Rabid Habs

Postgame: Habs Lose 3-1 to Bolts

Was another outcome even possible? Montreal’s season has officially gone off the rails. Tampa Bay is the best team in the league.

Well, let’s get into it.

The first period was set up to be a carbon copy of the first period against Carolina on Wednesday. Montreal didn’t bring their A-game to start the period and Tampa pressed hard for the early goal. At one point, the shots were 11-1 in favor of the Lightning, including a Tampa powerplay that has to be among the best powerplays I’ve ever seen. There are so many options. Too many. Defending a powerplay like that is like playing whack-a-mole. If you cover Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov is open. If you somehow manage to cover both of them, Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev are open.

As always, Carey Price was the great equalizer. Making 14 saves in the first, 11 of which came before the first commercial break, Price gave his team a chance to win the game despite another terrible start. And Montreal did fight back before the end of the first. At the end of the period, the shot clock read 14-13 for Tampa; a small consolation to take out of an exciting yet scoreless period.

In the second, the Canadiens had to kill off an early powerplay as Karl Alzner took a cross checking penalty at the end of the first. Even with the fresh sheet of ice, Tampa wasn’t able to create much (by their own standards). On a powerplay of their own, the Canadiens generated the first goal of the game. On the half-wall, Charles Hudon fired a high shot at the blocker of Vasilevskiy. The puck bounced off the blocker, off the glove of Brendan Gallagher and into the net. Gallagher’s 15th of the year was also his fourth powerplay goal. 1-0 Habs.

Montreal played with fire after scoring the opening goal. Two penalties gave Tampa two more powerplays before the end of the period and the Canadiens seemed to get better with every kill. At one point, even Brett Lernout got into the swing of things with a strong penalty killing shift of his own with Jordie Benn in the box.

Montreal was close to taking a lead into the third period, but Tampa’s first line finally got on the board. On a dump-in, Nikita Kucherov beat a flat-footed Karl Alzner to the puck. Negating the icing, Kucherov found Steven Stamkos alone in front of Price and he beat the Habs’ goaltender for his 14th of the year (yeah, Gallagher has more goals than Stamkos. Weird). Alzner continues to disappoint, and Montreal settles for a tie game in the second period.

And things didn’t get better in the third. Brayden Point scored just 30 seconds into the period on a play that seemed broken as soon as it crossed the blueline. A scrum around the net gave point an easy shot on net for his 15th of the season. 2-1 Tampa.

In penalty trouble once again, the Montreal surrendered a five-on-three and another goal to Stamkos (now he has as many as Gallagher). 3-1 Tampa.

The Lightning put a lid on this on after Stamkos’ insurance marker and Montreal continued to to create any sort of offense. Three goals total over their last three games. 16-18-4. Yikes.

Carey Price

Yet another great performance from a goalie that was pronounced dead just a month ago. With about three minutes to go in the second, it looked like the Lightning thought nothing they could do would beat the Canadiens goaltender, as three Bolts passed the puck around from the two faceoff circles and the center of the point without taking a shot on goal. Price can have that effect on attackers. He can also shoulder the load while his mates get their legs under them, which we’ve seen countless times.

It would be nice if his team could return the favor every few games.

Karl Alzner

Victimized by the best line in the league, Alzner showed us why the Canadiens defense just isn’t good enough. While Alzner was the one to get caught in the middle of his pivot, it could have been any number of their defenders. They just aren’t fast enough. Alzner in particular is regularly beat with speed to the outside and is late to loose puck retrievals regularly. He’s a relic of an NHL that doesn’t exist anymore; an NHL where a shot blocking defender can go seventh overall in the draft and sign longterm contracts. Tampa leads the NHL because they have mastered the NHL; they’re fast everywhere on the ice. Alzner is not.

Penalties

Montreal spent a lot of time in the box against Tampa. Why? They’re just not fast enough. Tampa skated circles around the Habs, and the only thing Montreal could do is hold them up. The penalty kill was fine considering its make-up.

The Dream is Dead

I don’t know what there is to like about this roster. They’ve dug such a huge hole and there isn’t one part of the roster that makes me think they can make a come back. Other than blind faith, there’s no reason to believe this team is capable of making the playoffs. Strip the fat from the meat; trade the vets and try it again next year with a young, revitalized core. #FallinForDahlin

That’s it for me. Back at it again after Saturday’s game against Florida.

Go Habs Go.

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

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