It is a hockey axiom that teams that in a playoff position on the US Thanksgiving holiday will be in the same position in April. It’s not 100% accurate. History tells us it averages out to 13 of the 16 teams that hold a playoff berth in late November advance to the post-season.
With that in mind and having watched their Wednesday night fiasco in New Jersey, does anyone come away with a confident feeling that the Canadiens are going to be one of the thirteen who make it every year, or will they become one of the three that slip out of playoff contention in the season’s final three-quarters?
As they stand now, the Canadiens hold down the second wild card berth with an 11-7-4 record.
The loss in New Jersey was their second in a row and only the second time this season they’ve registered back-to-back losses but also the second time in the last eight games during which they’ve won 3 and lost 5.
This is not new stuff. As currently constructed the Canadiens defence can only be described as awful. Members of the group take turns have a bad night. Xavier Ouellet and David Schlemko were on ice for three of the five New Jersey goals. They had a really bad night. This defence needs a lot of help from the forwards in order to survive. In this game they didn’t get it. Through the first two periods the Canadiens gave New Jersey seven “high danger” scoring chances to only two for Montreal. Story of the game.
The Canadiens have given up four or more goals in six of the last eight games and ten in the last two. Beyond the eminent return of Shea Weber, there is no solution in sight. And the return of Weber is not going to be enough.
There are nights when, in order to win, the Canadiens have to overcome their opponent (and their own defence) by simply outscoring them. I don’t think the majority of the forwards were properly engaged in this game but they had their chances. On the night they missed four open nets, hit two goalposts and that scored that disallowed goal that deserved a little more review than it got.
….Carey Price will be criticized for this one. Five goals against on the first nineteen shots brings that sort of thing. But those seven high danger New Jersey scoring chances in the first two periods didn’t make things easy for him. Of the five, I can find fault in only the last one. Price has given up ten goals the last two games.
….Max Domi only attempted two shots in the the game. The only one that made it to the net was his 11th of the season. Now his points streak is 11 games which matches something done by Pierre Turgeon 23 years ago.
….Jonathon Drouin scored his eighth goal and hit a goalpost. If he can keep it up, his offense might make us forget Drouin’s defensive liability.
….New Jersey native Kenny Agostino had a good night. A team-high four shots and that goal that should have been counted.
….Laval callup Michael Chaput had no impact in the game one way or the other although he won 8 of 12 face off attempts.
….Julien juggled his bottom three lines in the third period. Kotkaniemi centered Tatar and Gallagher; Hudon and Lehkonen went with Danault. Kenny Agostino dropped down to the fourth line with Chaput and Deslauriers.
….The Canadiens won 60% of the faceoffs (31 of 52). They were at 70% after two periods. It was what they did with the puck after winning the faceoff was the problem.
The Canadiens will play in Buffalo Friday afternoon at 4:00. With a 5-2 win over Philadelphia Wednesday night, the Sabres have now won seven in a row.
After the Sabres it’s home to Boston Saturday night and Carolina on Tuesday. A major reset is in order.