Forward lines and defense pairings:
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
Pacioretty – Eller – Andrighetto
Byron – De la Rose – Weise
Lessio – Mitchell – Smith-Pelly
Beaulieu – Gilbert
Emelin – Pateryn
Scratches: David Desharnais (foot), Mark Barberio, Tomas Fleischmann
Injured reserve: Carey Price, Daniel Carr, Brian Flynn, Jeff Petry
Believe it or not, there were some positives to be taken from this game. Lars Eller as Max Pacioretty’s centre is a very good thing. It was clear from the very first shift and continued throughout the first period.
In the second, the pair combined with Sven Andrighetto was rewarded for hustle and drive. Forechecking hard, Andrighetto forced Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov to rush his clearing attempt giving Pacioretty the chance to set-up Eller who was parked in front of the net. Imagine that!
Pacioretty and Eller also looked good together on the first wave of the power-play. For a coach who is constantly juggling lines, it is mind-boggling that Michel Therrien hasn’t put together this combination prior to game 58 of the season. And his hand forced by an injury!
Moving back to his natural position, Jacob De la Rose had a strong game centering the third line. At 14:33, De la Rose had the most even-strength ice-time of any Canadiens forward. He also won the most faceoffs with 10.
On the back end, Tom Gilbert (24:42) and Andrei Markov (24:48) led the team in ice time. Stating the obvious, Gilbert’s extra minutes no doubt had everything to do with the upcoming trade deadline and the audience of scouts in the press gallery. P.K. Subban (22:19) and Nathan Beaulieu (22:01) were next in line for icetime.
Subban could have added to that total but found himself benched for the final minute of the game after having drawing the ire of the head coach. No matter that the Habs were just one goal down, Therrien thought that it was the ideal time to send a message to his best offensive defenceman. Clearly the emotional coach believes that the playoffs are out of reach.
It’s not only that the Canadiens are losing, it’s the drama that unfolds after each loss. It’s destructive.
The key play that had fans and media taking sides came with just over two minutes remaining. P.K. Subban danced along the Colorado blueline looking to push deeper into the zone. Subban was stripped of the puck by Mikhail Grigorenko who turned the puck in the other direction for an Avalanche rush.
With Subban caught up ice, the Canadiens had three players back. Pacioretty turned to face the puck carrier, Matt Duchene even though he was already covered by Markov. That left a wide-open Jarome Iginla for a tap-in on a nice feed from Grigorenko. It didn’t help that Ben Scrivens overplayed the Duchene pass.
While there was a little blame to go around, objectively, it was Subban who was responsible for the Avs winning goal. Subban blamed a skate, it wasn’t. It was also disappointing to hear Subban say that there was nothing he could do about it. Yes, make a better decision.
That said, there are two sides to the coin regarding Therrien’s decision to bench Subban late in the game with a chance to tie it. I am willing to accept that the coach thought he was justified in doing so.
Where I will be very critical is the way Therrien publicly called out Subban for his selfish play three different ways in English and again in French in his post-game presser. It was irresponsible.
Therrien is not losing the Habs dressing room, he is surgically carving it up. The coach was well aware of reports of unrest in the room. His comments only served to fuel divisions while sending fans and media alike to choose sides.
I strongly spoke out in December saying that Therrien needed to be fired. As I predicted the atmosphere around the team is causing permanent damage. Bergevin must act before it is allowed to get out of hand any further.
Once Therrien is gone, Bergevin will be left to deal with the issue of Subban and Pacioretty. Given the way the team has been mismanaged, I honestly don’t know if both can remain on the team together. If there wasn’t already enough issues for a GM who is having difficulty tackling any of the major ones.
The Habs return to Montreal to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.
▲ Lars Eller, Jacob De la Rose, Sven Andrighetto, Andrei Markov
▼ Michel Therrien, Marc Bergevin, P.K Subban, Alexei Emelin, Greg Pateryn, Ben Scrivens