Forward lines and defense pairings
Byron – Drouin – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – De La Rose – Lehkonen
Scherbak – A. Shaw – Hudon
Deslauriers – Froese – L. Shaw
Reilly – Petry
Alzner – Juulsen
Benn – Lernout
Ales Hemsky – concussion, Shea Weber – lower-body, Carey Price – concussion, Victor Mete – hand, Max Pacioretty – lower-body, David Schlemko – undisclosed, Rinat Valiev – lower-body, Phillip Danault – upper body
You might think that Game 70 of a disastrous season would essentially be meaningless. Yet there was something special about this contest with multiple storylines before, during and after the game.
Sadly, it was the kind of game that often brings out the worst in fans with many ginning up an atmosphere of hyperpartisanship. It’s the type of situation where the loud, popular narratives often drown out the truth.
Much of the pre-game buzz swirled around Alexander Radulov’s departure from Montreal. Radulov was falsely painted as lacking loyalty or following greed to Dallas.
The simple truth is that, dealing with a player who wanted to stay in Montreal, Marc Bergevin was in control. Had he wanted to re-sign Radulov, the winger who scored 54 points in 76 games last year, would be a Canadien this season.
With his 36th assist tonight on Jamie Benn’s power-play goal, Radulov has 61 points in 70 games. For context, Brendan Gallagher, who many are convinced is having an MVP season for the Canadiens, has 43 points in the same number of games.
Bergevin played hardball in the negotiations with Radulov signaling an ambivalence about having him back. Even before a decision was made Bergevin said, “I feel comfortable that if Radulov doesn’t sign, Jonathan Drouin can pick up the slack.” The Canadiens GM didn’t sound all that hopeful about bringing Alex back saying, “If you want loyalty, buy a dog.”
On the other hand, Dallas players and management sent a crystal clear message to Radulov that he was highly valued and wanted in a Stars jersey. And GM Jim Nill offered a five-year, $31.25 million contract. Arriving late to the party, Bergevin offered to match the deal from Dallas but Radulov felt it was too late.
So why were some misguided Canadiens fans ready to boo Radulov, calling him greedy and several even hoping that the former Hab would be injured in tonight’s game?
Once the contest was underway, the Canadiens game plan was revealed quite quickly: punish the opposition with a hard-hitting effort.
Nicolas Deslauriers led the way with 11 hits with Brett Lernout (9) and Jacob De La Rose not far behind (7). Noah Juulsen gets an honorable mention for his five hits in a solid 18:41 of ice-time.
But with the physical play came some nastiness. Brett Ritchie hit Noah Juulsen from behind triggered Karl Alzner to step in and drop the gloves with Ritchie. Jason Dickinson took exception to Nic Delauriers hit and they both sat with fighting majors.
As far as scoring Artturi Lehkonen led the Canadiens with two goals. Lehkonen with Jacob De La Rose and Alex Galchenyuk has become a line with speed, skill and size who dominated possession against the Stars. De La Rose drew two penalties including the four-minute high-sticking call against Dan Hamhuis in the second period that changed the game.
Jonathan Drouin (29 CF%) and his linemates struggled mightily at even strength against Dallas spending a good deal of time in their own zone. Drouin picked up two assists on the power-play.
As far as players facing their former team, Antti Niemi the win with 36 saves. Alexander Radulov got the primary assist on Jamie Benn’s second period power-play goal. And Greg Pateryn picked up an assist on Radek Faksa’s goal that opened the scoring.
But it was a reckless hit by Andrew Shaw on Greg Pateryn that had the tongues wagging and the keyboards pounding after the game.
There was a wide range of opinions from Canadiens fans and Montreal media on the hit.
At one end of the spectrum, some fans claimed that Shaw delivered a clean, innocent hit. The folks on Montreal radio felt that Shaw deserved a 5-minute major for charging plus a game with Andrew leaving his feet to level an illegal hit. Still there were others who thought that the rule book should be tossed out completely arguing that any kind of physical punishment was deserved by Pateryn given the comments of his wife Stefani.
Taking a more level-headed approach, the hit by Shaw was undoubtedly reckless. Shaw, upset at being clipped by Faksa, saw Pateryn in a vulnerable position with a puck at his feet and violently launched himself at Greg. Shaw’s head hit Pateryn’s and then struck the boards knocking himself woozy and caused him to slump to the ice.
Enraged by the hit, Pateryn righted himself and delivered a couple of quick shoves to Shaw’s head. Expecting a response and getting none, Pateryn backed off.
With Shaw helped off the ice in rough shape and given his history of concussions, Habs fans expected compassion and empathy from Pateryn when interviewed post-game. They got none. Perhaps it was an unreasonable expectation given that Shaw turned himself into a heat-seeking missile intending to do some harm.
So a solid Canadiens win in an intense game at the Bell Centre, in many instances, left some Habs fans in a foul mood. The tank nation folks were upset with the two points, the Bergevin-apologists turned their venom towards Radulov and the angry nationalists wanted to ride the Pateryns out of town on a rail.
Such is life in Montreal.
▲ Artturi Lehkonen, Jacob De La Rose, Alex Galchenyuk, Nikita Scherbak, Brett Lernout, Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin
▼ Logan Shaw, Andrew Shaw