Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as the team is just coming out of a second 8-game game losing streak and their playoffs’ hopes are rapidly fading. The team’s Bye week is coming soon, from January 19-26 and the All-Star break is on the weekend of January 25th, where Canadiens’ captain Shea Weber will be representing the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.
Just when fans didn’t think that it could get worse than going through an eight-game winless streak, they went through another one just a few weeks later. While they are not mathematically eliminated yet, this last series of defeats pretty much sealed the Canadiens’ fate when it comes to making the playoffs. At the time of writing this, they are seven points out of the last Wild Card spot and must leapfrog five other teams – and hope they all get cold – by going on a winning streak themselves. To complicate things, they’ll have to survive the next week or so without Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron for sure, and maybe without Joel Armia and Brendan Gallagher too.
The General Manager gathers the players. The players play and the coaches make the coaching decisions. In order for a team to win games, the GM must get the right players who in turn, must provide their best effort. But if the coach makes the wrong decisions behind the bench, all of this is moot. Often times, coaches get too much credit but sometimes, they don’t get enough blame.
The Canadiens were up to a good start on the road as we’ve touched on recently. But that’s until team head coach Claude Julien made a couple of decisions which might just have cost his team a few points.
The first decision was, in my opinion, to save the best goalie in the world for the home opener when the team faced a more ferocious opponent the night before on the road. It’s no secret that Julien will use both his goaltenders when his team is playing back to back nights. But the choice of playing backup Keith Kinkaid in Buffalo against stronger Sabres just to keep Carey Price for the home opener is a decision that I personally don’t support.
A home opener is only special because there’s a players’ introduction prior to game time. It’s a marketing tool. The game itself is just like any other game. It’s worth two points and those two points are just as important as two points late in the season. It can be the difference between extending the season in April or grabbing the golf clubs… again.
You have the best goalie in the world. You have got to play him against the tougher opponents and that, regardless of a home opener or not. The goal of any NHL team is to win games and there’s no denying that Price gives the Habs the best chance at winning games. So you play him against the tougher opponents. Period. Is Kinkaid an improvement over Antti Niemi? André “Red Light” Racicot would be an improvement over Niemi the way he played last year. But he’s no Carey Price… far, far from there.
You see, on the second night of a back to back, the team is tired. Your best chance of winning is in the first game. So you go with your best goalie, particularly against a stronger team. On the second night, you hope for the best. People were saying that “they would be mad if they had tickets for the home opener and Price wasn’t in net”. To that I reply: does that mean that Price must be playing every single home game? After all, people buy their tickets for those games too, no? That was a marketing decision going against a hockey decision. They picked the marketing which could have very well cost the team in terms of hockey.
Julien’s second mind boggling decision was not so much to scratch the defensive pairing of Brett Kulak and Cale Fleury in Buffalo and replace them with Mike Reilly and Christian Folin, but to stick with them in Montreal the next day. Three reasons to go back to the Kulak-Fleury pairing:
For one, Kulak is the best defenseman today of those four.
Two, Julien has the last change in Montreal so he can better control the match-ups for young Fleury.
Last but not least, they are fresh, not having played the night before. You have spares Claude, use them!
I know that some folks will think that this is blaming Kinkaid and/or the Reilly-Folin pairing. It’s not the case. Price and fresh players give you a better chance to win. That’s all. The end result of those two questionable decisions is that the Canadiens came out with a single point off a possibility of four, against division rivals, teams who they will be battling with to make the playoffs. That’s not on the GM, nor is it on the players. Those results are solely on the coach. Here’s hoping that Julien minimizes those mistakes so it doesn’t cost his team a playoffs’ berth. Go Habs Go!