It was a ‘do-nothing’ kind of day for the Canadiens Monday. Marc Bergevin hadn’t done a thing of note by the 3:00pm deadline and the team he has assembled seemed to show as little interest in getting involved in the playoff run as Bergevin did in helping the team to that end.
Making the 2-1 loss to New Jersey more difficult to swallow, the Canadiens were playing a team that had six starters including Taylor Hall, Sami Vatanen and Pavel Zacha on the injury list; had traded forward Marcus Johansson and goaltender Keith Kinkaid at the deadline and then finished the game with ten forwards after injuries to Miles Wood and John Quenneville.
It was the Canadiens fifth consecutive road loss. Since eleven of their remaining nineteen games are on the road, there’s valid reason for concern.
The Canadiens have to work hard for their goals. When they don’t they make an effort they are easily checked. They attempted 63 shots on goal compared to 42 for the Devils which meant they controlled 60 percent of the play. But, according NaturalStatTrick.com they had only three high danger scoring chances the entire night (The Devils had seven). The fact that only three of the thirty-five Canadiens shots were dangerous speaks volumes about the Canadiens lack of interest in spending time in close proximity to Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.
The Canadiens hang most of their playoff hopes on Carey Price and Shea Weber. There is nothing wrong with the way Price is playing but Weber is another matter. The last two weeks Weber has been a shadow of himself. He had a terrible night in Toronto. If anything he was worse in New Jersey. He could be faulted on both Devils goals. On the first, Nathan Bastian beat him off the wall and was unchecked for the goal. On the second he was chasing rather than protecting the front of the net leaving Kurtis Gabriel alone to score.
Is it a hidden injury or age? Maybe a combination of the two. If the slump endures the Canadiens are in trouble down the stretch.
Once again the power play let them down. The Canadiens had just made it 2-1 on Paul Byron‘s shorthanded goal and seemed to be gathering momentum. With just under nine minutes left Nico Hischier was called for hooking. Whatever the Canadiens were building died with another failed power play. In the six-plus minutes following the expiration of the Devils penalty the Canadiens managed only two harmless shots on goal. Overall the power play was 0-for-4 with five shots on goal.
Like it or not, Bergevin’s main trade deadline focus was shoring up the fourth line. It didn’t show any improvement against the Devils. Artturi Lehkonen did have that clear breakaway but he hasn’t scored a goal in twenty-five games. More than anything fourth liners are supposed to avoid being scored upon. Lehkonen, Nate Thompson and Matthew Peca were on the ice for both Devils goals. Does anyone think Jordan Weal is going to change things? Or Dale Weise for that matter.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Paul Byron is doing his part. His shorthanded goal was terrific. His 12th goal of an injury plagued season. Byron has six points in the seven games since he returned from that arm injury. However 5-on-5 the Byron line with Kotkaniemi and Armia didn’t accomplish very much.
….While they produced nothing in terms of offence, the Danault line at least held the Hischier line off the scoresheet. Danault also took 29 of the 69 faceoffs in the game winning 21 of 29 (72%).
The Canadiens move on to play Detroit Tuesday night. In the second game in twenty-four hours, will we see Carey Price or the slumping Antti Niemi? Price has now started eleven consecutive games. This could be a pivotal decision. A Canadiens loss in Detroit plus Tuesday night wins by Pittsburgh and Carolina would dump Montreal right out a playoff position.
After Detroit, it’s on to Manhattan Friday to face the Rangers in the start of another back-to-back with the Canadiens back home to Pittsburgh on Saturday. I don’t want to even think about the California trip next week.