If the Columbus Blue Jackets are the worst team in the National Hockey League at this stage of the season, what does that make the Montreal Canadiens?
In the 23 games since the Canadiens edged the Blue Jackets 2-1 on December first at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens have a 5-17-1 record for a total of 11 points. Columbus in the 23 games since that watershed night have a record of 8-11-4 and 20 points. In that 55 day stretch it’s the Canadiens and not Columbus who are the league’s doormat and it’s not even close.
This was just a repeat of everything we’ve been seeing for two months. Once again they outshot their opponent. Once again the couldn’t get enough offense to score more than two goals. Once again, support for their rookie goaltender was spotty. And, as a result, once again they simply weren’t good enough. This is the fifth time since December first that they have had an opportunity to win two games in a row and the fifth time they’ve failed.
The Canadiens scored two goals, the first when they were gifted with a two man advantage and the second on what what officially listed as 86 foot shot from just over the red line by P.K. Subban. Lars Eller hit a cross bar and Jeff Petry hit a post. That was pretty much it from the Canadiens. Columbus got big game performances from Cam Atkinson (3 goals), Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner (3 assists each) and Brandon Saad (2 goals.
Nobody, with the exception of Subban stepped up for Montreal. Max Pacioretty had six shots on goal in this game, and seemed to be around the net a lot more than we’ve seen recently. Linemate Brendan Gallagher had 4 shots. Beyond that, we didn’t see much of anything that scared the Blue Jackets. As soon as Daniel Carr left the game with an injury after the first period the Eller line lost the momentum it had established in Toronto game. David Desharnais had a lot of jump to his game but despite his 4 shots on goal Alex Galchenyuk didn’t contribute much and the fact that Dale Weise is considered an offensive player says a lot about the offensive depth on this team.
At this point in time the Canadiens rank 18th in the league, but they are actually in a three way tie for that spot, they could be one loss away from dropping to 20th. In the East they are 10th going on 12th.
With Carey Price as much as a month away from returning, fans might be forgiven for starting to think of the 2016 NHL draft lottery and not a berth in the playoffs.