MONTREAL – Despite seven opportunities over 12 minutes, the Habs power play came up empty against the Capitals.
Less than 24 hours after being handed a 3-0 shutout by the Islanders, the Capitals turned the tables, doing the same to the Canadiens. The Habs threw everything they had at Washington’s Michal Neuvrith, but even after out-shooting their opponents by a margin of 31-16, still couldn’t find the back of the net.
“We tried changing up our lines on the power play. We have specialists but they weren’t necessarily playing together on the same unit. I mixed it all up in hopes of creating a spark. We managed to generate some good chances, but obviously not enough to score,” admitted Randy Cunneyworth of his team’s continued struggles with the man advantage.
Despite having their share of opportunities, most notably during a six minute stretch that John Erskine spent in the box, the Habs were unable to get things clicking.
“This is something we’re going to have to keep working on to figure out,” continued Cunneyworth of his league-worst power play – a stark contrast to their elite penalty kill. “All I can say is that tonight, getting the puck to the net wasn’t an easy thing to do. Their guys were blocking a lot of shots. It wasn’t from a lack of effort on our part. We took a lot of shots, had traffic, but the pucks just weren’t getting through.”
In the Habs dressing room following the game, Josh Gorges was echoing his coach’s sentiments on a power play that’s proven enigmatic for his team since the start of the season.
“It’s tough for the guys on the power play right now, because things aren’t going great with that part of our game. There’s a lot of pressure on them to score goals, to perform, to produce. But you also have to remember there’s another team on the ice with us and they worked really hard to block our shots,” offered the NHL’s leading shot-blocker who logged 19:39 of ice-time in Wednesday night’s tilt. “It’s not an excuse and it’s not always the easiest thing to do, but in these situations you have to try and simplify; throw pucks at the net; work hard for those second and third chances; create traffic. That’s how we’re going to score goals, especially on the power play.”
The only near-certainty in Wednesday’s game was that Habs newcomer Rene Bourque would likely have to face the music for an elbow to the head of Nicklas Backstrom on January 3rd. It didn’t take long before trouble came looking for him in the form of Matt Hendricks.
“I knew it was going to happen at some point. I take responsibility for what I did and I figured I might as well get it out of the way early. It’s not a big part of my game. I don’t get into many fights, but when I do I can take care of myself. I could hear him calling me as soon as I got out onto the ice, so I had to step up to the plate,” explained Bourque who came out well on top in the scrap that ensued. While not sure if the matter had been resolved, Bourque was quick to mention that one way or another, it wasn’t about to make him change his physical style of play.
“We play them three or four more times before the end of the season so we’ll have to see what happens,” added Bourque. “I’m still going to keep playing the same way and finishing my checks. If they retaliate, then so be it.”Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
Rink of dreams
A big week
The Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation inaugurates a fourth outdoor Bleu Blanc Bouge rink