“2020 has been a weird year, but it's probably the strangest thing we've been through. "
The odd thing Brendan Gallagher was talking about on Tuesday after the game was the fact that he and his teammates had to dress in the Maple Leafs locker room. Imagine the Leafs' maple leaf engraved on the lockers on which the Habs jerseys rest. If Roch Carrier is looking to write a sequel to the Hockey Sweater, here is a good vein.
The Leafs may welcome the Eastern Conference to their hometown, but the NHL does not play with the advantage of the ice. The Canadiens were the home team, so it's up to them to have the most spacious locker room!
In fact, it was a night when the world was turned upside down. What about the announcement that followed the first goal of the match? A goal from the Maple Leafs, scored in Toronto… and first announced in French! Nice sensitivity to Montreal, mind you.
That's not to mention this empty arena. We may have suspected for months that the sport will be played behind closed doors for a while, there is something deeply unnatural about seeing professional sport played under these conditions.
And then, ultimate proof of the world upside down if there is one, the trio of Phillip Danault was perhaps the worst of the Canadian. Danault, Gallagher and Tomas Tatar were caught on two opponent's goals, in situations in which Claude Julien has blind faith in them: on the first appearance of the match, and at the end of the period.
“It was a bit more difficult,” admitted Danault, after the CH 4-2 loss to the Leafs. The brain wasn't top notch. It's going super fast on the ice, it's important to get back into it. Today was not easy, but we just came back. "
It wasn't a matter of effort, mind you. Gallagher ended his night with nine shots on goal, but too many of those shots came from the periphery.
On the other hand, he and Tatar were on the ice for the opponent's four goals, not least because their decision-making was deficient. It was Gallagher who did not recognize the danger when Ben Chiarot ventured far into opposing territory. It was Tatar who attempted a pass from behind at the top of the territory on the power play. In both cases, the puck ended up behind Carey Price.
If there is a safe bet for the CH, it is this trio. Julien has often touted his new trio of Jonathan Drouin, Nick Suzuki and Joel Armia, the first audition was not overwhelming. Jesperi Kotkaniemi did well in the middle of the third unit, but the young man came back a long way. It is not known how he will react in a real playoff game. The Max Domi trio remains a surprise box.
Speaking of surprise boxes, Julien has been testing new units since the start of the camp, and units have allowed the Leafs to score twice, 4 against 5. “We were sometimes hesitant. We will have to find solutions quickly, because we don't have a lot of time, ”said Gallagher.
In fact, the Canadian has three practices to correct the situation, before Saturday's duel against Pittsburgh. Corrections, Julien and his assistants will not fail to point out to their players. “We didn't play a big game,” said the head coach after the game.
Refuse the punishments?
There has been a lot of talk about the Canadian who will have to discover with the power play of the Penguins, but the CH will have to start by being more reliable when it is he who has the advantage of a man! Twice rather than once, the Montrealers allowed a goal when they were on the power play. Tomas Tatar was guilty of a blind pass - this hated teammate - on the first goal, the work of Alexander Kerfoot. On the second goal, Morgan Rielly took advantage of a permissive cover from Jonathan Drouin to recover a return. The Habs have done well this season for goals allowed when they were on the power play (5), but with Brandon Tanev and Bryan Rust, the Penguins have the tools to annoy the CH ...
Tatar and Suzuki again!
It wasn't all negative at 5 against 4 for Montreal… The Canadiens scored 33 power play goals in 2019-2020. Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki were together on the ice for 21 of those goals. These two seem to be on the ice constantly, and they did so once again yesterday, when Tatar huddled behind the Toronto defense to accept Suzuki's pass and score. The goal was evenly scored, but since the penalty to Ilya Mikheyev was only six seconds over, it was the kind of goal that could be considered by coaches to have been scored on the power play. If Claude Julien ever had to break the unity of Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher one day, it would be interesting to see what Suzuki and Tatar could accomplish at 5 against 5…
Not the ideal situation for Domi
Max Domi's situation could be called uncomfortable, and we don't even talk about the second period streak where he received a puck in the fork area. Claude Julien may well be indignant about the fact that his unit is called a “fourth line”, the fact remains that Dale Weise, one of Domi's wingers, is at best a fourth line striker. It's the same Weise who spent half the season in the American League. And it's the same Weise who, when Domi joined him with a perfect pass at the mouth of the net, missed the mark even though he had an open cage. The kind of game that a more seasoned scorer will not miss. It is also the kind of game that will not help the cause of Domi, who must renegotiate his contract at the end of the season,
"We were rusty"
No doubt, it is the Paul Byron who had come back in force before the cessation of activities that the Canadian found. In addition to his goal, Byron exploited his speed all night and earned the Torontonians a penalty.
He had the chance to give himself arguments to be the third defender on the right. He finally made more mistakes, so that he spent the third period sitting on the bench.
The number of the match: 2
Number of appearances for Alex Belzile, who obtained an unexpected hearing as the 13th striker. His night came to an end when defenseman Jake Muzzin shoved him after Belzile got a chance near the net. Belzile played a first match since December 4.