Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Nick Cousins – Max Domi – Nick Suzuki
Artturi Lehkonen – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Joel Armia
Matthew Peca – Nate Thompson – Jordan Weal
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Gustav Olofsson – Cale Fleury
Carey Price – Keith Kinkaid
Christian Folin, Mike Reilly, Charles Hudon
Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Mete
In my grandparents’ basement, when the puck and sticks came out for a family game on the concrete floor, we traded our names for the names of our favourite hockey heroes. For a brief time, we each became those players, in our minds anyway; all of us, including my mom and grandmother.
For a brief time tonight, the length of the warm-up, the current Canadiens wore jerseys of Montreal hockey royalty. But it went further. They referred to each other by the name on their warm-up jerseys.
#Habs Petry said that during pregame warmup, he and his teammates were having fun calling each other by their repped jerseys’ first names (eg. Domi was “Guy”, Price was “Jacques”, etc).
— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) December 4, 2019
Did the Canadiens play an inspired game? Perhaps they did.
Before the game, in a bit of a reach, Claude Julien said that his team needed (borrowing a Michel Therrien phrase) some “puck luck.” Whether it was divine intervention or puck luck, the Canadiens benefited scoring their first goal with just 0.7 seconds remaining in the first period.
But they also did all of the little things, the attention to detail that has been missing since their last win on the 15th of November.
Lest anyone be confused, the Habs are not playing the brand of hockey that they did at the beginning of the season. It’s much more conservative. The defence are not pinching at all, forwards are hightailing it back and they are spending time clogging up the neutral zone.
But right now, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
And tonight, the current elite players on the lineup took control. The leaders led by example. Carey Price was solid and combative. Shea Weber had a goal and an assist in almost 30 minutes of work. And Brendan Gallagher led the team in shots on goal resulting in a two-point night.
But there is still a lot of work to do. The games will only get tougher from here.
Running two defence pairs and three forward lines for the majority of the game may be necessary to end a losing streak but it is not sustainable for the long run.
The Canadiens have caught the Toronto Maple Leafs in the points battle. But that will only satisfy Habs fans who have a myopic obsession with the Leafs.
Tampa Bay and the Rangers are still within range and they have two and four games in hand, respectively. Pittsburgh and Carolina are currently seated in the wild card spots. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Canadiens chances of making the playoffs were just 19 percent heading into this game.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Montreal accomplished their goal of ending the losing streak. But a considerable amount of work remains for Marc Bergevin when he returns from Russia.
The dark clouds have not cleared from the Bell Centre. Even the appearance of 11 former Canadiens captains could not deliver a sellout to Geoff Molson. Montreal has failed to sell out nine of their 16 home games this season.
The team will get an unexpected day off on Wednesday returning to practice on Thursday ahead of their game with the Colorado Avalanche.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price, Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, Brendan Gallagher, Artturi Lehkonen, Nick Suzuki, Phillip Danault
▼ Gustav Olofsson, Jordan Weal, Cale Fleury, Matthew Peca, Nate Thompson