The Canadiens dropped a 2-1 decision to the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night in their final home game of the 2019 calendar year. It was the second time this season that the Canadiens had suffered a home-ice loss to the team that by every measurable category is the NHL’s worst.

So far the fans have moderated their dismay at the way the Canadiens have performed at the Bell Centre.  The booing will start if the type of effort shown Saturday night continues into the New Year.  And it will be well-earned.

The Canadiens have lost eleven of their nineteen home games to date. Along with the two losses against the last place Red Wings, they have also lost twice to 30th ranked New Jersey and were also beaten by Ottawa (27th in the standings) and San Jose (25th).  All of these are losses at the Bell Centre.

A winning record at home is a prerequisite for nailing down a playoff berth. The Canadiens have a lot of work to do.

NO FINISH

Appearances are everything in hockey. I can’t read the collective minds of the Canadiens but it seemed to me, at least mentally they approached this game as an easy two points.   In today’s NHL it simply doesn’t work that way.  It’s a matter of respect.  The Canadiens failed to recognize the fact that, bad as they are this season, there are still some talented players on the Red Wings.  Those players put effort into the game.  The Canadiens didn’t.   Claude Julien had it right when he said his team complained that his team wasn’t prepared to pay a price for what should have been an important win.

Against the worst defensive team in the league the Canadiens mustered only eight high danger scoring chances among 42 mostly perimeter shots on goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

THE ROOKIES

It’s becoming clear to anyone who is really paying attention that Nick Suzuki has moved ahead of Max Domi as the Canadiens second best centre. Playing him with Nick Cousins and Jordan Weal is wasting his talent. Cousins and Weal are dilligent, hard working forwards but they lack the ability to take advantage of Suzuki’s playmaking. Thanks to Suzuki, Cousins was presented with two of the eight Canadiens high danger chances and failed to convert either.  We shouldn’t forget that Bernier’s best save of the night came off Suzuki.

Plainly, Ryan Poehling is very close to gaining a regular spot on the Canadiens. He was good in Wednesday’s game against Ottawa. He was better against Detroit. Poehling, along with fourth liners Nate Thompson and Riley Barber were part of the Canadiens best offensive shift of the night in the first period; one that produced four shots on the Detroit goal.

NO FAULT IN GOAL

Carey Price did his job. He allowed only two goals. Shea Weber had his pocket picked behind the Canadiens net allowing Dylan Larkin to set up Tyler Bertuzzi for the first goal. He still hasn’t seen Mike Green’s power play goal that made it 2-0. In his five December starts Price has allowed nine goals for a 1.80 GAA and .936 save percentage.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….A couple of terrible third period offensive zone penalties didn’t help the Canadiens cause. Riley Barber cost the Canadiens in the seventh minute of the period and then with 3 ½ minutes left Brendan Gallagher was called for crosschecking in front of the Detroit net. That penalty effectively ended hopes of coming back from 2-0 down.  It was the second time in the game that Gallagher took an offensive zone penalty.

….Tomas Tatar loves to score against the team that drafted him. His 12th goal of the season came in the final minute of the game. He has three goals and ten points in seven games against the Wings since he was traded.

….The Canadiens hit iron three times in the game:  Weal with a cross-bar during the first period power play, Tatar and Armia in the second period.

….From the Stats sheet:   Once again Ben Chiarot led the Canadiens in ice time at 26:45.  Shea Weber produced a team-leading six shots on goal.  Phillip Danault won 72% of his faceoffs (13 of 18).  I was somewhat surprised that Riley Barber led the team with six hits in 8:15 of playing time which were the fewest minutes on the team.

….No sign of improvement from Max Domi who for some reason, probably mental, has lost his offensive tactical vision.  It might be a good time to give him a night off to get his head straight.

….Friday goaltender Cayden Primeau was returned to the Laval Rocket after recording his first NHl win Wednesday against Ottawa.  Saturday afternoon he allowed five goals one thirty-two shots in a 5-0 home ice loss to Rochester.  It is expected Primeau will return to the Canadiens before their next back-to-back games December 28th, 29th in Florida.  Charlie Lindgren was Carey Price’s backup against Detroit.

….After the game the Canadiens returned defenseman Otto Leskinen to Laval and called up Swedish forward Lukas Vejdemo. Vejdemo had 16 points in 29 games with the Rocket this season.  The Canadiens will now go to Western Canada with a 13th forward and a 7th defenseman (Mike Reilly).

MOVING ON

The Canadiens will fly to the West Coast on Sunday. They’ll play Vancouver on Tuesday, Calgary Thursday, Edmonton on Saturday. The pre-Christmas part of what is their annual seven game holiday odyssey will see them in Winnipeg on Monday of the following week.  Next home game will be January 2nd against Tampa Bay.