It’s a disturbing pattern being woven by a team that normally protects a lead the way the U.S. Congress protects the “right to bear arms”. Since outplaying but losing to the Washington Capitals the Habs have not only lost three more (their first four game losing streak since 2013-14) but frittered away leads in all three while being outscored in the third period 6-1.
The Canadiens are a fragile team right now – finding ways to lose while still trying to find ways to score. That they are struggling without four regulars (don’t discount the injuries to Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly. Both were playing very good hockey) shouldn’t come as a great surprise. But what is surprising is that it’s the vets who have lost their way.
The kids are alright.
- Tomas Fleischmann. Looked rejuvenated. Seemed like a matter of when, not if he’d break his scoreless streak. Maybe it was playing against the team that originally drafted him but Fleischmann’s game had a sense of urgency about it. Great shot to beat a stingy Peter Mrazek.
- Andrei Markov. The Habs oldest player was their best defenseman for the second straight night -another troubling sign. Just missed scoring on a breakaway (his yearly breakaway?) when his shot along the ice beat Mrazek but hit the goalpost.
- Dustin Tokarski. Quick stint in St. John’s certainly sharpened up his game. But going back to the rough ending of a season ago Tokarski has earned just one victory in his last eight starts. When was the last time the Habs started a game with the edge in goal? Since Carey Price’s latest injury Montreal has won two of seven games.
- Sven Andrighetto. Four goals in nine games. Even I can do the math. Has a nose for the net. His speed to the net forced Brendan Smith to take a holding penalty.
- Daniel Carr. One of Montreal’s most effective forwards. Led the team with four shots on goal. Not shy in the other teams end.
- Charles Hudon. Welcome to the NHL. A bundle of nerves early on – he shovelled a puck over the net when he found himself alone in front of Mrazek – Hudon got more comfortable as the game went along. It was his shot that dribbled through Mrazek for Andrighetto to finish. The goal was scored just seconds after Hudon was rocked by a Smith body check. It didn’t faze him.
- P.K. Subban. Not himself you say? I say – what did you expect after he played over 30:00 the night before? Ended the game watching from the penalty box as his team struggled to tie the game with Tokarski on the bench.
- Power Play. 0-2. But what’s worse is it seems to have reverted to the momentum-sapping unit of a season ago.
- Alexei Emelin. He’s being roasted (including his own coach) for his ill timed high sticking penalty on Darren Helm (Detroit’s best skater) which led to the game tying goal by Justin Abdlekader with just over seven minutes to play. But a Fleischmann hooking call in the offensive zone just prior to it was worse. It helped put a strain on the Habs overworked PK unit.
- Jeff Petry. Not the only Montreal defenseman to struggle in front of family and friends. We’re seeing a bit of a rare rough patch from Petry. Beaten a few times one on one. Forced into a penalty in the first period. For the second game in a row we saw Petry on the point on the power play ignore Subban who was poised for a one-timer. Perhaps a spillover from Subban’s near decapitation of his captain during their last victory? In any event, the Habs are going to need Petry and Subban and Markov to put the puck in the net. They haven’t had a single goal from their defensemen in nine games.
- Tomas Plekanec. His inability to finish is costing his team. Couldn’t beat Mrazek when Paul Byron sent him in a breakaway after Andrighetto had just tied the game. Hasn’t scored in over a month or 14 games.
- Lars Eller. It’s rare to see a skater like Eller struggle to move his feet. Without his speed he’s just another body.
- Greg Pateryn. Ugh. Poor dude. Michel Therrien tries to do the right thing by inserting Pateryn into the line up in his home state (and where he played in college) in place of Nathan Beaulieu. But he got caught up the ice flat footed on Helm’s opening goal (Helm’s third breakaway in the opening period) and late in the game became the leading candidate for ugliest turnover of the year. Pateryn’s giveaway to Pavel Datsyuk and subsequent collision with the net while Helm finished off the play for the game winner with just six minutes left, might rank up there with Ryan O’Byrne shooting the puck into his own net as an embedded visual that might be difficult to erase. But on that night in 2008 the Habs were already down by a goal with time running out.
- Alex Galchenyuk-Dale Weise-Max Pacioretty. The last time Pacioretty was held to just one shot on goal was November 1. In the two previous games before Therrien put him alongside Galchenyuk, Pacioretty totalled 16 shots on goal. In the two games since – four shots. To those who say this can’t work (perhaps even Pacioretty himself?) – how come it did last season when they spent 13 games together? It wasn’t all Brendan Gallagher, was it? Here’s the first major test of Pacioretty’s captaincy.