Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Drouin – Gallagher
Hudon – Plekanec – Lehkonen
Galchenyuk – Danault – Shaw
Byron – De La Rose – Hemsky
Mete – Weber
Alzner – Petry
Benn – Streit
Torrey Mitchell, Joe Morrow, Brandon Davidson
David Schlemko (hand)
The Canadiens started the season with a win, heavily relying on Carey Price with an outstanding 43-save performance. Price also was perfect in the shootout, blanking Jacob Josefson, Jason Pominville and Sam Reinhart.
So, the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well, not fully.
The Canadiens did control the game for significant stretches but penalties interrupted their momentum. Some of those penalties were earned — Ales Hemsky may have hurt his chances for two consecutive starts — and some were not, such as the preposterous call on Andrew Shaw. The guys in stripes also missed Nathan Beaulieu’s well-placed elbow in the face of Jacob De La Rose. Post-game it was reported that De La Rose had suffered a broken nose.
Tomas Plekanec was the most noticeable forward, playing a very effective thirteen and a half minutes. Max Pacioretty led the Canadiens with six shots on goal and scored his first of the season. Phillip Danault woke up from his slumber that lasted the pre-season plus two periods just in time to take advantage of a lumbering Robin Lehner. Jonathan Drouin assisted on the captain’s marker and scored the game-deciding goal.
On defense, Shea Weber was a beast, playing almost 30 minutes of dominating hockey. Weber led the Canadiens in both hits and blocked shots while picking up his first point of the season. Weber’s partner, Victor Mete, was unremarkable, which is a very good thing for a 19-year-old rookie making his NHL debut. And Mete’s quickness was a big asset against a very speedy Sabres team.
The Canadiens power-play looked very good. But you will recall that it was top-five in the league early last season until opponents started defending Weber. The challenge will be to be less predictable this year, and it would appear that the Habs have the players capable of doing that.
On the other hand, Montreal’s penalty-kill was not pretty. With defenders practically stepping on each other, Carey Price was left alone to face too many quality scoring chances.
Concerns about the Canadiens defense that began in the pre-season only became that much more apparent tonight. Jeff Petry did not have a banner game. Karl Alzner and Jordie Benn had good moments but struggled at times. Mark Streit is no longer an NHL defenseman, and it’s not even close.
Carey Price was brilliant. Should it have been necessary for him to bring his A+ game on the first night of the season? No, the Habs were facing the Sabres. The opposition will get tougher, and quickly.
▲ Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec, Shea Weber, Victor Mete, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Jacob De La Rose
▼ Mark Streit, Paul Byron, Jeff Petry, Karl Alzner, Ales Hemsky