The Florida Panthers flew into Montreal in desperation mode as they try to claw their way back into the playoff picture. For the Montreal Canadiens, it was a game that had little meaning other than as a development tool for the six rookies who were dressed, including one on the top line and three on the blue line. That being said, there were several things to be learned from what unfolded in this matchup.
Canadiens’ (Lack of) Discipline
This game will likely be used by head coach Martin St. Louis as an example of what not to do moving forward. While the officials lost control of this game, the Canadiens’ penalties were deserved, while other plays that should have been called the refs let slide. Yet the most egregious penalties were the unforced errors that St. Louis took the blame for, especially the too-many-men penalties late in the second period. One is bad enough, but two in less than two minutes is two too many.
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One of the missed calls was the Mike Matheson reverse hit on Eric Staal. The NHL reviewed the play and decided to levy a $5,000 fine (the maximum allowed) for interference.
The frustration was clear all night, and Arber Xhekaj confirmed it, using the missed hit-from-behind as an example, stating, “Obviously, if they call Andy’s (Josh Anderson) penalty on Gudas, it’s a weak call. And then my neck into the boards like that? I get it., I’m a big guy. But you’ve got to call the game. That’s how it gets out of control there.”
The level of officiating doesn’t change the fact that the Habs played without any real discipline, and it cost them the game. After Florida scored their fifth unanswered goal, the rough stuff began. The third period looked more like a pay-per-view mixed martial arts event than a hockey game. For the first time this season, the Canadiens had three fights in one game, and all three came in the final period with Mike Matheson, Xhekaj, and Michael Pezzetta taking fighting majors. At least one thing the team can learn from this debacle is that they can rely on each other.
Canadiens’ Penalty Kill Non-existent
In this type of rebuilding season, the difference between blowout losses and competitive games comes down to special teams. Against Florida, the Canadiens’ special teams, specifically the penalty kill…