Rabid Habs

Postgame: Habs Edge Sabres in Shootout

If you take anything away from this game, let it be this: It’s going to be fun to play in Buffalo this year.

In a back and forth affair, your Montreal Canadiens erased two deficits and ultimately finished the Sabres in a shootout. The game began with the same unpopular trends we saw in the preseason, as slashing and faceoff violations are still on the crackdown agenda for NHL officials. Evander Kane sat for both infractions before the game was over, while Tomas Plekanec and Ales Hemsky would also get the gate for slashing.

At least everyone was wearing their visors the right way.

Buffalo opened the scoring in the first period on the powerplay, as Jason Pominville found the back of the net. I promise you, that sentence is still as true in 2017 as it was in 2005. Montreal would tie the game before the period ended, as Max Pacioretty got the Habs first goal of the season for what feels like the 5th time in his career. Pacioretty’s equalizer came on a beautiful pass from Jonathan Drouin, who recorded his first point as a Montreal Canadien.

Even though Montreal seemed to take all the momentum into the second frame, Buffalo would strike next. Pominville, who is probably going to love his new gig playing alongside $80 million dollar man Jack Eichel, buried his second of the game on a shift that saw Eichel take the game over. A cross ice pass from Eichel landed right on Pominville’s stick, and he made no mistake. The Sabres recaptured the lead just 22 seconds into the second.

Before the period had expired, Montreal was forced to kill a lengthy five on three advantage, and did so as well as one possibly can. The Habs would go to the third down 2-1.

After a lackluster start to the period, Montreal nearly tied it. On a broken play, Ales Hemsky tried to force a wrap-around past the right pad of Lehner. The referee behind the net whistled the play dead, and a review took place. Here’s the best look we’ve got:

Before this frame was taken, the puck bounced around closer to Lehner’s pad. Of course, there’s no way we can see that. This seemed to be one of those plays that we know is in the net, but there’s no way we can prove it. I’ll get to that later…

The Habs faced more adversity soon after this play, as Andrew Shaw was whistled for interference. Most of the penalties tonight were inarguable, but of the games I’ve seen so far this season, this was the worst call. Shaw was engaged in another battle with the Sabres player who had the puck, and Pominville basically set a pick and hit Shaw. After the fact, Shaw seemed shaken up. He didn’t get up right away, and he could be seen clutching the left side of his chest in the penalty box. A reputation call if I’ve ever seen one.

But as we saw with this Claude Julien led team last season, not much phases them. On that penalty kill, Philip Danault would tie the game on wrap around shot that Lehner probably wants back. He didn’t quite hold the post as tight as he would have wanted, and that was clear by the way he reacted to the goal.

The rest of the third period finished without many notable plays, but one play went under the radar, and it may have forced this game into overtime. Lehkonen and Hudon were creating havoc around the net with around two minutes left, and defenseman Marco Scandella skated on his own power into the crease with the intention of knocking the net off. Scandella tried to make it look like an accident, but it was intentional and could have resulted in a delay of game penalty.

Instead, we went to overtime at even strength. I’d like to tell you about the first minute of the overtime, but NHL.tv decided to start broadcasting the overtime with about 3:50 left. Neat!

At any rate, Habs fans were given a good taste of what we can expect from color commentator Dave Poulin when he analyzed a missed too many men call against Montreal.

He was right, but… What? We’ll just call it even after Scandella’s late game “heroics.”

In the shootout, Carey Price was Carey Price, and Jonathan Drouin shows us he’s capable of taking Alexander Radulov’s spot in the rotation. A fake caused Lehner to open up before Drouin backhanded the puck off the underside of the crossbar. A thing of beauty.

In a game where Montreal never led and was outshot 45-40, they still escaped with two points on opening night.

Now, some personal colour. Here’s what I saw tonight.

Mete doesn’t look out of place

For a young defensemen, it should be a compliment to hear a coach say “I didn’t notice you.” Victor Mete played a solid game tonight. Played nearly 19 minutes and ends the night with a +1 (I know plus minus is an arcane stat, but it probably makes him and his coach feel good). Mete was one of the best Canadiens at transitioning out of the defensive zone, as that was a struggle all night for most of the Habs’ defense. He even got a shift in overtime, which speaks volumes about Julien’s confidence in the teenager. It’s just one game, but it’s a good one to build on.

Weber was the Man Mountain

Nearly 30 minutes of ice time, a ton of penalty killing shifts, and an assist on the shorthanded goal. A lot to like about Weber’s game tonight.



Powerplay problems

Montreal failed to score on any of their four powerplay chances. The first chance on the powerplay saw some decent movement and good chances, but as the game went on, they seemed to force shots; a lot of pucks were fired right into the shins in front of them. It’s early, so there’s no reason to panic. I’m sure time will give the top unit some more confidence.

Video review

I’m a big fan of the idea of video review, but the process for reviewing goals needs a tech upgrade. Both soccer and tennis have the ability to know the exact location of the ball, but in 2017, the naked eye is still used to determine goals. The aforementioned Hemsky chance was probably over the goal line, but the only way we can figure it out is with cameras hundreds of feet away.

But that’s all water in the Erie Canal… The Julien Habs have displayed their ability to deal with adversity and they keep pace with the Leafs in the division.

Oh my, hockey is back.

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One Comment

  1. Dolores

    October 6, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Nice commentary, was wondering why I missed the beginning of the overtime but trying backing up without success. Also was thinking about the video review process, why doesn’t the nhl have cameras and sensors added to the goal line there must be some way to achieve this? I found Weber lacking in speed and stick handling but then look at what he accomplished. Benn made a costly error. But all in was so happy it was finally the first game! Not sure what this season will bring but it was a good start!