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Canadiens Improve Draft Lottery Odds In Loss To Islanders

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montreal canadiens Islanders

The Montreal Canadiens hit the road Thursday to face the New York Islanders at UBS Arena. It was yet another game against a team desperately attempting to qualify for the playoffs.

But unlike the Philadelphia Flyers, who dropped a 9-3 decision to the Habs earlier in the week, the Islanders are in the midst of a rather impressive five-game winning streak.

The Islanders eventually emerged with a 3-2 win, a well-deserved result given how they controlled the majority of the game.

The loss is a good thing when evaluating the long-term situation for the Canadiens. It means they improved their Draft Lottery odds, the only thing that matters in the final games of the season. For reference, the Ottawa Senators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Thursday.

Alright, let’s dive into the highlights!

Defensive Prowess

Defenceman Jordan Harris opened the scoring for the Canadiens with a point shot that fooled Semyon Varlamov. It’s a recurring theme this season: the defencemen have done more than their fair share when it comes to generating offence. As for Harris, he’s not the flashiest player in the lineup, but he does a better job helping his team win than most of his teammates.

However, we should also note that Juraj Slafkovsky was a key part of the play even if he did not register his name on the scoresheet.

We’re seeing Slafkovsky use his massive size advantage more often down the stretch, which will surely put a smile on both Martin St-Louis and Kent Hughes’ faces.

Slafkovsky is not the strongest player in the league, but he can certainly overpower the vast majority of his opponents to create chaos in the crease, not to mention make life difficult on opposing goaltenders.

Pierre Engval proceeded to put the Islanders on the board early in the second period, which meant it was time to settle a score.

If you remember, Habs forward Brendan Gallagher was suspended for five games earlier in the season when he made the poor decision to target Adam Pelech’s head with his elbow.

It was a well-deserved suspension, as evidenced by the fact that no Canadiens fans bothered to defend it. That’s how you know it was egregious, as fans will typically defend any type of play made by their favourite players. A player could bring a chainsaw onto the ice to start cutting off limbs, and you’d find at least half a dozen fans on social media that justify the chainsaw action with some top-notch mental gymnastics.

Islanders forward Jean-Pierre Pageau decided the five-game suspension was not sufficient, which led to a fight that involved very few, if any punches landing. Hopefully, we can now consider this matter to be concluded.

 

Hockey Logic

Michael Pezzetta is known to make the most of his few shifts. That usually includes hitting anyone in sight. On Thursday he caught Pelech with a heavy hit that resulted in a two-minute minor penalty for boarding.

But it was the Islanders’ response that left me scratching my head. I get it, you’re upset one of your key defencemen got hit during a questionable play, but there’s very little logic involved in pilling half a ton of hockey players on top of your injured player.

Anders Lee had the right intentions, he wanted to defend his teammate.  But his reaction simply led to a very risky situation for his teammate.

Give And Go

The Islanders controlled the flow of the game, but it was the Habs that ended up taking a 2-1 lead in the third period.

Montreal Canadiens sniper Cole Caufield scored his 25th goal of the year, which is fairly impressive when you consider he’s going through some of the worst shooting luck possible.

If 25 goals is considered a bad season, I can’t wait to see a good one.

Once again, it wasn’t a clean shot that found the back of the net. Caufield has done a good job changing things up since his shooting efficiency collapsed.

The lead lasted less than three minutes, as Casey Cizikas scored his ninth goal of the season during a rather chaotic play in the Canadiens’ end.

Johnathan Kovacevic was trying to clear the crease, but his battle with an Islanders forward led to a situation that interfered with Samuel Montembeault’s ability to reset. Jayden Struble was tasked with covering Cizikas, but couldn’t maintain a tight gap between the two players.

But before we blame any particular players, we should note that the Islanders held a 20-4 advantage in high-danger chances at that point of the game.

They were the better team on Thursday. Full stop.

The Montreal Canadiens will be back in action on Saturday when they face the Senators in Ottawa. It may end up being the most important game of the year, at least from a draft lottery perspective. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET.


All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick.