiens made them pay.
According to the official game stats, the Canadiens forced the Canucks into giving away the puck at least 11 times. The most costly turnover was on the winning goal scored by Brendan Gallagher, which broke a 2-2 stalemate halfway through the third period.
Canucks defenceman Alex Edler had full control of the puck and under pressure from Phillip Danault reversed the play back to his partner Quinn Hughes. Hughes, with all kinds of time, softly saucer passed directly into traffic, hitting his own forward and allowing for Tomas Tatar to scoop up the puck and move in with Gallagher on a two-on-one. Gallagher made no mistake scoring on a hard wrist shot top shelf.
Jonathan Drouin’s insurance marker also came from an egregious turnover by J.T. Miller at the Montreal blue line (see video above). The play was eerily similar to Tyler Toffoli’s shorthanded goal in the game against the Canucks Thursday evening. I will cut Miller a little slack, though. The Canadiens, to their credit, overloaded the puck and forced Miller into a tough situation where he ultimately made the a high-risk pass. It backfired.
Perry & Edmundson
Once again, new members of the team made a big impact. The Canadiens’ third line was very effective in the first two games in Vancouver. With the loss of Joel Armia to injury, there was a possibility of their chemistry being hampered. However, Corey Perry fit in seamlessly. He blocked shots, he caused turnovers, he created scoring opportunities and he picked up a goal in the second period. He was a difference maker. I am sure Marc Bergevin was pleased to see another one of his acquisitions step up and make an impact.
Joel Edmundson, who had already played well on the road trip, cemented his integration into the Canadiens’ lineup Saturday. First, he stepped up and challenged Tyler Myers to a fight after Myers avoided supplemental discipline for his questionable hit on Armia Thursday night. I understand many people do not like fighting in hockey, but it was clear that after Myers answered the bell, there would be no further nonsense or dirty play. The issue was settled. Edmundson finished the night off with his first goal.
Habs Dominated 5-on-5 play
The Habs dominated five-on-five play throughout their three-game series against the Canucks. This fact was once again on display Saturday night. The advanced stats suggest the Canadiens dominated the five-on-five shot attempts, but the regular old eye test was telling enough to express that the Canucks did not generate much offensively. More credit in this instance must go to the Canadiens’ defence. The team’s forwards were quite rabid in their back checking and back pressure on the Canucks.
This is a testament to the Canadiens’ work ethic and depth. The Canucks, for most of the game, just seemed unable to match the Canadiens line for line and this began to show deep into the third period when the Canadiens were able to pull away in the game.
This quick start by the Canadiens is very encouraging and is prompting some comparisons to the 1993 team. Of course, it is too early to say for sure what the season will bring in its entirety, but this team does have a bit of a different feel to it. A tough challenge lay ahead in the Calgary Flames beginning Thursday. No offence to Canuck fans, but personally I believe the Flames will pose a more difficult challenge. We will see if the Canadiens can keep rolling ahead.