Josh Anderson Plays Hero, Montreal Extends Series
On Monday I woke up to the news that completely baffled, irritated, and plain-out caused me to say “What the f***?”. The mayor of Tampa Bay, Jane Castor, had mentioned in an interview that she wanted the Lightning to “let Montreal win one so they could win the Cup at home”. She also went onto say “take it a little easy on them, allow them to win one at home, and then bring it back to Amalie Arena”. I believe I speak for the entire city of Montreal when I say, “Lady, you shouldn’t have done that”.
I understand that the Montreal crowd would be livid by these comments, but if I’m a Tampa fan or player, I’d be even more irate. What are you doing jinxing the team that’s on the verge of a Stanley Cup, as well as angering the Hockey Gods (who are very real). Whatever the case may be, the Canadiens won tonight, and not because anyone let them win. Both teams play hard but Montreal was just better. Let’s analyze the game and see what the Canadiens did to extend the series.
First off, I am keeping my phone open in case the Montreal management team calls. I wrote an article 24 hours ago about what the Canadiens should do to try and win Game 4 and wouldn’t you know it, two of the five strategies I spoke about were implemented by the Canadiens.
The first strategy was to get Alex Romanov and Brett Kulak into the line-up for added offensive presence. Well, it seems Dom Ducharme took notes and put them into the line-up this morning, and boy did it work in their favor.
Kulak had an outstanding game, remaining calm and poised whenever he had the puck, as well as being great on defensive zone breakouts and contributing to the jump offensively. Romanov seemed to have an even better game, as his tenacity was evident from the get-go. To top things off, the 21-year-old Russian scored a goal in the third period to give Montreal the lead.
Watching that goal, it was hard for me not to wonder what could have been if Romanov played the entirety of the playoffs. Oh well, I’m just happy he’s playing now.
Now, I’m not saying I’m the one to thank for this line-up switch, but a thank-you from the Canadiens wouldn’t go unappreciated 😉 Jokes aside, I’m very glad Montreal did some soul-searching and identified that it was in their best interest to use Romanov and Kulak, two puck-moving defensemen who did so much for this team during the regular season.
The second strategy I glanced over was combining Josh Anderson and Cole Caufield. Anderson is a speedy power forward who isn’t afraid to use his speed, while Caufield is a silky-smooth winger who can hang with the best of them. Combined, I believed they would make a great pairing – and they did!
Anderson was everywhere tonight, flying to the net from the wing, laying the body, and scoring two of the most important goals of the Canadiens season thus far. His overtime goal was an ode to his determination in this game, as he had to dive to slot it home. All in all, it was a superb performance by a player who oozes potential. Caufield did just as well, playing the set-up man tonight, as he posted two assists in the contest.
Even though the Canadiens won the game they had me sweating in the first period. Montreal came out flat and looked like they were going to get swept. Midway through though it appears they found some new life and were enlivened by a Josh Anderson goal as well.
Throughout the entirety of the game, Montreal was solid, forechecking hard, closing gaps to deny scoring opportunities, and having a much better offensive outing in general.
The largest improvement I saw was in their ability to get bodies to the net. This is what was needed by the Canadiens all along, and tonight they went out, did it, and got a win because of it. I don’t need to reiterate to you how good of a goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is. With that said, he’s far from perfect, and all that is needed to beat him is to shake him up and create havoc around the net.
From the first period, it was great to see Montreal applying this strategy, as the habs flew to the night often knocking into Vasilevskiy, and starting a scrum in front of him. This obviously worked, as the Canadiens put three by Vasilevskiy for the second straight game, and proved that he can be beaten after all.
In the second period, we grew more comfortable with our game plan and we’re better at executing. Were we perfect? Absolutely not, as there were many instances of me cursing and smacking the couch. What I did see however were significant improvements compared to our other second periods during the series (let’s not talk about Game 3’s second period).
The third was where I believe we had the game. That is until Shea Weber got a double-minor for a high-stick. Boy, you should have seen the sweat running down my face. Luckily, Montreal executed a perfect penalty kill, highlighted by some huge saves from Carey Price, and killed off the remaining time during the overtime period.
Speaking of Carey Price, the man played great tonight and deserves applause. His play has been a topic of discussion in this series but tonight he came out and shined. There were a handful of times in tonight’s game that Price bailed us out big time. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be here, and for that, I say thank you.
All in all, I am just proud of the boys for keeping their heads up, uniting, and keeping on infighting in the trenches. Jane Castor might want to rethink her words next time, because as the old saying goes “don’t poke the bear”.
Dropping the Mike on ya!