Canadiens Overcome Adversity to Force a Game 6
This game had more ups and downs than a cycling trail through the Rocky Mountains.
In the end, the good guys came out on top.
The Montreal Canadiens beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 in a rough, penalty-filled affair last night. Joel Armia opened the scoring in the first period with a shorthanded goal off a dump-in from Xavier Ouellet. The score remained the same until the beginning of the second period, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi hit Travis Sanheim hard into the boards. Kotkaniemi somehow found himself with a five-minute major and a game misconduct (more on that later). The Flyers scored two goals on the ensuing power play, both by Jakub Voracek, and both tipped in by Ben Chiarot. Nice going there, Ben. The Canadiens responded with force, however. Joel Armia got his second goal of the night at the midway point in the second period to tie things up, and a minute later Brendan Gallagher – on the power play, no less – batted a Nick Suzuki pass out of mid-air to end his drought and give the Canadiens a lead. In the third period, the Canadiens’ penalty kill did nothing to improve its abysmal showing, as Joel Farabee tied the game on a power play goal from the slot. 22 second later, however, Nick Suzuki received a brilliant no-look pass from Jonathan Drouin and out-waited Carter Hart to put the Canadiens back on top. Phillip Danault got the empty-net goal, and the Canadiens pulled out a 5-3 win to force a game 6, to be played Friday at 7:00 PM.
The Officiating Was Awful
It’s one thing to harp on about the officiating when you lose the game. Blaming the referees is a great way to shrug off a lacklustre performance by your team. But when you win and you still take issue with the refereeing, the complaint is usually legitimate. The Canadiens won, but Canadiens hockey forums were filled with complaints about the refereeing. And justifiably so. Take the Kotkaniemi hit on Sanheim, for example. Sanheim had just played the puck. Therefore, Kotkaniemi is allowed a few seconds to finish his check. That’s the standard. The timing of the hit was fine. Sanheim was aware that Kotkaniemi was about to hit him. Instead of turning around and fighting back, Sanheim turned his back to Kotkaniemi and absorbed the check. This was not an unexpected, runaway-freight-train type of hit. Sanheim saw this coming yet he didn’t protect himself. In theory, Kotkaniemi should have let up and lessened the impact, but in practice that’s not very easy on skates. Finally, let’s look at the damage of the hit. Sanheim got cut along the lower forehead. He was patched up and he played on the ensuing power play. The hit clearly didn’t bother him much. Paul Byron had a similar hit on Mackenzie Weegar a couple of years ago, and Weegar wasn’t okay, and still Byron didn’t receive a major penalty. Kotkaniemi, a first-time offender, was severely over-punished on this play. I think that it was a two-minute minor for boarding, on the basis of Kotkaniemi left his feet and stapled Sanheim into the boards. But a major and a game misconduct? Absurdité!
Another example of the terrible refereeing is the Matt Niskanen crosscheck to Brendan Gallagher’s mouth. Matt Niskanen brutally crosschecked Gallagher in the mouth behind the play. Gallagher was bleeding profusely and lost several teeth. It came out today that he is undergoing tests for a broken jaw. There was no penalty on the play. Why was there no penalty on the play? How could crosschecking an opponent in the face possibly benefit the Flyers from a hockey-playing perspective? It is absurd that there was no crosschecking call on Niskanen. But don’t take my word for it. The NHL has summoned Matt Niskanen to a hearing on the play. This is effectively admitting that they got the call wrong, because hearings usually result in disciplinary action. I can only hope that the NHL changes their referees for game 6.
Forwards Wake Up Again
Just like in game two, the forwards scored all five goals for the Canadiens. Armia had two, while Suzuki, Gallagher and Danault provided the rest. One of the reasons the forwards were able to score was that they were throwing more pucks at the net. Exhaustive research has shown that you score more when you shoot the puck. Carter Hart was not at his best last night, and the Canadiens quickly realized that and responded accordingly. One thing I noticed about Hart is that if you get one by him early, it can throw him off his game. That was evident in game two, and in game five. When Hart is older and more mature, this may not be the case, but right now the Canadiens have to take advantage of this unfortunate weakness.
Inconsistencies on the Penalty Kill
All three of the Flyers’ goals last night came on the power play. The Canadiens’ penalty kill was not the dominant beast that it has been this series. It especially had trouble with Jakub Voracek’s shot from the right side. Clearly, getting in the shooting lane doesn’t help, because Ben Chiarot tried that and ended up tipping the puck past Carey Price. The Canadiens need to cover the cross-ice passes by Giroux, which led to Voracek’s two goals. The Flyers’ penalty killers have been aggressively covering anyone who thinks about passing the puck to Shea Weber, so the Canadiens should do the same with Claude Giroux. There is no reason why a player of his calibre should be left to his own devices.
The last Canadiens game six loss was a 1-0 travesty to the New York Rangers. A repeat of that will be unacceptable.
Et si je regarderai à la télé un autre gros plan des blessures de Brendan Gallagher, je perdrai mon dîner. Tu peux regarder pourquoi je ne suis pas un docteur.
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo