The Montreal Canadiens fan base would beg to differ. November wins. Not even close.
After their 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers Saturday afternoon the Canadiens finish the month on a seven game losing streak and with a November record of 4-5-4.
It is said that nearly 80% of the teams who are out of a playoff position on American Thanksgiving fail to make the post season. With only four wins in thirteen November games the Canadiens have dropped to sixth in the Atlantic Division and eleventh in the Eastern Conference. Of the seven consecutive losses, six have come at home (0-2-4).
One looks to the leaders to take a team out of the losing wilderness. Included among the leaders are Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault. Is there one of that group that is currently making the contribution normally expected of them?
Even Gallagher, who can be guaranteed of giving an all out effort every night, is struggling. Jeff Petry had another in a string of games in which his puckhandling and decision-making have been faulty. Against the Flyers he posted five giveaways and finished the game at minus-3. During the seven game losing streak Petry is minus-11.
As for Weber, the stats keepers may have been generous in recording only four giveaways from Weber in this game. It was his worst game of the seven game streak.
Until the Canadiens so-called ‘best players’ return to being their best players, the bleeding will continue.
Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia can share billing as the Canadiens best against the Flyers.
Although Tatar with his two goals was named the only Canadiens game star, I liked Armia even more. Armia scored on the game’s first shot on goal. He finished with a total of nine ….that’s nine…. shots on goal. Along with his strong neutral and offensive zone checking he was responsible for five of the Canadiens ten high danger 5-on-5 scoring chances. One of his best came with three seconds remaining in regulation time.
Tatar’s performance this season has been criticized as being somewhere between hit and miss. Even so, with Danault and Gallagher struggling right now, Tatar has been a bright spot on the line during the losing streak. Against the Flyers he scored his 8th and 9th goals and now has a team-leading 24 points in 26 games which, if he can maintain the pace, puts him on track for a career high 75 points.
Victor Mete joins Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron on the injury list. He suffered a second period leg injury after being checked by the Flyers Justin Braun. Claude Julien, who clearly has mixed feelings about the ability of Brett Kulak and Mike Reilly, will be forced to make an interesting decision to replace Mete before the Boston game Sunday night.
Gustav Olafsson was promoted from Laval on Friday and without any Montreal practice time played his first NHL game since March 29, 2018 with Minnesota. Paired with Cale Fleury he was minus-2. But he’s a left shot which, by the necessity created by Mete’s absence, could present a chance to move up on the depth chart.
Seven losses in a row equals the second longest losing streak in Canadiens history. They lost seven in a row in games two-through-eight of the 2017 season (0-6-1). The club record for consecutive losses was set at ten in the 1939-40 season. With no overtime in the era, each of those losses came in regulation time. The Canadiens won only ten of a forty-eight game schedule that year.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….There was a stretch during the third period when the Canadiens looked like they had restored some structure to their game. It produced Tatar’s game-tying goal and some solid play at both ends of the ice. Carrying that into Boston Sunday night will be the challenge.
….Hardly a game goes by that we don’t mention at least one brilliant pass executed by 20 year old Nick Suzuki. Against the Flyers it was the power play setup for Tatar’s second goal. It was the goal that eventually forced the overtime.
….It was actually a good night for the special teams including the maligned penalty killing. The Flyers managed only two harmless shots on their two power plays. The Canadiens power play was 1 for 3 with eight shots.
….Once again Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s offensive game slipped after a fairly good night Thursday against the Devils. There was however a noticeable improvement in the physical side of his game. He was credited with five hits. Only Cale Fleury had more (7). Kotkaniemi also led the Canadiens with five blocked shots.
….I have mixed feelings about Keith Kinkaid’s game. He couldn’t be faulted on the three goals in regulation time. He was guilty of failing to challenge the shooter on the overtime game-winner. His teammates haven’t done him any favours in any of his five starts. His season record is now 1-1-3 with a 4.24GAA and an .875 save percentage.
….Shea Weber drew first assist on Tatar’s first goal. His 21 points total is second on the team behind Tatar’s 24.
….The Canadiens have now allowed 93 goals in their 26 games. Only Detroit has given up more this season.
….According to naturalstattrick.com, five-on-five the Canadiens posted ten high danger scoring chances to just five for the Flyers.
It doesn’t get easier. The Canadiens play the Bruins Sunday night. Tuesday night the Bruins won 8-1 at the Bell Centre. Boston hasn’t lost a game in regulation time at home this season (10-0-4). Carey Price will get the start. The Canadiens then return home to play the surprising Islanders Tuesday followed by Colorado at home Thursday and the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Friday.