DEFENSELESS – Edmonton-4 Canadiens-1 (Dec. 23, 2017)

Dec 24th, 2017 | By | Category: Canadiens, Canadiens Game Story, Latest News

What we saw from the Canadiens defense on Friday night in Calgary was the exception and definitely not the rule.

As well as the Canadiens blue line played against the Flames, in Edmonton they reverted to the form they displayed in giving up five goals in Vancouver on Tuesday.

This is the defense that Marc Bergevin rebuilt over the last twelve months and few like what they’re seeing.

In researching notes for this game I went back exactly a year to December 23rd 2016. The Canadiens played in Columbus that night. The defense that took the ice that night was made up of Jeff Petry, Shea Weber, Nathan Beaulieu, Mark Barberio, Zach Redmond and Joel Hanley. Three regulars Markov, Emelin and Pateryn were out with injuries at the time. Of the nine defensemen in and around the Canadiens last December, seven are gone and with Weber now out with his foot injury only Petry was left to face the high powered Oiler offense Saturday night.

Can anyone say the Canadiens have improved on the back end?  I certainly can’t.

THE EXCEPTION

Once again, much of whatever offense the Canadiens have generated in the absence of Weber has been initiated by Jeff Petry’s transition game.  Petry set a career high with nine shots on goal, which was almost a third of the Canadiens offensive output in the game.

Petry started the game with Karl Alzner. Halfway through, with the rest of the defense stumbling around, Julien paired him with Joe Morrow, which didn’t change the quality of Petry’s game but did nothing to improve the kind of night Morrow was having.

Along with his nine shots on goal, Petry had two blocked including the one that sent Connor McDavid to the dressing room in pain with 2 ½ minutes remaining and the score still 3-1.

THE DREADED OFFENSE

You don’t need to be an analytics devotee to know that the Canadiens offense is lousy. They weren’t as overwhelmed by the Oilers as that 6-2 mess at the Bell Centre on October 9th but that is only faint praise. The shots on goal were deceptively close at 35-30 but dig a little deeper and you see a vast difference in the quality of play. Naturalstattrick.com tracks high danger scoring chances in their game reports. The Canadiens had only eight the entire game to Edmonton’s 15.

Andrew Shaw had 3 of the eight. Now, as much as I like what Andrew Shaw brings to almost every game, when he is your most dangerous offensive player, there is something terribly wrong.

THE BACKUP

People tend to forget that Antti Niemi won 16 games in Chicago’s march to the 2010 Stanley Cup. Who knows what happened to his game over the last couple of years. Whatever the issue was, it hasn’t been evident in Montreal.

His second start in a Canadiens uniform was excellent. He allowed three goals on 34 shots but, as mentioned before, it wasn’t the quantity but the quality. 15 of those 34 were rated high danger attempts. He kept the game close especially in the third period with saves on Draisaitl and then on the Patrick Maroon breakaway.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….Brendan Gallagher was the Canadiens best forward for all of the usual reasons.

….Commentators keep saying Max Pacioretty is snakebit and can’t buy a break. He was better in this game than he was in Calgary, but he only had one shot on goal. The longer his slump lasts, the more he seems to be trying to force things and be a little too fine. Four of his shot attempts missed the net entirely.

….I thought Jonthan Drouin had a pretty good night. There are times when you see why the Canadiens think he might make a good centreman eventually. This was one of those nights.

….Where was Alex Galchenyuk in this game? He also had only one shot on goal. There seems little chemistry with Danault, his latest centre.  As the game went on the ice time of both Galchenyuk and Danault diminished.   Each of them got just over 12 minutes.   It again begs the question, where is Julien going to slot Galchenyuk next.  We’re running out of centres.

…..I’ve seen Brett Lernout play a lot in the AHL over the last year.  He was never as bad a he was in the first period of his season debut.  I can only attribute his problems to nerves.  (Although there was discussion he had a skate problem)  Julien stuck with him however and by the end of the game he was playing better than Morrow, who had serious puck management issues.

MOVING ON

So the Canadiens go to the Christmas break with a .500 record. Only it’s not really a .500 record. In reality they have won 16 and lost 20 and have the benefit of four loser points to artificially inflate a disappointing season to date. They are six points behind the Islanders and Rangers who hold down the two wild card berths in the Eastern Conference.

In order to reach a wild card berth, not only would they have to climb past five teams ahead of them, they would also need to got 29-16-1 through the final 46 games to reach what is considered the benchmark playoff cutoff point.  That’s 13 more wins than losses through the last half of the season.  That would require a miracle.

 

2 Comments to “DEFENSELESS – Edmonton-4 Canadiens-1 (Dec. 23, 2017)”

  1. Ned Stark says:

    So the coaching team must have decided prior to tonite’s game that we were going to fall on our faces so why try. Niemmi came out to play tonite and stood his ground very well. Trouble is once again many on the team just decided to go on break way too early. Once again, Casperetty led the way in that dept. – terrible coverage in our end. Very sloppy play on the boards, muffed outlet passes from his defensemen, lazy forechecking, no intensity, no trying to get open, to make plays. He doesn’t even try. He has zero chemistry with Drouin. Meanwhile the hardest working Hab – Gally11 still gets shit on by CJ. Has a bad period few games ago and gets benched. Meanwhile Casperetty floats game to game, makes horrible coverage mistakes, no effort, no heart and yet the Coach does nothing but praise him in the press. He’s never benched or been a healthy scratch. Yep, this was the guy that management and coaching wanted over a Norris Trophy winner who loved Montreal and playing for the HABS. Instead they backed a ghost who if the players actually did vote him captain must feel pretty let down seeing him do nothing night after night.

    Alzner is a huge problem for Petry and the HABS goalies. The lack of guidance given to him by CJ and JJ on where to position himself, who to cover, how to support his partner and his goalie. To be kind he’s just horrible and a terrible signing by Bergevin, not just from the terrible overpayment but from the talent recognition. We would be miles ahead with Markov playing with Petry. Once again terrible asset management by Bergevin.

  2. david deVries says:

    One thing I noticed, no one else commented on, three players playing for Edmonton were cast
    aside by the Canadiens as not good enough to play for them are regulars in the Oiler lineup.
    Defense was atrocious. Why bring up Learnout at this point. He is not ready for the NHL.
    Morrow, CJ’s reclamation project is not working out. He needs to go to Laval to work on his game.
    I missed Hudon, he is too good to be sitting in the press box. Someone needs to sit so he can
    play. Offense is a real problem. People pay to see goals scored. Right now the Bell crowd is not
    getting their money’s worth. Commentators were too easy on many of the Canadien player’s
    performances in the game. Early on I commented that the team was mediocre nothing has
    changed in that regard. Notice how well the Oilers moved the puck around in the offensive zone,
    compare that with the Canadien’s one shot and out play. It has been a tough season so far.
    The season is going ‘south’ after the Christmas break. they have been going ‘south’ all season.

    david deVries

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