Rabid Habs

Ain’t No Sunshine

Habs vs Panthers

“A goalie’s job is to stop pucks. Well, yeah, that’s part of it. But you know what else it is? You’re trying to deliver a message to your team that things are OK back here. This end of the ice is pretty well cared for. You take it now and go. Go! Feel the freedom you need in order to be that dynamic, creative, offensive player and go out and score.That was my job, and it was to try to deliver a feeling.” – Ken Dryden

After a beautiful three to one victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, the Montreal Canadiens were set to face the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center. This would be the last game of 2014 for the Canadiens (the Panthers play on New Years Eve against the New York Rangers), so it only made sense that they would want end the year with a four game win streak. For the Florida Panthers, things have been going well for them. Not only have they been playing good hockey as of late, they boast a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games, trailing the Bruins by just one point for fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Another bonus was that Roberto Luongo had returned, boasting a 2.36 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage (his 14 victories rank him 15th in the league in that category). With a good record and centerman Nick Bjugstad leading the team in with 12 goals and 20 points, the Panthers seemed positive when it came to dominating the game. However, the Canadiens had been showing a strong performance for the past three games but with a sudden change in the lineup putting Dustin Tokarski in net and Michael Bournival replacing centerman Manny Malholtra, it was going to be tricky for the Canadiens to take the cake on Tuesday night. If the Habs wanted to start the new year right and take victory once again, then they were going to have to fight the good fight and back down for no one, not even a Panther.

The Canadiens were off to a fast start and putting pucks deep in the zone while doing circles around the Panthers. It was clear Florida wasn’t prepared for a bleu, blanc, et rough storm taking over their area. The Habs’ speed turned them into a blur but after some excellent transitioning and pressure from both teams, the Canadiens and the Panthers ended the first period scoreless.

There was a great effort coming from both ends of the ice, but the Panthers couldn’t keep up with Canadiens’ speed and with that came a beautiful shot past Roberto Luongo made by Brendan Gallagher (assisted by Lars Eller and Nathan Beaulieu) with only a minute and six seconds left in the period. The Habs fans at the BB&T Center were roaring with happiness and the Canadiens left the second period with a one to nothing lead.

The game quickly became a scrum fest as the Panthers were aggravated by Dustin Tokarski’s beautiful saves. The pressure was on as the Panthers were determined to get their first goal of the night and tie the game, which finally came for Nick Bjugstad (assisted by Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau) with only a minute and 49 seconds left of the game. It was a mad race on the ice as both the Panthers and the Canadiens wanted the lead, but the clocks ran out and the third period was tied.

After a messy, scoreless overtime, the Canadiens and Panthers went right into the shootout where P.A. Parenteau’s shot led the Montreal Canadiens to a two to one victory over the Florida Panthers.

Here are my thoughts on last night’s game:

  • Coach Michel Therrien’s line up change didn’t make sense to me at first, but then I thought about it again and realized that it still made absolutely no sense. I didn’t mind Dustin Tokarski in the net. Tokarski is a great goaltender and had a lot of great saves during that game. It’s the Bournival replacing Malholtra scenario that was just…gross. Michael Bournival was said to bring “an infusion of speed and energy to an otherwise stagnant and steady fourth line.” Well, I saw tons of speed and energy but it definitely wasn’t glistening off of Bournival. Nothing against ‘Bourny,’ but Manny Malholtra is the face off king and despite people thinking he doesn’t bring much else to the ice, he brings just as much speed and energy as the next guy. Plus, Malholtra has only been with the Canadiens for a few months. Give the man some time to show what he’s capable off. If you’re going to change the lines at all, put David Desharnais back on the third. At least when he was on the third line, he had a lot more motivation and was putting in hard work.
  • The Canadiens were as fast as lightening out on the ice and it’s not just because they had to make up for Therrien’s line change, but because the Canadiens are showing how much they’re capable of in every single game they play. If you went back to the beginning of the season and told people that this is what the Habs are going to be playing like (lots of speed and energy, excellent on the penalty kill, great forechecking, teamwork), I bet you tons of people would be laughing. Now look at them, they’re pretty much a brand new team. They also played an excellent game and dominated the Panthers.
  • I never realized how many Habs fans were in Florida. I heard more cheers for the Canadiens than I did for the Panthers. I can’t tell whether that’s really amazing for the Montreal Canadiens or really sad for the Florida Panthers…
  • For their last game of 2014, the Canadiens ended it right and have played a great season so far. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing a lot more surprises from the troops in 2015.

The Montreal Canadiens return to the ice on January 2nd, 2015 when they play the New Jersey Devils at 7:00pm.

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @strucxtures