There is hardly any point in breaking down the Canadiens 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers Tuesday night. It was the same old thing. A lack of NHL talent or experience from the goal out. It’s been like that since December and it won’t be any different in the final two games of the season.
Team prospects are the story of this team right now and there is the usual mix when a team has most of it’s young players up in the NHL. Ready or not.
The Canadiens had eight players in their lineup Tuesday night with less than a full season of NHL hockey. Three of their six defensemen had a total of 19 games. That is all one needs to know. In fact the Canadiens looked a lot like the Florida Panthers did two years ago when they were breaking in all those great looking kids while sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference from where they were able to draft the likes of Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Guy Lafleur trotted out his old “Canadiens have four-fourth lines” quote again last week which excited everyone with short memory or a poor attention span. He may have been accurate in 2007 when he first uttered the phrase. But the Canadiens do have an excellent first line.
Given a full season together, Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher have a chance to be one of best forward lines in the league. They produced the Canadiens only goal Tuesday night and most of the offense. Galchenyuk now has the team lead with 28 goals, one more than Pacioretty. And who knew Pacioretty could be the playmaker he’s become since Galchenyuk became his centre? . Gallagher had seven shots on goal and in the two games since his return has totaled twelve, 90 percent of them from right in Roberto Luongo’s kitchen.
Now, if Lafleur were to say ‘the Canadiens have one first line and three fourth lines” we could agree. I’m pretty sure Tomas Plekanec is capable of having a bounce-back season. David Desharnais? Maybe. I thought Lars Eller was terrific against Florida, but we’ve learned over the last five years that 15 goals and 30 points is about the best we’ll ever get from him in a season. After that, everyone’s fourth line with the hopes that maybe Daniel Carr, Mike McCarron and Sven Andrighetto move up the food chain.
In the off season there will be a lot of attention paid to securing, presumably through the free agent or trade market, some help for some second line offensive help.
What the Canadiens organization does seem to have in plentiful supply is a solid group of defense prospects. If Marc Bergevin wants to make a deal, defensemen might be his best bargaining chip.
John Scott played in this game. He logged 9:01 which is about as much as any fourth liner could and should expect and more than Scott was used to getting over most of the games in his career. He played in the first and last shifts of the game and a little bit on the power play. Of his fourteen shifts, two were productive and the fans let him know they appreciated them.
We all miss P.K. Subban. Where we miss him most is on the penalty kill. The Canadiens gave up two more goals while playing shorthanded, including the game winner. In the 12 games since P.K. was hurt, opponents have scored 13 power play goals in 38 times shorthanded. When he was injured a month ago, the Canadiens’ penalty killing stood fifth in the league. It is now 12th.
This season can’t end soon enough.