Montreal - April 2, 2014 - Seven more games like that? It won't last seven if Habs' better players don't bring their A game.
Except for the goaltender.
• Carey Price. Spectacular. Again. Deserved a W. But as good as he was his season save percentage remains at .925. Elite but likely unable to catch Ben Bishop (.927) or Tuukka Rask (.931). Who's your Vezina winner?
• Brendan Gallagher. Scored Habs' only goal from his favourite spot on the ice. His first goal in six games. Needs one more to hit 20.
• Andrei Markov. Best of Montreal defensemen on this night. Led team with four shots on goal. Returned to play after he was rammed into the boards by Nate Thompson.
• Mike Weaver. It's going to be difficult to keep this guy out of the line up when Josh Gorges returns.
• Power Play. Fired blanks again (0-4) while allowing the game winning shorthanded goal by Tyler Johnson. Not that long ago the Montreal power play was explosive. Now it's merely mediocre, dipping below 18% or 16th overall in the NHL. What's worse is the disturbing late season trend of getting scored on. The Habs have now allowed 8 shorthanded goals this season. Only one other playoff bound team has allowed more (Philadelphia - 11). Michel Therrien's stubborn refusal to even consider a forward on the point is starting to bite him in the ass.
• Five days in Florida. Good idea. Good chance to relax after a long season full of very little time off (outside of the Olympic break). It should help in the long run. But it didn't help in this game. Habs lost their legs after just 20 minutes.
• Penalties. Nine of them.
• Lars Eller. Playing left wing in an effort to ease his considerable burden (?) Eller took two dumb penalties behind the Tampa Bay net.
• Rene Bourque. That two point game in Toronto seems like a long time ago.
• Alexei Emelin. No cause for concern after flying back and forth between Tampa and Montreal for personal reasons. The late game penalty he was assessed for "tripping" Eric Brewer was a howler by referee Brian Pochmara. Eller had his stick slashed out of his hands and was attempting to pick it up when Brewer fell over him.
• David Desharnais - Thomas Vanek - Max Pacioretty. Maybe they were due for an off night. "Too fancy" said Therrien post game in an obvious reference to their east-west game. Too many turnovers. You don't see Desharnais mishandle the puck as often as he did in this one - including the crucial turnover (forced by Victor Hedman) to Johnson on the winning goal.
• P.K. Subban. What's going on here? After playing 22:46 in Miami on Saturday, Subban logged just 17:48 in this loss. More startling was his ice time at even strength (10:58 ) - 6th among Montreal defensemen. Yes less even strength ice time than Douglas Murray, Francis Bouillon and Mike Weaver. Hardly a recipe for success against a team that skates as well as Tampa does. Is Therrien playing a little possum and starting to hold back Subban for the playoffs? Was there something in Subban's game that Therrien didn't like ("Too fancy") - again? If Therrien and J.J. Daigneaut just decided to punish Subban - and the rest of the team - for an ill advised rush or turnover then at this point of the season it's child's play. However, if there was an off ice issue between games in Florida (missed curfew, missed team meeting, etc.) then Therrien has every right - in fact it's his responsibility as head coach - to pull back on Subban's ice time. I'm just speculating here. Otherwise Therrien's decision to use five Montreal defensemen ahead of Subban makes absolutely no sense.
• Douglas Murray on Michael Kostka. Murray - by Murray standards - was having a decent night. Way too much ice time - again (18:43) but holding his own. Then came his chicken wing elbow to the head of Kostka. It was sickening to see. I liked this late season pre - playoff match up because the teams played hard but clean. Until that moment. Even the Lightning realize Murray is no head hunter. Prior to the match penalty the veteran defenseman had taken just six minor penalties all season (plus his fight with John Scott). He has no history of this kind of thing. Montreal fans who have been clamouring for Murray to get lost will now get their wish. Let's see how Montreal responds physically Friday night in Ottawa.
Mitch Melnick is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690 - Montreal's Sports Authority. Mitch also has his own website at MitchMelnick.com where you can find his blog, music links, upcoming events, neat photos and more. Listen Live to Melnick - weekdays from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. If you have questions or wish to contact Mitch, you can email him at email@example.com
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