Game Day: Canadiens vs Red Wings - The Canadiens Steal 2 Points
There was no morning skate today so Claude Julien only spoke to the media at 5 PM, he confirmed the following:
-Antti Niemi will be in net (let's hope it's the Niemi that played in Dallas on New Years' Eve and not the one who played in the two games prior to that);
-A decision will be taken on Shea Weber after the warm-up (Should he not be ok to go, Karl Alzner will play his first game with the Habs since November 24 while David Schlemko was not claimed on waivers and will be playing in Laval for the foreseeable future);
-Both Matthew Peca and Charles Hudon will be back in the line-up tonight forming a line with Agostino. Therefore, Michael Chaput and Nicolas Deslauriers will be on the press gallery. It's high time for Hudon to seize this opportunity with both hands and show exactly why he deserves to be in the line-up. His agent said last week-end that he wanted to play in the NHL be it in Montreal or elsewhere but he'll need to make himself worthy of a trade if he wants a new start. Marc Bergevin has said that he likes having depth and would like to keep Hudon around but we've all seen how quickly MB can change his mind.
The Habs will try to avoid losing a 3rd game in a row tonight. While the Canadiens haven't won against the Minnesota Wild since November 2014, they've had much more success against the Red Wings, winning the last 3 games in Detroit. The once unbeatable Wings have fallen on hard times in the last few seasons, they're well on their way to missing the playoffs for the 3rd time in a row and they've only won one game out of their last 8.
Jeff Petry should be pumped to play in his home state tonight and will no doubt want to redeem himself for his costly mistake in last night's game. Considering his performances this season though, it's hard to be mad at number 26. It will be interesting to see what will happen with Petry for the rest of the season.
The Tricolore will be playing against one of their former players tonight as Jacob De la Rose will be the 4th line centre for Detroit. So far this year, he's featured in 32 games and has put 7 points, seems like a change of scenery wasn't enough to turn him into a bona fide NHL.
And that's the lowdown on tonight's game! I'll be back in between periods for my comments on the action!
Edit: the Captain is in!
Nothing to write home about in this one folks! The Canadiens looked a bit out of step in the early minutes and the Wings were always first on the puck but they eventually got a spring back in their step. The Habs got themselves two power play, one of which was graciously provided by JDL, but failed to convert on either of them. Niemi was beaten on one hard shot from the wing but he got to hear the sweetest sound for a goalie, the familiar "Ping!" of the post. After 20 minutes, it's still 0-0 and the Wings lead in shots 9-8. RDS mentioned that Joel Armia has no power play goals in 199 career games...I do wonder in how many of these he did play on the PP though...Although I'll admit, his presence on the special team unit doesn't exactly fill me with joy or confidence. It should also be noted that Claude Julien started the 2nd power play with his second unit.
The Canadiens looked alive to start the 2nd frame. So much so that Gallagher scored one of his Gally special goals 30 seconds in, you know, the ones where he works hard in front of the net and the pucks end in there and Gally down on the ice? 66 seconds later, Joel Armia scored from the slot on a nifty feed from Domi's skate:
At that stage, it looked like the Habs were going to have a very good period but the tide completely turned 5 minutes or so later when Athanasiou made the most of a Tatar turnover and scored on Niemi to bring the Wings within 1. The rest of the period was dominated by the Wings who shot 12 times on the Habs goalie. There were 2 penalties, both to the Canadiens, one for Weber and the other for Kotkaniemi which was kind of a bad penalty to take. As we've said numerous times though, Kotkaniemi's young and he's learning so there's really no need to get on his case. The feared "growing pains" with this kid are next to non-existant and the Habs have been blessed. Back at the draft, numerous people were shocked when the Canadiens preferred him to Zadina (including the "What?!?!? Lady) but now, there are very few people who won't say that the Canadiens scouts were spot on.
Let's hope Detroit forgets to show up for the start of the 3rd and the Habs can take that opportunity.
My above mentioned wish was granted, the Wings weren't ready for the third it seems and in front of friends and family, Jeff Petry scored the Canadiens' third goal 19 seconds in. The two goal lead did not last long though, just passed the 4 minute mark Max Domi took yet another ill advised penalty for holding which opened the door for Detroit. It took less than a minute for Andreas Athanasiou to score his second of the game and bring the Wings back within one once more. As if a bad penalty wasn't enough Domi managed to give the puck away at the top of the defensive zone and it looked like that would cost a goal...Thankfully, he managed to catch up to the Wings player and knock the puck away. Midway through the frame, Tatar also took a penalty this time for tripping, but there was no harm done. The last few minutes of the period were quite stressful to watch but in the end, the Canadiens prevailed. With 30 saves on 32 shots, Niemi played a solid game and allowed the Habs to get the all important 2 points that brings them back in the 2nd wild card spot (since the Islanders lost to the Hurricanes in regulation tonight). However, the Isles have 3 games in hand...at the end of January, they should be level games wise as the Habs have near two weeks off (ASG break and bye week).
Tonight, @KirbyZach77 wins Twitter for me, he pointed out that the Wings' Twitter guy probably doesn't check the stats before posting his "Keys to the game":
Given how badly the Habs are doing, they probably should aim to give them as many power plays as possible. Finally, Charles Hudon had 8:25 of time on ice, during which he took one shot on goal and had one block. He also had a pretty good chance to score early on but he sent it above the net...he wasn't even done shooting that he was already looking to the heavens. Clearly, he's aware that he's running out of time...On the plus side, the fourth line did manage to kill important minutes at the end of the game. In his postgame comments, Julien qualified the 4th line's performance as correct considering how long it had been since they had played. Julien also made the journalists chuckle when he mentioned that Weber got rid of the cage before the game because "he's an old school guy". Looking at his face and how swollen it was, I still can't believe he took that gamble.The Canadiens are off tomorrow and will be back in action Thursday in St-Louis.