With smiles on their lips and wet eyes, the penalty killers – and their coach – congratulated each other in every way possible for silencing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in 10 power-play superiorities earlier this week.
After allowing three goals on six occasions for the Vancouver Canucks in similar circumstances, faces were longer Wednesday night. Particularly because of the 6-5 shootout loss in that first of three games in four nights on the West Coast.
“We have video, the teams adapt,” suggested Phillip Danault, who spent five minutes on the ice short of a man in Vancouver. The Canucks players showed “better execution”, they traded the puck better, he added.
Head coach Claude Julien had left the euphemisms in the locker room: “We were soft. ”
A deficient reaction time, players who “did not do their job”, free pucks left free, precisely… The list of adjustments to be made is long between now and the next match against this same team, which will be played from this Thursday. It will therefore be necessary to return to the essence of what made the success of the club in Edmonton.
Another suggestion, probably more effective: why not play less long on the shorthand? Internet users had a great time last week, after a close-up of Claude Julien’s notes on television revealed a simple roadmap. “Discipline” was one of the four key themes selected.
Julien was not completely wrong because, even if the cliché is as big as that, it remains reliable: playing with fire, you end up burning yourself. Especially against the Canucks, whose power play was close to 25% efficiency last season and who only asked for an opportunity to get going after a buoyant start to the campaign.
The Habs did not pray to give them the chance they expected. A first penalty in the first seconds of the match, a second halfway through the first period, and it was on. Bo Horvat has scored his team’s first power play goal this season, in the 17e attempt of his. Only four more were needed to add two nets.
“Maybe we’re a little rusty, but we have to make sure we move our feet, hang less and be careful with our poles,” Danault said.
“Penalties do happen. But we have to be careful, ”he repeated.
Ups and downs for Kotkaniemi
All this is a bit of a shame, because the trio led by Jesperi Kotkaniemi came to score goals. And that’s good, because goalkeeper Brayden Holtby and his defense were determined to give it up.
Tyler Toffoli, who had missed multiple scoring chances in his first three games in his new uniform, had a hat trick, his fourth in his career.
A first breakaway goal after a crossover from Kotkaniemi, a second on the power play that only required his presence near the net to redirect a perfect pass from Nick Suzuki, and a third successful on a deflection. Three goals that demonstrate the extent of the arsenal of number 73.
Unsurprisingly, after the meeting, the man of the day looked low. “It doesn’t matter to me who scores: I just want to win,” he said. It is a hard defeat. ”
Of his center, who himself scored his first goal of the season, he remarked that he had “looked good” and that “although it was not his biggest shot [qui a fait mouche], it was due. ”
As for Joel Armia, Claude Julien noted that he had played his “best hockey since the start of the season” in the second half of the game. In fact, the Finn has been seen to use his size – talk to Quinn Hughes, who has had him on his back all night – and demonstrate that his ability to protect the puck compensates for his lack of speed. It was he, in particular, who found Jeff Petry at the forefront on the fifth goal of the CH after making fun of Hughes.
Creative in attack and dominant in the faceoff circle (7 in 9, or 78%), Kotkaniemi would also deserve his thumbs up, if he had not received a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after having harangued a referee in the second period. His presence in the penalty box gave him the best seat in the amphitheater to watch the Canucks’ third goal.
He may have exaggerated a bit when he said that the incident “probably cost the victory” to his team. Because many things “probably cost the victory” to the Canadian.
But he got it right, saying it was a “stupid thing for a young player to do.” “I’ll learn from this,” he promised.
His coach echoed that a 20-year-old player had to build his reputation before acquiring the right to say his way of thinking to a referee like this. And that, yes, that was the lesson to be learned.
We couldn’t help but smile when Claude Julien also pointed out that Kotkaniemi had “not yet won his feathers in the NHL”.
We especially wish the Canadian not to have lost too much in the defeat, because he has to do it again this Thursday evening.
No time to fool around, they say. Another lesson, hold on.
Next game: Canadian v. Canucks, this Thursday at 9:30 p.m. (Quebec time)
Like comedians who test their equipment in the provinces, Canucks defenders are still in the process of breaking in. Half the squad used so far this season is made up of newcomers, and it came out Wednesday night against the Canadiens. On Tyler Toffoli’s first goal, Travis Hamonic left his position to help his partner Quinn Hughes, manhandled on the left wing by Joel Armia. Toffoli was left alone, and we know the rest. On the Canadian’s second, Nate Schmidt dived as best he could to stop Nick Suzuki’s pass to Toffoli, to no avail. And on the third, it was going very (too) fast for Jalen Chatfield, who was playing his first game in the NHL. There are still several bolts to tighten, obviously.
We erase and we start again
Fortunately, the players of the Canadian employed in numerical inferiority will be able to take again this Thursday evening to watch Bo Horvat in the enclave. Because for this first duel, it was all wrong. Early in the game, Horvat, stationed near the face-off circle, accepted a short throw-in from JT Miller to outsmart Carey Price. And he put it back in the third period, this time unleashing a short range shot, well served by a pass from Brock Boeser. On his two goals, Horvat escaped the cover of Paul Byron and Phillip Danault, respectively. We erase and start over.
If spectators were admitted to Canadian arenas, at least three of them would today have a souvenir offered by a Habs player. Josh Anderson has already received the Canadiens’ third penalty on Wednesday night for delaying the game this season, in just four games. Shea Weber, in Toronto, and Ben Chiarot, in Edmonton, were the other culprits. There is enough to infuriate the fans of any team that is guilty of sending the puck into the stands. Especially in a situation where, as it was with Anderson, the gesture is obviously unintentional.
“It wasn’t the best game for our team. We left [les Canucks] maneuver, they’ve been given a lot of numerical advantages, and they’re very good at it. It is sad. “- Tyler Toffoli
“We are not proud of our game. It is not our identity at all. And you have to give it to them, they played a strong game. […] The positive point to remember is that we came from behind. We never gave up and we scored big goals. “- Phillip Danault
“Even though we didn’t have a big game, we seemed to play better as the game went on. In the third period, we skated much better. When we’re not at our best and we manage to stay in the game and get a point, it’s important at the end of the day. We will take the positive. “- Claude Julien
“Tyler Toffoli is a dangerous scorer. When he can shoot the puck, he will capitalize. I don’t know what’s with this arena, but he likes to score here! – Bo Horvat, Canucks captain
“All games are different and the goal is to win. It was not so good, there were goals scored when I should have made the save, but I was able to recover later. We will have to be better [jeudi], they will arrive stronger. “- Brayden Holtby
“We know we can make a difference 5 to 4. It was huge to score that first goal. There are a lot of places you can shoot. It’s a work in progress. “- Brock Boeser
Interview by Simon-Olivier Lorange and Richard Labbé, Press