You have to ask yourself when it’s going to end. Against Philadelphia Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre? The Flyers have points in seven of their last 10 games. Against Boston Sunday in the second of the back-to back games? The Bruins have the league’s second best overall record. To say a way out of this mess is not clearly evident is to understate what could easily become an historic losing streak.
The Canadiens won games through the season’s first month with solid execution on almost every level. For some reason that not even the coaches can explain, tactical discipline and teamwork has deserted them. Like most of the other games in the losing streak, the 6-4 loss to the Devils was filled with opposition odd-man attacks, poor decision making, sloppy line changes, lazy penalties followed by horrid penalty killing plus, dare I say, less than acceptable goaltending.
With their fifth consecutive Bell Centre loss, the Canadiens are now 6-6-2 at home this season. Teams do not make the playoffs playing .500 hockey or worse at home.
If Carey Price was on top of his game, I think he could have made stops on each of the Devils last three goals. That said, he had little help from his teammates. Four of the five Devils goals against Price came on odd-man rushes: one on a clear breakaway, three others on a two-on-one.
Price has now let in 19 goals in his last three starts In those three games he has seen his goals-against average balloon from 2.81 to 3.19 and his save percentage drop twenty points – .917 to .897. In four of his last five starts Price has allowed five goals or more.
Everyone, including the goaltender has to be better if this misery is to end.
….Claude Julien has a point when he says the Canadiens problems are not on offense. In his post game news conference he made that clear. “We got almost 50 shots and scored four goals. In normal circumstances we should be winning hockey games. Our play without the puck, breakdowns, picking up the wrong man, making the wrong decision. We need to fix that stuff.”
The Canadiens had 48 shots on goal against the Devils. In their last four losses the Canadiens have outshot their opponents 196-113 but have been outscored 27-13. During their last five games the Canadiens have been outscored 31-16.
ONE BRIGHT LIGHT
Jesperi Kotkaniemi was named the game’s third star (behind two members of the Devils). Hard to argue the choice although the bar was pretty low. He did score his first goal in seven weeks early in the second period. He also hit a goal post. I thought he was fairly good on the forecheck and created some things offensively. Statistically the line (with Nick Cousins and Joel Armia) was the Canadiens best, controlling 73.68 of the five-on-five shots.
A breakout game for Kotkaniemi? We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. I thought Kotkaniemi was very good in the overtime loss to Ottawa last week. The next two games he reverted to what we have seen for much of his season to date.
Brendan Gallagher scored his tenth goal. Unfortunately it stood up for only 36 seconds before the Devils again took the lead. For the second straight game Brendan Gallagher was the Canadiens best forward out of the gate. He had five shots and a goal in the first period. He posted only two more the rest of the game. It was the same in Tuesday’s Boston game where he took six shots in the first period and added only two more the rest of the game. You can form your own opinion on what those stats mean. My guess is Gallagher expended most of his energy trying to give his teammates an early boost and paid for it later in the game.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….The Canadiens never had the lead but tied the game three times. Each time the Devils quickly restored their lead: 36 seconds after Montreal’s first goal; 1:36 after the second and 2:26 after the third.
….The Devils have now beaten the Canadiens seven consecutive times.
….The last time the Canadiens lost six in a row was February of the disastrous 2017-2018 season. Along with the six game losing streak that season they also lost seven in a row in October and three times had five game losing streaks.
….This is the first time in the 104 years of Canadiens NHL history that they have given up 20 goals over a three-game span.
….During the five game losing streak Price has given up 23 goals. His save percentage over the five games is .822.
….The last time Kotkaniemi scored a goal on home ice was February 21st of last season.
….Artturi Lehkonen scored his third goal in three games and put himself in position to score again. Unfortunately “sniper” is not a word you would put next to his name. He missed the net in his other two strong scoring chances.
….The Devils came to Montreal as the league’s lowest scoring team with only 58 goals. They scored ten against the Canadiens in two games over the past week.
….P.K. Subban played against the Canadiens for the seventh time since he was traded. He was mostly unnoticeable with the exception of a brief altercation with Gallagher in the third period.
In trying to avoid making it seven or eight losses in a row the Canadiens must first play the Flyers Saturday night at the Bell Centre before playing in Boston Sunday night. Then it’s a home game against the Islanders Tuesday and another back-to-back set next Thursday at home against Colorado followed by the Rangers Friday at Madison Square Garden. Will Keith Kinkaid play in any of those games will be the lingering question.