If you’re the Montreal Canadiens, who have been mostly shooting blanks over the last six weeks, scoring two goals in a game is more often than not a mountain too steep to climb. Definitely it has been at home where the they have scored two goals or fewer in eight of their last nine games, which averages out to 1.65 per game. Opponents have scored the first goal of the game in 26 of the Canadiens first 44 games this season. They have lost 20 of those games.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews scored in the ninth minute of the first period. Paul Byron tied it up but that lasted only a minute and a half before the Hawks took a lead they never relinquished the rest of the night. The game became for the home team and their fans one frustrating scoring attempt after another. There were no complaints about the Habs effort against a team that has a strong chance of winning it’s fourth Stanley Cup in seven seasons. The first period might have been better but in the second and third periods there was ‘net presence’ and ultimately they managed 40 shots on Corey Crawford which should have been enough mount a comeback. But of course, the Canadiens are bereft of anything that resembles a consistent offensive game. -A
There were a lot of good things in this game. Max Pacioretty had one of his better nights, one that included five shots on goal and three Grade-A scoring chances. Alexei Emelin had a great night on defense while paired with Mark Barberio and his four hits were only part of his story. He moved the puck confidently and was a legitimate choice as the game’s second star. P.K. Subban is doing everything but score goals. With the Canadiens trying to come back he played two seconds shy of half the third period and wound up with 27:54.
It’s been earn-while-you-learn time for Mike Condon who was expected to get in the neighborhood of 15 starts this season. He’s been in 26 of the Canadiens 44 games so far and is probably going to finish with something in the neighbourhood of 40 starts in his rookie season. The winning goal was a clean shot from the board and NHL goaltenders are not supposed to let those get past them. But he was very good in the second and third periods to keep it to a one-goal game. Unfortunately, the current Canadiens don’t have the tools to bail the rookie out.
By now, the Canadiens have tried just about everything. Changing up the lines hasn’t worked. While those who have been recalled from St. John’s have produced individually, they have done nothing to shake the veterans out of their lethargy. Therrien shortened his bench in the third period and moved David Desharnais, who was having fairly good night on to the line with Galchenyuk and Byron. He also moved Eller to centre between Fleischmann and Andrighetto. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Where has Tomas Plekanec’s game gone. Since Nov. 7th he has one goal. Tomas Fleischmann contributed a little more after two games in the press box, but we have to go back to late November for his last goal. Desharnais has one goal since November 25th. Despite his New Year’s Day at Boston, Brendan Gallagher looks a half step behind after missing those 17 games. Galchenyuk spends more time skating in circles than producing scoring chances. And so we have the likes of waiver claim Paul Byron moving into a tie for fourth place in goalscoring with his eighth of the year.
It will be interesting to see how the team bounces back from the disappointment of an unrewarded solid effort. They’ll be in St. Louis Saturday and then in Chicago on Sunday. At the end of the weekend the Canadiens could be back in a four game losing streak and facing Boston Tuesday at the Bell Centre.