Let’s face it, no matter how the NHL rules like to sugar coat it, the Canadiens lost their third hockey game in a row. They survived sixty-five minutes against a team that outplayed them for all but fifteen of them, and they got the “loser’s point” but the cruel reality is the Canadiens have not only lost their last three games but nine of their last fourteen.
The Canadiens are in the playoffs thanks to their 13-1-1 start. Since then they have won 17 and lost 22. They show a winning record only because they have knocked down seven loser points (17-15-7).
Should fans be concerned?
Damned right they should. More importantly, so should Marc Bergevin.
With their three straight losses the Canadiens have dropped down to 7th in the overall league standings behind Chicago. Their season record against the six teams ahead of them is 2-10-1. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow the Canadiens would face the New York Rangers. Not a confidence building prospect.
One group of three star selectors decided Connor McDavid was the game’s first star. Not that it’s all that important in the general scheme of things, the game’s best player was Al Montoya who stopped all 32 shots for his second shutout of the season. Edmonton dominated every meaningful statistic including shots on goal, hits, takeaways and puck possession. Montoya was the only reason this game reached overtime. At the moment he is playing better hockey than Carey Price.
IN ONE BASKET –
In deference to Guy Lafleur, this version of the Canadiens appears to have one first line and three fourth lines. The temptation might be to spread out the wealth by moving either Max Pacioretty or Alexander Radulov. The only time the Canadiens threatened in this game was when they were on the ice. It’s been like that for over two months. I can’t imagine Michel Therrien giving in to temptation as he did early in the season.
Containing Connor McDavid is the concern of every team faced with playing against the NHL’s leading scorer. With the last change Michel Therrien was able to get Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin on the ice against McDavid’s line but he still had four shots on goal in the first period. In the second period Therrien added the Plekanec/Lehkonen/Shaw to the checking assignment. McDavid managed only one shot through the second and third periods while producing five shots and three scoring chances of their own.
OFF KILTER –
We’ve talked here about the special teams problems. Part of the problem is the face that, despite their reputation as one of the league’s best skating teams, they can’t draw penalties. The Oilers were on their power play four times in this game; the Canadiens had the man advantage once. At least Canadiens penalty killing was good in this game, after giving up power play goals ion five straight games. The Canadiens have played shorthanded 187 times this season. They’ve been on their power play 29 fewer times.
….Andrew Shaw’s game is what it is. The Canadiens acquired him because of the sandpaper in his game and he would be less effective if it was taken away from him. Still, his penchant for taking untimely penalties needs to be examined. This time he took a tripping penalty midway through the third period of a scoreless game. He got away with this one.
….Alexei Emelin continues his best NHL season. With the Oilers looking to cover Shea Weber’s big shot from the blueline, it was Emelin who let the bombs go. He finished with team leading 4 shots on goal on five attempts. That went along with his 4 hits.
….Paul Byron also recorded four hits. Jeff Petry blocked 4 shots.
….Facing off against the McDavid line most of the game, Tomas Plekanec won 11 of 17 faceoffs.
MOVING ON –
Travel day Monday for the Canadiens so no scheduled practice. Nothing is guaranteed in the league these days, but the Canadiens have a chance for a confidence build with their scheduled games against the 30th ranked Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday and the 29th ranked Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.