Forward lines and defense pairings
Galchenyuk – Drouin – Lehkonen
Pacioretty – Danault – Shaw
Byron – Plekanec – Gallagher
Hudon – McCarron – Mitchell
Mete – Weber
Alzner – Petry
Morrow – Benn
Brandon Davidson, Jacob De La Rose
David Schlemko – hand, Ales Hemsky – concussion symptoms, Nikita Scherbak – knee, Carey Price – lower-body
Let’s start with the good. The Canadiens have won three in a row and six of their last eight games. The are slowly climbing out of the basement having improved from 30th last week to 25th place. There are still a full mitt’s worth of teams in front of them but at least a playoff spot is within sight.
With consecutive starts on the biggest stages in the NHL, Chicago and Montreal, Charlie Lindgren was outstanding making 67 saves on 69 shots. Lindgren has a record of 2-0-0, 1.00 goals against average, and a .971 save percentage for 2017-18 season.
The Canadiens spotted their young goaltender a 2-0 lead by the 11-minute mark of the first frame. Tomas Plekanec did all of the heavy-lifting on the first goal, retrieving the puck and setting up Brendan Gallagher for a tap-in. Just 2:31 later, Mike McCarron set a perfect screen for Jordie Benn’s first goal of the season.
Lindgren had a quiet first period but was forced to make a huge pad save on Vegas’ leading scorer James Neal following Torrey Mitchell’s weak clearing attempt and some shoddy defensive work by Benn and Joe Morrow. Benn slid over to his off side essentially occupying the same ice as Morrow leaving Neal wide open. As an added touch, the point shot went off Benn’s stick right to Neal.
Before the end of the frame, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare easily went by Jonathan Drouin, who offered only a token, stick wave in defence. Bellemare then undressed Jeff Petry and slid the puck by Morrow for a late-period Knights goal.
At the halfway point in the game, Canadiens were dominating possession with a 18-4 advantage in shots. And then the expansion team, at the end of a six-game road trip, playing the second night of a back-to-back, turned the game on its head.
For the final 30 minutes, the Golden Knights dominated play outshooting the Canadiens 27-10. Lindgren was put to the test over and over again. And he stood tall.
In the third period, a Mitchell turnover triggered a Vegas two-on-one which, having dispatched Benn, quickly turned into a William Carrier breakaway. Lindgren made a big pad save. And the 23-year-old was called on several more times as the Golden Knights pressed to tie the game including another outstanding save on James Neal with the clock winding down.
With the win, Charlie Lindgren is now 5-0-0 in his NHL career joining Wayne Thomas and Ken Dryden as Habs goalies who won their first five NHL games. In addition to his five wins, Lindgren has a 1.39 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in his NHL career.
Throughout this game, particularly the latter half, Lindgren was put in the situation of bailing out his team following weak defensive plays by the likes of Benn, Morrow, Petry, Drouin, Byron, and Mitchell. Yet the folks at RDS, who were handling the 3-star selection, couldn’t separate themselves from digging for reasons to choose David Perron as a star long enough to notice that Lindgren was the best player on the ice for the Canadiens.
From failing to cut off passing lanes, to an abundance of turnovers, the Canadiens continue to struggle in their own end. With Victor Mete’s icetime continuing to fall — just eight minutes tonight — the load is being spread to defenceman who are just not up to playing at that level. David Schlemko can’t return soon enough. And even when he does, Marc Bergevin still needs to add one more top-four defenceman.
The Canadiens host the Wild on Thursday night, and will be looking for a much better effort than the 6-3 loss in Minnesota on November 2nd.
▲ Charlie Lindgren, Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Charles Hudon
▼ Joe Morrow, Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell