Rabid Habs

Postgame: Habs shutout Sabres 3-0 in Price’s Return

Saturday night. Carey Price in net. Habs at home. In times of trouble, there is solace and comfort to be found in moments like this. A familiar feeling met by a familiar foe, as the Buffalo Sabres came to town on Saturday night for the second Saturday of the month.

In a relatively unfamiliar fashion, the Canadiens scored their first goal of the contest on the powerplay. Moving the puck from the half-wall to the right point and eventually to the left point, Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin set up a Jeff Petry blast. Petry’s shot took a friendly deflection off an enemy stick and bounded over Robin Lehner’s shoulder for the opening goal of the game. Petry’s third of the year gave the Habs the lead, 1-0 after the first.

Montreal didn’t start the second period with their best hockey. Buffalo’s best chances came in the second period, but Price was up to the task, making a few quality saves that “old” Price would have made. Price was dialed in from the start, and he kept Montreal in the lead in the second period.

Galchenyuk gave his goalie a bit of insurance for his hard work, as he banged home a rebound to make it 2-0 in the second period. On a two-on-one with Paul Byron, Galchenyuk was the beneficiary of a shot-pass off the pads of Lehner. Galchenyuk’s fifth of the year put an end to an eleven game scoring drought. Both Drouin and Galchenyuk picked up their second points of the night on the Habs’ second marker.

Then, in the third, the dagger was in place. Skating through the neutral zone on the powerplay, Jack Eichel gave the puck away to Byron. Byron did what Byron does, using his speed to breakaway from the pack. Cutting to his right, he dropped the puck on his backhand through the legs of Lehner, giving Montreal a 3-0 lead. Byron’s sixth of the year gave everyone on Drouin’s line two points against Buffalo.

With five minutes left, Buffalo brought Lehner to the net for the extra attacker. The man-advantage gave Buffalo a jump, and they spent the next four minutes in the Habs’ zone. With a Michel Lacroix announcing the final minute over the PA, Evander Kane buried the shutout breaker.

Or did he? Claude Julien challenged for goalie interference, something he probably didn’t need to do with a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the game, and overturned the call. A slight bit of contact flipped this call and kept Price’s shutout intact. I’m sure Julien got a nice smile from Price in the dressing room after this one, as the successful challenge gave Price his 40th career shutout.

Montreal put an end to a five game losing streak and made up ground in the Atlantic division with Toronto, Ottawa and Tampa Bay all losing in regulation.

The Fourth Line

Okay, I’ll get the bad out of the way first so we can say a bunch of good stuff about this team. The fourth line, as it’s currently constructed, stinks. In today’s NHL your fourth line can’t just be a stopgap that takes the ice to give your scorers a breather; they have to be scoring threats themselves. Not only is the line of Nicolas Deslariers, Byron Froese and Jacob De La Rose not a threat in the offensive zone, but they’re also defensive liabilities. With sexier offensive options like Daniel Carr and Chris Terry playing for Laval, the decision to ice this line on a nightly basis becomes even more perplexing. I’m sure it won’t last, but for now, it’s still odd.

Mr. Saturday Night

From purely an emotional standpoint, it feels good to have Price back in net and playing at a high level. Results aside, rational Habs fans probably pulled for this guy a little more than usual on Saturday night with all the garbage that was thrust upon Carey and his family.

On the ice, Price was his familiar self. Donned with new pads, Price kept the Sabres off the board all night with solid positioning and good rebound control. There was a relatively harmless play in the first period where I thought Price was back. Evander Kane came down the right wall and fired a shot off of Price’s blocker. Price, in his calm way of doing things, batted the puck out from in front of his nose with his stick. He tracked the puck well on this play and throughout the game. It’s a little early to say he’s out of the woods, but tonight was a monumental leap in the right direction.

Points in Bunches

The newest configuration of the top line, Drouin, Galchenyuk and Byron, combined for six points against Buffalo on Saturday. When they weren’t buried in their own zone, they were a treat to watch. Pacioretty and his familiar trio with Shaw and Danault looked good as well. This line didn’t score, but they were effective all over the ice. These are the two lines Montreal needs to go with until Artturi Lehkonen comes back. And even then, I’m not sure how this top-nine gets split up. While the offense has struggled to put up points, chemistry is building between guys like Hudon and Gallagher, and goals are undoubtedly coming.

I think.

Blueline Notes

Joe Morrow continues to improve with every game he plays. In the absence of Shea Weber, Julien has leaned on Morrow in both zones, and generally speaking, it’s worked out.

Victor Mete was once again at the bottom of the Habs’ defenseman in ice time. Mete’s 11:20 was over four minutes fewer than Jakub Jerabek, the next closest Habs’ defenseman in terms of ice time. I’ve been monitoring Mete’s ice time for a while now, and something has to give. With David Schlemko being called up from his conditioning stint, Mete’s time in Montreal may be over, which would be a shame. I thought he played one of his best games in a while on Saturday, and no one on the current roster can replace his potential for speed on the back end.

Jerabek looked solid again. I know it’s early, but Montreal might have something with this guy. At 26, he’s already played pro-hockey for eight years, and it shows. He should be a fixture on the Habs’ blueline for a long time.

That’ll do it for me. That was fun. Let’s do this again soon.

Go Habs Go.

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

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