Rabid Habs

Postgame: Habs get by Sabres, 2-1 (OT)

Against the Wild, we didn’t really expect much from the Habs. We couldn’t. Without Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber, picking up a point would have been great. Montreal ultimately lost that game, but the effort level was there, and they probably deserved two points.

Against the Buffalo Sabres, two points were expected . With a healthy lineup of skaters, Montreal’s roster should have been enough to best the listless Sabres.

The first period didn’t really give Habs fans a feeling that would happen. It’s not that Montreal was particularly bad, but more was expected. Buffalo came into Montreal on the second half of a back-to-back with their back-up goalie Chad Johnson in goal. Buffalo had more jump in the first and were able to limit the Canadiens to a few isolated chances. Montreal had a hard time putting together consecutive chances, and Buffalo created havoc around Charlie Lindgren on more than one occasion.

Late in the period, former Montreal Canadien Josh Gorges crushed his former house-mate Brendan Gallagher with a big hit, and Jordie Benn stepped in to fight Gorges.

Artturi Lehkonen was given a pretty soft holding call that resulted in a powerplay goal from Ryan O’Reilly with just over five seconds left in the period. O’Reilly’s sixth of the year was also his fourth powerplay goal. 1-0 Sabres after one. Shots were 17-7 in favor of Buffalo.

Okay, maybe Montreal did have a pretty bad first period. 

The good news was that Lindgren held his team in the game, and Montreal still had a chance to come back.

The second started with the same malaise from the Canadiens. Their first big shift of the period came from the fourth line, as Byron Froese nearly set up Charles Hudon with a tap in, but Johnson made a somewhat miraculous save.

That was really it in the second. Still 1-0 Sabres. After the second, the Canadiens had gone six periods without scoring a goal, the last being Max Pacioretty’s 3-1 goal against Vegas. Yikes.

But before you could say “tear it down and rebuild,” Montreal had tied the game. A powerplay goal from Andrew Shaw tied the game, as Drouin wristed the puck through traffic before Shaw deflected it in. Max Pacioretty also got an assist on Shaw’s fourth goal of the year.

It wasn’t soon after this goal that Montreal returned to playing a borderline pathetic brand of hockey. Lots of icing calls. Lots of bad breakouts. Just bad, boring hockey. With four minutes left, Montreal iced the puck and got showered in boos from the home crowd.

The game went to overtime, more officiating blunders happened, and the Canadiens ultimately walked away with a win. Pacioretty skated in on Johnson all alone and put on a nice deke, finishing the game with a backhand shot between Johnson’s left skate and the goal post. The Canadiens are now 7-0 when Pacioretty scores, and the captain has his tenth career overtime winner; his second of the season.

Montreal collects points 16 and 17 in an ugly, ugly hockey game.

Victor Mete

I’m really starting to think his NHL stint may be done for the year. When Jordie Benn went off for fighting, a spot opened up on the top pairing with Shea Weber. Mete could have taken that spot, but Claude Julien put Karl Alzner there instead. I’m not criticizing Julien; the way this season has developed for Mete, it probably makes sense not to play him there. His minutes have been deteriorating pretty rapidly since he played his tenth game, and I would not be surprised to see him go back to the London Knights when David Schlemko is healthy. Come to think of it, that might be Montreal’s roster management plan, as they could lose Brandon Davidson or Joe Morrow to waivers. Mete’s contract would still burn a year, but it may be the best option for the kid at this point.

Alex Galchenyuk

No player in a Habs’ sweater looks more dangerous in the offensive zone. Coming into the game against the Sabres, Galchenyuk hadn’t scored in five games, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. In those five games, he had 18 shots. He had Montreal’s only real chance of the first period on the breakaway. It seems like Galchenyuk is one goal away from going on an absolute tear. And with the passing of another game, he and Drouin are still creating chances together. The Habs have something here.

Officiating

Referees have a hard job. We all know this; we’re told at least six times a broadcast. With that being said, referees cannot be this bad. I don’t like to harp on officiating. On most nights it’s not the reason you win or lose.

But boy, did they make it hard for the Habs tonight.

Whether you want to talk about the two separate punches Charles Hudon took after the play had ended, the countless uncalled “slashes” that have found their way into the NHL this year, or the blatant trip at the end of regulation, the zebras flat out stunk tonight. It’s hard for me to look at the scoresheet, see that the Habs were one for one on the powerplay, and think that officiating didn’t impact this game.

Look at the play in overtime that almost sent Drouin to the box. Follow-through high sticks have been legal in the NHL forever. One of the refs forgot that, and Montreal was whistled for a penalty just as Drouin was leaning into another chance. The penalty wasn’t called, but the scoring chance was eliminated. Refs, like players, can’t be expected to be perfect.

But they should be expected to know and enforce the rules properly. On Saturday night, they didn’t.

Charlie Lindgren

I keep waiting for his magic to wear off. He kept Montreal in this game for over forty minutes. A well deserved first star with his parents in the building.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Don’t forget to look for The Recency Bias on Sunday morning, as I’ll be in charge while Zach is away.

Go Habs Go.

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan, and follow @RabidHabs for more updates!