Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Paul Byron – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Artturi Lehkonen
Dale Weise – Max Domi – Jordan Weal
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Xavier Ouellet – Victor Mete
Carey Price – Charlie Lindgren
Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling, Charles Hudon, Christian Folin, Noah Juulsen, Victor Olofsson, Cayden Primeau, Michael McNiven
Injuries/Unfit to Play
Hockey is back! Though just an exhibition game, what could be better than an epic Habs vs. Maple Leafs matchup?
By the time the calendar flipped to a new year, the Canadiens had just a tiny glimmer of hope for a playoff position. That disappeared completely by March as the Habs sat in 24th place in the NHL.
But with the return-to-play format, Montreal was granted a lifeline. Beat the Penguins in a best-of-five qualifying series and they would earn a trip to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
It was new life for the Habs and new hope for their fans. After an upbeat training camp, some wondered if this team had a chance against the mighty Pens? While it’s not wise to draw conclusions from one exhibition game, the upcoming series will obviously be a huge uphill battle.
It didn’t start well tonight. While many point to the Canadiens’ lack of depth, it was a forward from the first line and a top-pairing defenceman who conspired to cause the first goal againt. Just 33 seconds into the contest, Ben Chiarot made a poor decision to pinch and Brendan Gallagher missed the backup assignment which led to a Leafs’ two-on-one for the opening goal.
The Canadiens also had their best on the ice for six power-play opportunities. They not only went 0-for-6 with the man advantage, the Habs shockingly gave up two goals. Claude Julien criticized his team, saying that his best players were not their best in this game.
While the coach’s comments held some truth, Julien failed to accept any blame for a woeful performance. You see it was Julien himself, who spent the past few months devising new power-play strategies and deploying two new waves of attackers. Obviously it is still a work in progress.
Sloppy play might be expected in an exhibition game. But the free one is over. It all gets very real by Saturday.
As Brendan Gallagher said, post-game, the Habs must correct their mistakes and they must do it quickly. They do not have much time.
But maybe the task is just out of reach. Carey Price did all he could in this game, making several brilliant saves in the first two periods. But even when Price made solid stops, his teammates didn’t do their job to prevent subsequent opportunities. And at the other end, the Canadiens attack was anemic.
A tale of two teams at even strength pic.twitter.com/qdfIUBT9Qc
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) July 29, 2020
The Canadiens will practice this week in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price, Nick Suzuki, Artturi Lehkonen, Jeff Petry, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Paul Byron
▼ Jonathan Drouin, Victor Mete, Brendan Gallagher, Dale Weise, Max Domi, Cale Fleury, Jordan Weal, Xavier Ouellet, Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar