Rabid Habs

Sabres On Parade Pt. II

Habs vs Sabres

“We like the way he’s progressed this season. He’s got the attributes of an NHL player. We want to see him continue to develop, and playing a game up here is part of that. He’s had a pretty incredible year so far. First he went pro in the AHL, then he represented his country at the World Juniors, and now he’s going to play in the NHL.” – Michel Therrien

After a two to three loss against the Arizona Coyotes that left fans asking themselves “What happened?,” the Montreal Canadiens would be looking to get back on track as they faced the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre. The last time these two teams met was during a back to back weekend in November, where the Sabres beat the Habs both in Buffalo and Montreal (the Sabres had a two to one win in Buffalo and a four to three shootout win in Montreal). For a team sitting in last place in the league, the Sabres have a 2-0-1 advantage over the Habs in 2014-15. However, they have lost 14 games in a row to remain winless in the new year and Ted Nolan’s squad has won just four games on the road this season, losing 21 while the Habs are currently enjoying a 17-6-2 home record. While Buffalo’s losing streak may be a small advantage for Montreal, the Canadiens have been possession-positive in only one of their last eight games which has left goaltender Carey Price the one behind their last five game win streak. As a precautionary measure, the Habs have brought in Jacob De La Rose of the Hamilton Bulldogs. The 19-year-old forward has played 37 games with the Bulldogs this season, registering six goals and five assists while going plus-7 over that span. While bringing in a young and strong forward may help Therrien’s troops to push towards winning over the Sabres, the Canadiens would have to take on more shot attempts than Buffalo, match their intensity, and find a way to play a full 60 minutes. The Montreal Canadiens would have a lot to prove in tonight’s final match of the season against Buffalo.

The dangers of playing with a team in last place in the NHL is that they have nothing to lose, so it’s not surprising that Drew Stafford brought it on and gave the Sabres their first goal of the night (assisted by Cody Hogdson and and Tyler Myers) only five minutes and 21 seconds into the first period. However, the Sabres have constantly struggled on the power play and penalty kill, which gave the Canadiens an advantage when Brandon Prust put the puck behind Jhonas Enroth with 11 minutes and 45 seconds left (assisted by David Desharnais). The period was now tied and the Sabres were trying to keep the puck deep in the Montreal zone. While Buffalo seemed to be struggling to keep the pressure on, Matt Moulson was able to slip one past Carey Price (assisted by Nikita Zadorov and Torrey Mitchell) with only five minutes and seven seconds left which gave the Sabres a two to one lead, that is until ex-Habs captain Brian Gionta gave Buffalo a third goal with 41 seconds left.

The Canadiens were putting the pressure on despite struggling to put pucks past Enroth while the Sabres seemed to be stuck icing the puck over and over again. However, the Sabres kept their three to one lead until the clock ran out. The Canadiens would need to find a way to generate more offense by the third period if they wanted to attempt to lead four to three or take a tie to overtime, or else the 14 game losing streak for Buffalo would be over.

After a long awaited comeback from the Habs, David Desharnais gave the Canadiens a second point thanks to Dale Weise’s excellent tip pass five minutes into the third period. With the Habs only one point away from a tie, the Sabres were bringing on the intensity to keep the Canadiens from putting another puck past Enroth. Despite Buffalo’s aggression, the Habs wouldn’t back down and kept the pressure in the Sabres zone. However, the Buffalo Sabres finally broke their 14 game losing streak and the Montreal Canadiens loss two to three.

Here are my thoughts on tonight’s game.

  • Brandon Prust with his fourth goal of the season in the first period and he came out of that penalty box looking like a sniper. Not only is he a great goon but he knows how to put pucks hard in the net, and that David Desharnais saucer pass was a beauty.
  • The first period was definitely not the Canadiens’ sharpest looking moment against one of the worst teams in the NHL. First, Carey Price’s 158 minute shutout streak was broken five minutes into the game (thank you Drew Stafford). Second, around the halfway mark of the period before Brandon Prust’s goal that tied the game one to one, the Canadiens only had one shot on goal. Third, the Habs find themselves down two to one (thank you again, Drew Stafford) until Brian Gionta slips the puck past Price which then gives the Sabres a three to one lead. When you look back at the Canadiens during that period, it seemed both the defense and the offense had one huge breakdown and said, “I give up.”
  • It’s becoming more and more obvious that Dale Weise does not belong on the top line. He’s a good player, there’s no doubting that, but he belongs back on the fourth line where he was working out well before.
  • Are you feeling sad? Have a tea. It certainly helped me….okay, that’s a lie, but it’s okay! They’re the Montreal Canadiens! The Habs! The all mighty bleu, blanc, et rouge. Right now, the team looks distorted but lets try to not set our expectations so high that we expect a Guy Lafleur dream team to hop on the ice and win an 11 to one game almost every night. Things are a little messy but it’ll get better. Keep the faith.

The Montreal Canadiens play the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre on Saturday at 7:00pm.

(Purchase your Canadiens tickets here. | Achetez vos billets des Canadiens ici.)

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @strucxtures.