How to Lose a Game Three Different Ways

The Montreal Canadiens returned to action after the all-star break with a decisive victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The end of that game was worrisome for some fans and the last three games have shown that those fans were correct as the Habs have quickly gone 0-2-1 to start February. All three of the contests were lost in very different fashion, but as many are to point out, this is a result driven league and Montreal now sits having lost their last three games during a portion of the schedule that should have been met with better results.

The first of those games was the 3-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. Quite frankly, the decisions made prior to this game were frustrating. Galchenyuk on the third line made very little sense, even if removing Danault from the top line was likely not a smart option either. Pateryn being replaced also made very little sense to me given the opposition on the night. One would think that with 7 NHL-cliber defencemen on the team, the coaching staff would be smart enough to play the players that are likely to give the team success on a given night. Regardless of who played where, the Habs were no shows on this night and entirely deserved to lose. One would think that the complete inability to access the opposition’s zone via a carry-in would create a situation where the coaching staff would adapt, but no, even the coaching staff was asleep on this night.

The second match was against the Washington Capitals and ended in a 3-2 score for the Caps. Alexander Radulov was an absolute beast on this Saturday afternoon as he single-handedly came close to costing the Caps some points in the standings. On numerous occasions, he was carrying the Capitals D who were sprawling on his back as if they were Spider-Man and he was a sky-scraper. I have no issue with the fact that the Canadiens did not receive many power plays from the said hooking and holding happening everywhere in the Washington zone. Playoffs are rapidly approaching and this kind of play is likely to be more and more acceptable as April nears. I do, however, have a big problem with Radulov getting called on a tiny little hook because that hook was against Ovechkin. This is simply one example, but suffice to say the officiating on Saturday afternoon was a factor in deciding the winner in this one. Washington dominated the first with Montreal getting more and more momentum as the game wore on.

The final match was against the Oilers on Sunday and featured two teams who were reeling of late. The recent bad results for both teams created a terrible game as everyone looked afraid to make mistakes on the ice. This turned the game into a neutral zone battle as neither team really tried to get anything going. Connor McDavid had a few good bursts which resulted in Montreal defenders getting penalties. They were good penalties to take as McDavid would have had quality scoring chances otherwise. In the end, Montoya brought the team all the way to the shoot-out but the team still couldn’t score to help out their back-up.

 

Observations

1. Lineup decisions of late have me scratching my head. Why did the return of Desharnais send Galchenyuk to the wing? The proper second line of Lehkonen-Galchenyuk-Byron got all of one game to see what they could muster together? Plekanec has been an offensive black hole all season long and Galchenyuk gets one game on that line? Galchenyuk has looked winded since his return but I’m not sure asking him to play the wing, where he’s constantly stopped, is the solution. Why is Jacob De La Rose still playing? Better yet, why has he been seen on the ice in the final minutes of all three games? Why did Pateryn not play in the back-to-back? If Desharnais draws in because Galchenyuk is fresh off an injury, couldn’t they have played 7-D and limited Markov’s minutes on Sunday. Pateryn’s presence would have been welcomed when the Oilers started taking runs at Radulov and Shaw. But I guess in that scenario, Therrien couldn’t have given his 15 minutes per game to each forward.

2. Al Montoya played very well on Sunday, but with the recent break for the ASG, the upcoming bye week, and playoffs roughly two-months away, will Price ever play on back-to-backs? At some point, they need to really give him a string of games so that he can start getting into the zone in order to be ready for the playoffs, no?

3. Therrien has done well this year at handling his locker room and his players, especially given the amount of significant injuries the team has faced. This being said, he was absolutely out-coached in games against the Flyers and Capitals. Yes, the game against the Flyers was abysmal in terms of effort, but does how the coaching staff not identify that they are trapping and change their strategy to try to gain the opposition’s zone? Then the next game, the Capitals do the same and again, we watch as Montreal tries to carry the puck into the zone. I am not a big fan of dump and chase hockey, but it is ok to use it from time to time to back up the opposition D on the blue line.

4. Where are all the fans that wanted Pacioretty traded in November again? Pacioretty sits 3rd in the league in scoring… again. No, he’s not a complete player. Yes, he’s an elite sniper making 4.5 million dollars per year. Stop complaining, he’s a hell of a bargain. Now Shaw on the other hand…

Habs are back in action tonight as they visit the Avalanche at 9pm. A loss here and one would think an important change would be imminent before they visit the Coyotes on Thursday.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin Léveillé

Follow me on Twitter: @kev1586