The Montreal Canadiens produced a yawner. Or a snoozer. Anything sleep related.
The Habs and Chicago Blackhawks played a Thursday night game in November with the passion of a September pre-season game.
And who could blame them?
The Habs and Hawks have sunk to the bottom of their respective divisions. The playoffs were forsaken weeks ago. There were no natural rivalries on the ice. No particular animosity between any opponent out there.
Maybe the Canadiens who have survived the season so far are trying just not to get injured. The reasons don’t really matter I suppose. In the end, the Habs lost a lifeless game —
For most fans, losing is the best case scenario right now. There is obviously limited talent on the ice with 11 regulars out of the lineup at the moment. But some measure of entertainment for the paying customers in attendance shouldn’t be too much to ask.
This Habs game… pic.twitter.com/BM3ipERPV4
— Jon Still (@Imstilljon) December 10, 2021
There were some almost moments from the Montreal Canadiens. The line of Nick Suzuki, Jonathan Drouin and Mike Hoffman looked good in the offensive end early. Suzuki in particular appeared poised to make something creative happen. Hoffman had a chance on the power play turned away by Chicago goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, whose 500th win had to be one of the more anti-climactic ones of his storied career.
But the rest of the Canadiens forwards and defencemen looked disjointed. The Blackhawks didn’t look much better. Their best chance of the opening period was a fumble by Jake Allen behind the net that Patrick Kane somehow didn’t turn into an open net. I’ve seen the replay at least 10 times and still don’t know if the American just lifted the puck over the net or if the Habs goaltender sprawled to deflect the puck into the netting behind his goal.
Things didn’t improve much for the Montreal Canadiens after the first period. Ryan Poehling fanned on a cross-crease pass by Artturi Lehkonen that had a chance early on. Hoffman missed glove side on a 2-on-1 with Drouin after the 10 minute mark.
But for the most part it was more anemic hockey from the Habs. The telling stat of the opening forty minutes? Per Natural Stat Trick, the Canadiens had zero even strength high-danger scoring chances.
That’s embarrassingly impressive. Seriously.
Allen was impressive in the right ways. He threw out a blocker to deny Alex Debrincat a sure goal on the power play. But some offensive help would have been nice.
It never came.
Jonathan Toews scored his first of the year on the man advantage. Kane had the Habs paralyzed with fear on the wall. He passed the puck back to Seth Jones at the point. The Chicago defenseman took a little something off of it and found Toews to Allen’s left for the tip home to make it 1-0.
Based on the Habs offensive futility, you just knew it was over with a full period left to play.
An ovation for Fleury
Down by a goal, there was a little more impetus to make anything positive happen in the third period. But the Blackhawks had only one goal: get Fleury his 500th win and his 69th shutout at the same time.
David Savard lifted a great slot chance over the bar after some effective play from Suzuki and Hoffman down low. Later on Fleury made a great shoulder save on Poehling in the slot.
Alexander Romanov gave Henrik Borgstrom a gift in the front with a horror turnover in front of Allen to make it 2-0. But let’s be honest, the game was over long before that.
In fact the most entertaining part of the entire game happened after the final whistle. Fleury became just the third goaltender in NHL history to reach 500 wins and the Bell Centre faithful let one of their own know just how much they appreciated the milestone. After being mobbed by his own teammates, chants of “Fleury! Fleury! Fleury!” rang out around the building on Avenue des Canadiens and De La Montagne.
It’s not often that a visiting player gets a standing ovation, chant and curtain call from la foule. Then again, it’s not often that a goaltender reaches 500 wins. The Sorel-Tracy native sheepishly stepped on to the ice after being named the first star of the night and saluted the most knowledgeable fans in the NHL for their love and admiration.
The Montreal Canadiens fell to 6-19-3 on the season. It was the 20th game this season that the Habs scored two or less goals. They are next in action on the road on Saturday night against the St.Louis Blues.