The Bell Centre erupts as a Patrick Roy montage is shown during the Canadian national anthem. pic.twitter.com/UQNiUeiChU
– TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 26, 2024
Last night was Patrick Roy night in Montreal. The return of #33 as head coach of the New York Islanders caused quite a stir, if you hadn’t noticed.
And far be it from me to trot out a cliché, but there was a playoff atmosphere in town and in the Temple.
I liked the Canadiens’ idea of honoring the New York Roy during the Canadian national anthem. The club settled the matter before the game started, so as not to give the Islanders any gas.
Clearly, the strategy worked. After all, following three hard-to-watch performances, the Habs finally showed they were capable of playing inspired field hockey, and the club’s top players took matters into their own hands.
10 goals in his last 18 games and one period for Cole Caufield.
A pace of around 45 goals.
I think we can start talking about a “comeback”.
– Anthony Martineau (@Antho_Martineau) January 26, 2024
Things were going well for the Habs and the crowd was happy. After all, you couldn’t ask for more than a tribute to Roy and a hot start from the Habs to fuel the crowd.
Not that the Islanders had necessarily started badly, but the CH simply looked like they’d eaten the lion.
Adam Pelech, who really didn’t look good after Brendan Gallagher’s hit, was the victim of a dirty hit. There’s no other way, in my eyes, to describe it this morning.
Gallagher stuck out his elbow after Pelech got rid of the disc. The CH player raised his skates. He aimed for the head. It was a dirty thing to do and it’s not acceptable.
Expect the department in charge of suspending players to drop a line to Brendan Gallagher (who didn’t finish the game) today. And don’t be surprised if he’s offered the chance to explain himself in person, opening the door to a suspension of more than five games.
But getting back to the game, that’s what opened the door for the Islanders, who wanted to avenge Pelech. Two goals were scored (Mathew Barzal, Kyle Palmieri and Noah Dobson) to tie the game… and the boys celebrated with their elbows.
Asked about Brendan Gallagher’s clearly bastard move, which got the Habs in trouble late in the game (it happens to him a lot, albeit on a smaller scale) and will put the CH in hot water in the next few games, Martin St-Louis refused to throw his veteran under the bus.
The coach said he understood Gally, saying that players who aren’t intense never get a penalty.
Illegal hit to the head by Brendan Gallagher: “I understand Gally”, Martin St-Louis. | JDM https://t.co/8LVIOOvLud
– Jonathan Bernier (@JBernierJDM) January 26, 2024
St-Louis said he’d have to review the gesture, but he understands that Gallagher is a veteran who gives of himself and plays on the line. The #11, who has never been suspended in the past, is tiring, but is not a bastard player by nature… and that came across in the coach’s comments.
Clearly, MSL didn’t want to throw its veteran under the bus.
However, there was a fine line between saying he’d have to reconsider the gesture and defending his striker’s gesture. And Martin St-Louis, out of respect for his veteran, was ready to do just that.
But what St-Louis wasn’t afraid to say was that Arber Xhekaj didn’t take good penalties. Asked about his three penalties in two games since his return (including two yesterday), the coach said he didn’t like it. He didn’t add anything.
For a driver who never really criticizes his guys publicly, let’s just say that said a lot.
Considering he never criticizes his players, it’s no worse indeed.
– Simon-Olivier Lorange (@SO_Lorange) January 26, 2024
We were already wondering whether Xhekaj had been sent to Laval to send him a message, but last night’s press conference was a hint to that effect.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Gally and WiFi didn’t play on Saturday… but for different reasons. #Suspension #LaissezDeCôté
But hey. That’s not all we have to remember about this game, which was possibly the most exciting regular-season matchup in the history of Canadian/Islanders duels. For me, anyway, itis.
The best were the best… and that includes Samuel Montembeault.
His saves early in the game set the tone for the club and gave wings to the club’s big forwards, who took charge tonight. Monty may have conceded twice late in the game, but there wasn’t much he could do about it, let’s say. #PunishmentDeGallagher
2. Patrick Roy looked moved by the Bell Centre fans’ tribute. He was in a city that’s important to him, and to see that he wasn’t forgotten like that clearly warmed his heart.
#Isles Patrick Roy on the tribute/ovation: “I’d like to thank the Montreal Canadiens for that; that was really nice of them what they did. The fans were like usual – this is a good crowd, like in NY… they love their team and they want to support them and I’m thankful for that.”
– Priyanta Emrith (@HabsInHighHeels) January 26, 2024
He’s got one more game at home tomorrow, against the Panthers… and then he’ll have a break to settle in properly in New York and get comfortable in Lou Lamoriello’s organization.
Patrick Roy, never a dull moment. pic.twitter.com/Ey42j94UYr
– Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 26, 2024
3. In the first two periods of the game, the Habs took five penalties, including three in the second. Arber Xhekaj has two of his own, but Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Jayden Struble and Jake Evans have also been punished.
And of course, there was Gally’s.
Questioned on the subject, Martin St-Louis said that the Habs played with fire and that the club almost got burned. And he’s right, since all three Islanders goals were scored on the power play. The first was on a five-on-three and the other two were on Gally’s game-tying penalty.
4. Revisiting Roy in the NHL, we inevitably learn to rediscover his tendencies. And clearly, his best elements are playing a lot. Gally’s late-game penalty changed things, but hey.
Forwards Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal played more than 26 minutes each. Noah Dobson played over 30 minutes. Imagine if there had been extra time…
5. For the Habs, you had to keep an eye on Nick Suzuki, who was surprised to play “only” 21:47 the other night against Ottawa. At three centers, he expected to play more.
That’s one minute more than Jake Evans and three minutes more than Sean Monahan. Everyone was in their seats last night, and the many minutes of power play changed the game.
Waive Stephens, don’t claim Ruzicka, play Condotta only 6:36.
I wouldn’t be surprised by a stopgap claim of “former #Habs forward” Nick Bonino. Also figure they may want a vet around while preparing a Monahan deal.
– Dan Kramer (@DanKramerHabs) January 26, 2024
As for the Sheriff? 11:42. He didn’t have an easy game.
The Islanders, on the other hand, took 34 shots in the final 40 minutes. It ended 46-26 on shots, and the visitors’ first-half turnovers sank the club. That… and the performance of Monty, who didn’t get a star at the end of the game.
“What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” – Slafkovsky at the end of this clip. pic.twitter.com/AlvQaBeOBg
– Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 26, 2024
8. Alexander Romanov was back at the Bell Centre. I know that time has flown by, that he’s already back and that most of the talk this week was about Patrick Roy’s return, but we can all agree that the Russian’s return was buttery.
That’s all I have to say on the subject.
The Canadiens head to Pittsburgh today for their final game (tomorrow) before the All-Star break and festivities. But of course, we’ll be keeping an eye on Gallagher.
Note that if there is a suspension (which is highly likely, let’s say), the Habs won’t be able to recall Joshua Roy or any other Rocket player. The club will have to roll with 22 guys instead of 23 on the active roster.
I therefore expect to see Jesse Ylönen take Gally’s place tomorrow and, inevitably, to see an extra defenseman. In my opinion, it will be Arber Xhekaj, opening the door to the return of Jordan Harris, but we’ll see in due course.
We’ll also see about the goalkeeper, but I’d go with Montembeault, personally.
If Gallagher is suspended, it won’t be the end of the world, as Ylönen is here and there’s only one more game before the break. But as the suspension is likely to be for more than one game, we’ll see what effect it has on the club in due course.
Right now, it’s too early to know how the club will look on February 6.