So this is what regression feels like.
After the Montreal Canadiens spent most of the season in top spot of the National Hockey League despite numbers that didn’t match their results, the bounces started to go the other way in a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the woeful Buffalo Sabres.
After a bad bounce late in the third period last night cost the Canadiens the victory, they fell tonight in a shootout despite holding a third period lead. That’s right, the Canadiens did have the lead in the third period, but if you blinked – or went to the door like I did – you missed it.
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The Canadiens absolutely dominated every aspect of the game on Saturday night. They had 90 shot attempts to Buffalo’s 42. Even Manny Malhotra was positive in even-strength Corsi. Every Canadiens player was.
Alex Galchenyuk played out of his mind for most of the game, and looked like a player who wanted a contract like his buddy Brendan Gallagher got before the game – a six year, $22.5 million contract extension. In fact, reports came during the game that the Canadiens and Galchenyuk have already been in talks.
The line of Galchenyuk, Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec were on the ice for 34 shot attempts at even strength and only 8 against. That is just insane and if it weren’t for Jhonas Enroth, this game wouldn’t have even been close.
The Canadiens had 44 shots at the net, and Enroth made 41 saves, plus another five in the shootout. Dustin Tokarski made 23 saves for the Canadiens. Brian Flynn scored the shootout winner for the Sabres.
Tom Gilbert was a healthy scratch for the second straight game, while Eric Tangradi played his second straight game. Scratching Gilbert was an odd move because he has been the one of the Canadiens top possession defencemen but is unpopular with the fans and, apparently, the coaching staff.
The Canadiens now have 34 points – tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders atop the Eastern Conference and the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators for the league lead, but they have played more games than all of those teams.
Buffalo is now out of the basement of the East, and only one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Canadiens now head out for a four-game road trip to open December. They will go to Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas over a week span. It is part of their strange holiday schedule: after the trip, they only play eight more games for the entire month of December.