Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Galchenyuk – Radulov
Lehkonen – Plekanec – Gallagher
Danault – Desharnais – Shaw
Byron – Mitchell – Flynn
Emelin – Weber
Markov – Petry
Barberio – Pateryn
Daniel Carr, Zach Redmond
Charles Hudon (sternum), Nathan Beaulieu (upper body)
Wins in California for the Montreal Canadiens are rare, so this one is to be celebrated. After tallying zero goals in the first 50 minutes of each of the first three games of the road trip, the Habs offence erupted for four goals. That alone, is reason for optimism. Let’s not dampen the mood by pointing out that the Canadiens are winless in regulation in four road games on this trip.
The offence was driven by Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov with three points each in the game. Radulov also added a highlight reel goal in the shootout. The pair along with Alex Galchenyuk formed a new line combination that was partly successful. Galchenyuk was the weak link on this day, struggling against the Kings prior to leaving the game with a lower-body injury.
Radulov also provided a spark to the Canadiens power-play, ranked in the top five in the league. Radulov’s playmaking threat is a perfect compliment to the cannon of Shea Weber on the point. If an opponent’s penalty-kill units focus on taking away the shot, Radulov and his mates can beat them down low.
Artturi Lehkonen continues to impress. This should be no surprise for those who have followed his career closely. While just an NHL rookie, Lehkonen has the experience of playing in a top men’s league which has helped developed his considerable natural talents. Lehkonen continues to create scoring chances for linemates while remaining defensively responsible.
On the other end of the spectrum, a Canadiens team with Carey Price in net shouldn’t be allowing four goals in a game. Some fans myopically pointed the finger at Price, calling it an ‘off-game’ for the Canadiens’ MVP. That’s simply absurd.
Instead, credit should go to the Kings’ ability to plant big forwards in the Montreal crease. Post-game Drew Doughty talked about the game-plan to screen the best goaltender in the world. Anze Kopitar said that the objective was to “get in his eyes.”
Perhaps J.J. Daigneault’s game plan should have centred on using his defencemen to box out Kings’ forwards and to clear a path for Price. Speaking of Daigneault, the Canadiens penalty-killing, for years a fixture at the top of the rankings, continues to slide. Montreal is now 21st in the league while short-handed.
▲ Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty, Artturi Lehkonen, Andrei Markov
▼ Mark Barberio, Alex Galchenyuk, penalty-killers