Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Drouin – Galchenyuk
Byron – Danault – Shaw
Hudon – Plekanec – Gallagher
Deslauriers – De La Rose – Froese
Benn – Morrow
Alzner – Petry
Jerabek – Davidson
Torrey Mitchell, Victor Mete
David Schlemko – hand, Ales Hemsky – concussion, Nikita Scherbak – knee, Carey Price – lower-body, Al Montoya – concussion, Artturi Lehkonen – lower-body, Shea Weber – lower-body
When a loss is a win, sorta.
For one night, anyway, the torches were extinguished. The cries to run every single Canadiens player out of Montreal were muted. And the talk about the Thanksgiving playoff milestone was temporarily shelved.
There were even whispers of a turnaround. Well, let’s not get carried away.
The mood of Habs fans was upbeat given that their expectations for this game were so low. It was anticipated that the powerhouse Predators would mop the floor with the fragile Canadiens coming into this game. And if the outlook wasn’t already dim with Carey Price nursing an injury, we learned late in the afternoon that Shea Weber would not be in the lineup.
After a day of travel from the Canadian north, Jakub Jerabek arrived in Nashville to play in his first NHL game. And Charlie Lindgren gave way to Antti Niemi, who started between the pipes with his 6.67 goals against average this season.
The popular bet for the result of the game was somewhere between massive embarrassment and colossal blowout.
But, by managing to play better than those dismal expectations, fans took some consolation that their bruised and beaten team competed with last year’s Stanley Cup finalist.
Many times, the coverage in their own zone wasn’t pretty and every shot seemed to be an adventure for the fourth-string goaltender but the Habs stuck with it.
And when the Predators played a little casual with the Canadiens net empty, a seeing-eye shot from Joe Morrow sent the match into extra time.
Taking one point from this game was reason to celebrate, I suppose. But the reality remains that this isn’t a very good hockey team.
American Thanksgiving has arrived and the Canadiens are looking up through far too many teams to expect a run to a playoff spot would be anything other than miraculous.
Montreal’s top line isn’t producing and their number one centre isn’t a threat to score or win a faceoff — just 15 per cent at the dot tonight.
Special teams are anything but special. An early 5-on-3 power-play went nowhere and the penalty-kill gave up goals on 50 per cent of Nashville’s chances.
And the makeshift defence looks like it could come undone at any moment. Shea Weber is desperately needed back in the lineup.
The Canadiens head back home to host the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre on Saturday. It will be a meeting between teams with the 2nd and 3rd worst goal differentials in the league. Another dose of reality after tonight’s moral victory.
▲ Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Charles Hudon, Jakub Jerabek
▼ Brandon Davidson, Nicolas Deslauriers, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron