Against the other twenty-nine teams in the league the historically-bad Detroit Red Wings have won 11 of 47 games. Against Montreal they are 4-0.
As a result of the eight points the Canadiens should have been able to pick up against Detroit this season, the only remaining issue with twenty games remaining is where the team is going to finish in the draft lottery.
The Canadiens have now lost five games in a row. In one of the five they blew a 3-0 lead. In two of the others including Tuesday night in Detroit failed to protect two-goal leads. It’s happened seven times this season, which makes the team’s lack of finish a chronic issue.
As we move forward, general manager Marc Bergevin has to decide how much of this team he wants to dismantle. I’ve said it more than once in this column, if teams work hard enough to get leads and then blow it, as they’ve done nine times this season, along with coaching and roster depth, team leadership has to come into question.
This probably says more about the quality of his teammates but, with his goal and assist 20 year old Nick Suzuki is tied with Phillip Danault for second on the Canadiens points list with 40.
Over his last twelve games he has a team leading 13 points (4g, 9a) and is now tied for third among NHL rookies, five behind defenseman Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks. At his current rate he has a chance to overhaul Hughes in points if not in Calder Trophy votes.
Both of his points came on the power play which ties him with Tomas Tatar for the team lead with thirteen.
Suzuki didn’t have a perfect night. On the game winning goal he failed to protect the puck at centre ice allowing Tyler Bertuzzi to pick his pocket. Lesson presumably learned.
Off what I’ve seen over the last two weeks, I’m not so sure it would be a good idea to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk. Through his first twelve games with the Canadiens there was a semblance of the superstar version of Kovalchuk. Over his last seven games, he has been closer to the player that the Los Angeles Kings felt had no future value. Against Detroit, Kovalchuk was never a factor and hasn’t been for two weeks. He has no points in his last five games and just one over his last seven. My suspicion is Bergevin will take what he can get for him by next Monday.
Shea Weber didn’t have a great night but he wasn’t bad either. All things considered, the very fact he was playing at all is remarkable. He finished at minus-2, although I couldn’t find him at fault on either of the two Detroit goals scored while he was on the ice. Weber logged 26 shifts and 21:50 ice time including a team-leading 3:38 on the penalty kill. He was noticeably absent on the power play where he was used a total of 17 seconds.
Together the defense pairing of Jeff Petry and Brett Kulak produced eight of the Canadiens twenty-two shots on goal. They also led the team with a combined eighteen shot attempts. Petry scored the Canadiens first goal with a shot that would have made Shea Weber proud. Five-on-five Kulak’s 21:28 led the Canadiens in ice time. Overall Petry put in 25:49 which also led the team.
Midway through the second period Victor Mete took an Alex Biega shot square on his ankle bone and left the game. As a result, Xavier Ouellet wound up with 18:16 ice time including 2:11 of important penalty killing time alongside Jeff Petry in the third period.
Because the Canadiens have an off-day Wednesday, we’re not likely to know Victor Mete’s medical status until Wednesday.
Paul Byron returned to the Canadiens lineup for the first time in forty-seven games and there was a jump to his game that we hadn’t seen through the first month of the season prior to his mid November knee surgery. Both Byron and Jonathan Drouin were out of the lineup for an almost equal amount of time. Drouin continues to have problems getting his timing back. Not the case with Bryon, at least in this game. Byron spent most of the night on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and Nick Cousins and it was his second effort started the sequence that led to Thompson’s game-opening goal.
IN THE TANK
It’s a cynical place to be, but also NHL reality. After the Detroit loss the Canadiens are 23rd in the overall league standings (ninth in the lottery). Eight points and five teams separate the Canadiens and the Devils who currently hold down the 4th lottery pick. Each of the five teams (Minnesota, Chicago, San Jose, Anaheim, New Jersey) holds at least three games in hand over Montreal (Minnesota has played four fewer games).
‘re 9th in the lottery. By next week we could be 6th. Maybe even fifth. the four teams behind Montreal all have a
….Carey Price’s play has diminished at the same rate as the Canadiens playoff hopes. Once again his defense was no help but two of the four goals would have been stopped by Price when he was at his best. Four goals against on 25 shots.
….In the third periods of their current five game losing streak the Canadiens have been outscored 8-0.
….Max Domi’s season long struggle continues. In the twenty-two games since the new year Domi has one goal and six assists. His lack of production and on-ice awareness is assuredly testing Bergevin’s patience at this point.
….The Canadiens have taken two-goal leads in games sixteen times this year. They have blown that lead and lost in seven of those games. They have lost games after leading in the third period a league-worst ten times.
….After being a healthy scratch for seven consecutive games, Jordan Weal was a late replacement for Jonathan Drouin on Saturday night against Dallas and scored a goal. Against Detroit he replaced Brendan Gallagher and finished with two assists. Weal is one of those who might be of interest at the trade deadline.
….It’s hard to criticize the Canadiens effort at least through the game’s first two periods. Their checking forced 19 giveaways in the game and five takeaways. In the third period, much of that intensity disappeared.
….This is the first time since the 1935-36 season that Red Wings have gone through a season of at least three games without losing at least once to the Canadiens. In ’35-’36 the Wings won four and tied two of the six games.
….The Canadiens came into the game with only three power play goals over their last twelve games. The power play produced twice in a game for the first time since December 29th at Florida.
Thursday the Canadiens have to face Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in Washington. Ovechkin needs two to reach the 700 goal plateau. What are the odds? Then it’s at Ottawa on Saturday to complete the three game road trip. Next week, following Monday’s trade deadline, they’re home to Vancouver, the Rangers and Carolina.