FINAL | Game 78, Away Game 39 | Saturday March 31, 2018 
PPG Paint Arena, Pittsburgh, PA.

CANADIENS
Montreal

teamlogo_canadiens

2-5

PENGUINS
Pittsburgh

(Photo by Gene J Puskar / AP)

Lineup

Forward lines and defense pairings 

Byron – Drouin – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – De La Rose – Lehkonen
Scherbak – L. Shaw – Hudon
Deslauriers – McCarron – Carr

Benn – Petry
Alzner – Juulsen
Schlemko – Lernout

Goaltenders

Niemi
Price

Scratches

Mike Reilly, Byron Froese, Kerby Rychel

Injuries

Ales Hemsky – concussion, Shea Weber – lower-body, Victor Mete – hand, Max Pacioretty – lower-body, Rinat Valiev – lower-body, Phillip Danault – upper body, Andrew Shaw – upper-body

Game Report 

This week it was announced that Antti Niemi would be the Masterton trophy nomineee for the Montreal Canadiens. I have said publicly for many years that the mainstream media has no business being involved in major player awards. And here is Exhibit ‘A’.

Now, understand, from their perspective, this would be the perfect fairytale story waiting to be written. In fact, the narrative is almost complete, they just need a Cinderella.

The story is well-known. Niemi had a dreadful start to the 2017-’18 season. His goaltending was beyond bad and he cycled through several teams.

Niemi arrived in Montreal off the waiver scrap heap, picked up by a team in need of a cheap, temporary solution for their backup goaltending position. Stephane Waite went to work bringing structure and confidence to Niemi’s game, two things completely absent at the start of the season.

Expectations were so low about his play that Niemi had zero pressure and benefited from the comfort of his former mentor. Niemi played well and was embraced by Canadiens fans desperate for an unsung hero in the midst of a terrible season.

And the media loved to write about this reclamation project, the wisdom of Marc Bergevin’s acquisition and the wizardry of Waite.

It was such a compelling narrative that Niemi’s poor starts were erased. His unconventional style and pure luck were ignored. These things were discarded as they didn’t fit the tale that was being spun.

Against the Penguins, once again, we saw poor positioning from Niemi leading to a boatload of rebounds. He has trouble sticking to the structure taught by his coach, reverting to a undisciplined display of scrambly play, which cannot be consistently effective. Think Dustin Tokarski.

But these are the kind of details that get in the way when writers want to engineer a preferred outcome. And for them, a Masterton win for Niemi would be the perfect story to end the season.

Has anyone considered that Niemi has just six of the Canadiens 28 wins? Six wins. 

Was Niemi’s six wins more impactful in a hockey sense on the Montreal Canadiens season than, let’s say, Brendan Gallagher’s 30 goals, after his injury-filled seasons?

Apparently so, for some at least. So the logical next question is, when is Niemi’s appearance at the Fairview mall in Pointe-Claire?

===

▲  Noah Juulsen, Alex Galchenyuk, Artturi Lehkonen, Jacob De La Rose, Brendan Gallagher

▼  Antti Niemi, Charles Drouin, David Schlemko, Jonathan Drouin, Logan Shaw, Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Nicolas Deslauriers, penalty-kill

 Statistics 
CANADIENS   PENGUINS
26 Shots 33
35% Face-offs 65%
1-for-1 Power Play 3-for-5
10 Penalty Minutes 2
39 Hits 33
53 Corsi For 54
 Scoring
 FINAL 1 2 3 OT SO T
 Canadiens (28-38-12) 2 0 0 2
 Penguins (45-28-6) 3 0 2 5
Scorers Goalies
  • MTL: Petry (11), Drouin (13)-PPG
  • PIT: Sheary (17), Hornqvist (26)-PPG, Hagelin (10), Kessel (31)-PPG, Sheahan (11)-PPG
  • MTL: Niemi (L) 6-9-4
  • PIT: Murray (W) 25-15-3
 NHL Three Stars

NHL3stars
  1. Riley Sheahan  PIT
  2. Phil Kessel  PIT
  3. Patric Hornqvist  PIT

 Video Highlights 
 Post-game Press Conference
Claude Julien

  • “At the end of the day, our penalty kill gives up three goals. If we’re not going to do a job right, we’re not going to pay a price, that’s what’s going to end up happening. We had a couple breakaways there. We had a chance to get ourselves back in the game and we weren’t able to finish.”
  • “It’s the story of this season here. The chances are there. The lack of finish … dictates what you saw tonight.”

Quotes courtesy of NHL.com

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