|FINAL | Game 58, Away Game 28 | Saturday February 17, 2018
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Hudon – Lehkonen
Byron – Plekanec – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – Drouin – Scherbak
Carr – Froese – L. Shaw
Alzner – Petry
Mete – Schlemko
Morrow – Benn
Nicolas Deslauriers, Jacob De La Rose, Jakub Jerabek
Ales Hemsky – concussion, Shea Weber – lower-body, Phillip Danault – concussion, Andrew Shaw – lower-body
‘You are having a bad season when __________’ has been a popular game recently for Canadiens fans. Fill in the blank in a variety of ways. ‘Worst road record’ is a good answer. ’29th in scoring in the league’ also fills the bill.
But there was a new contender tonight. You know you are having a bad season when you can’t even showcase your players successfully.
Antti Niemi was a bit of a surprise starter for the Canadiens in Las Vegas. When the announcement was made late Saturday afternoon, reporters asked the obvious question, ‘why?’ Coach Claude Julien bristled at even being asked probably because he couldn’t answer truthfully.
“We have two goaltenders,” said Julien declaring the obvious. The grumpy coach added that Carey Price would start Tuesday in Philadelphia.
At this time of the year, for a team at the bottom of the standings, it’s reasonable to assume that scouts want to see what you have to sell. And Antti Niemi could fill the need of cheaply-acquired goaltending depth for a playoff bound team.
The Flyers fill that bill with starter Brian Elliot out five-six weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery. How about this intriguing little narrative: ‘Niemi makes his first start for Philadelphia on Tuesday against his former team as the Canadiens visit the Wells-Fargo Center…’
But then 34-year-old took the T-Mobile Arena ice and laid an egg. Niemi was yanked after just 8:41 having allowed three goals on six shots. That’s not how a showcase is supposed to work, Antti!
Carey Price entered the game in relief for the first time since 2013. Price played well including making several outstanding saves.
But the game was already well on its way to being over. You don’t spot the best team in the league (yes, Vegas took over the top spot) a 3-0 lead in their own building and expect to come back. The Golden Knights are 24-3-0 when scoring first, for a league-leading .889 win percentage.
For Habs fans there was precious little to get excited about. But with a jaw-dropping goal on Marc-Andre Fleury, Nikita Scherbak provided a ray of hope for the future. Scherbak and Alex Galchenyuk were dynamic together all game.
Scherbak had seven shot attempts in 16:30 and was a cross-bar away from a second goal in the game. The third member of the trio, Jonathan Drouin, was MIA all evening until a meaningless, third-period, power-play goal.
The chemistry between Galchenyuk and Scherbak was so palpable that Julien couldn’t resist separating the pair in the third period shifting Nikita to play with Paul Byron and Tomas Plekanec. Byron had a dreadful game finishing the night with a minus-4 rating.
The Canadiens have won just two games in their past 10. They have slipped to 28th in the standings one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
In 58 games, the Habs have just 51 points. With 82 points, the Vegas Golden Knights are the best team in the NHL. Whenever someone asks the question, “What do you expect from Claude Julien with his rag-tag bunch of players?”, remember Gerard Gallant and his expansion team castoffs.
▲ Artturi Lehkonen, Nikita Scherbak, Alex Galchenyuk, Carey Price,
▼ Jonathan Drouin, Joe Morrow, Jordie Benn, Victor Mete, Paul Byron, Logan Shaw, Byron Froese
|NHL Three Stars|
|Post-game Press Conference|
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant
Quotes courtesy of NHL.com
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