A 4-3 loss in the season opener to the rival Maple Leafs may sting in the moment. However, the Canadiens showed many positives in areas that should bring the fans confidence in their club moving forward.
If there is one thing that any Montrealer can attest, the Canadiens never fail in bringing the city together. Before the opening face-off the sell-out crowd was on their feet as the torch was brought out by Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur and passed to Danny Briere before finally making its way through the roster and finishing with Captain Brian Gionta.
Using the momentum generated by pre-game ceremony and the home crowd, the Habs came out flying in the first. Was it the jitters that crept up on them or maybe the early season whistles from the referees? Either way the result showcased a special teams battle between the clubs.
Montreal fell back 1-0 to a goal by James Van Riemsdyk on a 5-3 in the first. Set up by newly extended Phil Kessel, the Leafs power-play made its appearance 7 times in total, this would be the only time the Habs allowed a goal down a man however. The penalty kill played very well for the Canadiens and managed to record a short-handed marker off the stick of Lars Eller.
Eller made quite the season debut posting 2 goals and a helper in the losing effort. Including one late in the third that sparked the team to attempt some late game heroics that ultimately fell short.
Making themselves known were linemates, and sophomore standouts, Alex Galchenyuk and Brandan Gallagher who, respectively, recorded; 2 assists and 1 goal.
For Montreal, the power play did fail to score on 4 opportunities but this should be a testament to the Leafs who played to their high pressure system in their zone incredibly well. Tyler Bozak was even able to catch Andrei Markov off balance by stealing the puck from the veteran and getting a breakaway, scoring short-handed.
Had the goaltenders not been on their game, the outcome could easily have been more lopside for either club. Both goalies made some spectacular saves in key moments. Carey Price made an early season highlight reel and leaving Leaf players wondering how they were unable to finish. He allowed 4 goals on 38 shots. On the other end was James Reimer, while less flashy, kept the puck out of the net numerous times, especially in the final minute holding the game for the Toronto club, he stopped 34 of 37 on the night.
P.K. Subban was noticeable despite being left off of the score sheet his presence was definitely an asset and lead all habs players in with 24:41 TOI . Leading for the Leafs, and the game, was Captain Dion Phaneuf, 27:01 TOI who put up a goal up for the club. While leading their respective teams it can be argued that Subban should find his way onto more ice time moving forward for the Canadiens.
The main criticism of the night should be that the other lines for Montreal were not able to capitalize during their opportunities in the early going. The likes of Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty, who suffered an injury setback but managed to return, need to up their play. They must find their game soon and help their respective lines produce in the coming weeks.
The Habs will take on the Flyers saturday before they go on the road for the next 4 games out in the western conference. It's important to come out of that short stretch with some wins in order to avoid falling into an early season hole in the tough Atlantic division.