Much is being made of the fact that the Canadiens are one of a handful of teams that have not lost two games in a row this season. It’s nice that they have bounced back after losses, but there’s a harsher reality.

The Canadiens have lost two of their last three, both of them on home ice. Since their 4-1-2 start the Canadiens over the last six games have been in a win-one lose-one pattern – 3-3-0.   That’s .500 hockey and it won’t get you in the playoffs.

After what we saw last season it’s difficult to complain. The Canadiens have shown signs of being capable of lifting fans out of their seats with their speed and they have shocked some pretty good teams including Pittsburgh twice, Boston and Washington.

Still, after watching the Tampa game Saturday night, one gets the feeling that a playoff berth may still be a hit-and-miss proposition.

SNIPERS

The shots on goal were 35-35. The Canadiens had fourteen high danger scoring chances to nine for Tampa.

And there’s the rub. The Lightning scored four goals on their nine grade-A chances; the Canadiens one on fourteen. Eight of those chances came in the second period and the Canadiens failed to score. Montreal just doesn’t have the natural goalscoring talent of Tampa.  At least not yet.  Those two goals by Steven Stamkos bear witness to that.

I can find no fault with the Pacioretty trade but the team misses his quick-strike ability, or at least the one he possessed as late as two seasons ago.

GAME CHANGER

There has been lot of discussion about that game-changing boarding penalty to Nicolas Deslauriers in the 12th minute of the first period.

There was a time, and it wasn’t so long ago, that it was the responsibility of the defenceman, in this case Ryan McDonagh, to protect himself from the inevitability of the hit Deslauriers delivered while he was releasing the puck deep in his own zone. Back then, Deslauriers would be legitimately finishing his check.

But we’re in the era of increased awareness of concussion vulnerability. So he Deslauriers was flagged.

Makes one wonder what the future holds for players like Deslauriers who’s main talent lies in the physical side of the game.

THE FOURTH LINE

And that brings us to that fourth line. Claude Julien clearly doesn’t have much confidence in the trio as currently constituted.

Ideally you’d like to see a fourth line log something in the neighbourhood of twelve or thirteen minutes a game.  Matthew Peca is the current centre. He was not very good and Julien limited him to only eleven shifts and a season low 7:47 ice time. Deslauriers got 9:43. Andrew Shaw‘s ice time was inflated by his work on special teams which took care of just over six of his 15 total minutes.

Plekanec is on his way back which could make an immense difference. It may be a one-time deal, but I liked Peca on the wing with Plekanec.

MAN ADVANTAGE

It’s been six games since the Canadiens scored their last power play goal.  Since October 23rd against Calgary the Canadiens are 0-for-15.

For the most part the Canadiens move the puck around a lot with the man-advantage but without shooters there’s no finish.

The Canadiens had eight minutes of PP time against Tampa (0-for-4). Andrew Shaw was on the ice for more than half of that – 4:16. Not sure that’s the ultimate path to power play success.

In this area little has changed since last year. The PP ranks 22nd in the league at 14.3%.  The penalty killing isn’t much better.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….If you’re looking for a positive sign it’s the Canadiens return to their form of the first ten minutes of the game in the second period. Their hard work didn’t pay off in a goal and that Stamkos goal in the first minute of the third period was the backbreaker.

….It was Phillip Danault‘s flubbed pass and turnover that lead to the J.T. Miller‘s game-winning goal. Despite that, Danault’s line was the Canadiens best. Gallagher played his usual relentless game and Tatar continues to be a perfect fit.

….Good to see Kotkaniemi shooting the puck more. The Finn line with Armia and Lehkonen looked all right although looking for offense Julien had Kotkaniemi up on a line with Drouin and Domi in the third period.  Not sure that Lehkonen will live up to the offensive promise of his rookie season.  Armia produces a lot of shots but not much on the scoreboard.  But that’s been his history.

….Another one of those indifferent games from Jonathan Drouin. He was on the ice for the last three Tampa goals. He still wound up with five shots on goal, a deceptive stat to say the least.

….Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 34 of 35 shots for the win but I can’t remember any time he faced the type of shot that Carey Price had to deal with on the Stamkos and J.T. Miller goals.

MOVING ON

The first back-to-back games of the season in the New York area Monday and Tuesday. Monday in Brooklyn against the Islanders; Tuesday the Rangers at the Garden. Then home to Buffalo and Vegas before the annual Western Canadien swing November 13th to 17th.