There are many factors to justify the Canadiens’ current slump and it feels just like the perfect storm. While they were playing great hockey for the first couple of weeks of December, the same cannot be said for the past 2-3 weeks. Here are some of the main factors:
Yeah, I know, it’s not cool to use injuries as an excuse for poor performances and you know what? It’s true… on the short term. But losing the league MVP in Carey Price for that long cannot be replaced by goaltenders with very little NHL experience, not in the long term. Losing your spark plug in Brendan Gallagher can be filled in the short term, but no one has what he has, since he’s taken over from Tomas Holmstrom as the best player in the NHL to get in a goalie’s face. If it was that easy to do, everyone would do it.
It doesn’t matter who the coach is, how good your defense or your offense is, you will not win many games in the NHL when your goaltenders have a saves percentage below .890 in a 5-6 weeks span. While it’s easy to break down each goal and take blame away from the goaltenders, any team needs some key saves, some solid performances to win hockey games. It is so hard to come back from behind in this day and age, your goalies need to make the saves.
Started the season on fire, then he signed a two-year extension and he has been invisible since then. I’d like to think that it’s a coincidence but when your team is dedicating $5-6 million of its payroll on you, the expectations are such that you will perform for the money invested in you. It clearly hasn’t been the case for the past several weeks now. He’s one who, I’m sure, Michel Therrien was referring to when saying that he needs more from some veterans.
He played very well to start the season in a 2nd/3rd line role, facing better opposition. Has struggled since being moved around which was, in great part, due to the shuffle needed when Gallagher got hurt, as every line seemed to have stopped producing from then on. Therrien tried to get Max Pacioretty going by putting Desharnais with him but it didn’t work. Now, it seems like no matter who his linemates are, his production is not where it should be, even for a $3.5 million player.
The guy has spent almost the entire season playing with Alex Galchenyuk, who has fared quite well generally speaking. What this shows me is that while he did okay to start the season, Eller just isn’t consistent enough to be a top-9 offensive-minded contributor. He might just be better suited in a 3rd/4th line center, defensive position with limited time on the top lines. When this guy decides to play a physical game, he can be a force but when he doesn’t, he can’t get away on hockey IQ.
Yes, Subban is heading to the All-Star game as the lone Canadiens’ representative… thanks to Price’s injury. However, he has one goal this season and hasn’t scored in a career-high 32 games now, before the game against the Devils. Oh he is still the Canadiens’ best defenseman, don’t get me wrong, but when you take $9 million of the team’s cap space, you cannot have your worst season. Perhaps spending more time focussing on the ice during the season and do the promo stuff in the summer months might work better?
He really impressed everyone at training camp and with Desharnais and Weise, they arguably formed the team’s best line in the first three weeks or so. But where has his play gone in the last few weeks? Granted that his two line mates’ play also took a nose dive but he does need to step it up a notch or two if he wants a new contract next year.
At some point, Weise was on pace for a 40-goal season. While no one in their right mind would have expected him to keep scoring at that pace, one would think that he would have putted a few more by now. I often found that at the start of the season, he was the shooter but in recent weeks, he was trying to be too cute by setting up Desharnais, who is definitely not a shooter. You see the net Dale, shoot the puck!
Remember when both Subban and Markov were tied for points, both averaging a point per game after 10-12 games? Markov has faded even more than his counterpart, to the point where the coach had to separate the pair and even taking away some powerplay time from the Russian defenseman.
There are more, and some would likely point to the captain Max Pacioretty, but he has always been a streaky scorer and he hasn’t gone through as long of slumps as the ones mentioned above. I’ve also been disappointed with Jeff Petry since his injury and I’m wondering how much of it is based on the fact that he is no longer paired with Alexei Emelin. The two seem to complement each other quite well. Also, Michel Therrien is not without blame. It is his job to find the right combinations and to motivate his troops. He needs to find a solution and soon.