Five Reasons Why the Habs Are Struggling

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It’s no secret, it’s the talk of town in Montreal: the Montreal Canadiens are off to a very slow start and fans and (some) media personalities alike are in full panic mode. The media because they like feeding the sensationalism to bring viewership/listenership, and the fans because… many act like drama queens, making us wonder if they can or not see beyond a 4-5 games stretch, therefore making them totally vulnerable to what those media members are saying. 

The reality, however, is not so sombre. The team is, most nights, outplaying their opponent but they simply cannot find ways to either put the puck in the opponents’ net, or keep it out of their own. Hockey is a team sport, at the same level as basketball and football. Yet, it’s composed of individuals who are occupying certain roles on the team. If the most important role players aren’t performing, it creates problems for the entire team and that, my friends, is what’s happening with the Canadiens in this early season. No, it’s not Claude Julien and no, in spite of all the misdirected information we read on Twitter, it’s not Marc Bergevin either.

For one reason or another, fans seem to find very difficult to point the finger at players, particularly their favourite player(s). Instead, they prefer blaming the coach, the GM, the equipment manager or the water boy. Basically, anyone but the culprit. We’ve noticed it many times with P.K. Subban, who was absolutely hated by his teammates for his behaviours. Fans, in fact, are still bringing him up every single day, or anytime he does something positive. We are seeing some of it today with Galchenyuk. Faultless players is key for some fans in Montreal, even when it’s far from the truth.

Five reasons for slow start

Fans can blame the coach or GM all they want, I am not willing to fall for that false excuse until the team’s key players are back at playing to the level that everyone should expect from them. If those players were performing and the team still struggled, then fine, we could look at different culprits but it’s definitely not the case here, folks… at least not yet.

1- Carey Price

So far this season, Carey Price has a record of 1-3-1. His goals against average sits at 3.45 (38th in NHL) while is saves percentage is well below NHL level at .885 (39th in NHL). For someone who is qualified as the best goaltender in the league, this is completely unacceptable. He is fighting the puck more times than not and he is not making the key saves as he has accustomed his fans to. Price is this team’s franchise player and the Canadiens have made him the best paid goaltender in the league with an eight year extension, paying him an average of $10.5 million. That contract, by the way, doesn’t kick in until the 2018-2019 season. If the franchise player doesn’t find his playing form, this team will have a very tough time to have any sort of success. That’s where it starts. He is not paid, nor are the standards for him set as a 38th or 39th goalie in the NHL. We will chill Carey, but you need to start showing signs of who you really are.

2- Max Pacioretty

NHL: New York Islanders at Montreal Canadiens
Price and Pacioretty

Goals’ scorers go though droughts out there during a long season and it happens that the captain is having a rough start. But it’s not his one goal in five games that worries me here.  He is not looking good out there. He is not generating much offensively and against the Leafs, he looked totally lost. Max Pacioretty is at his best when he finds a soft spot in the offensive zone to get open for the lethal shot of his. Right now, he’s all over the ice trying to do too much, or so it seems. The fact that the team is still searching for a qualified and deserving right winger for him and Jonathan Drouin could have something to do with it, as the Brendan Gallagher experiment has been lukewarm and Arturri Lehkonen‘s play has regressed since being brought up to that line. Yes, Alex Galchenyuk could be the solution but not until he shows that he’s willing to put in the effort, which hasn’t been the case so far this season.

3- Shea Weber

The towering defenseman leads the team in ice time this season with an average of 26:20 minutes per game, good for fifth most in the entire NHL. Although the Canadiens have allowed nine (9) more goals than they have scored so far this season, his minus -1 is quite excellent, showing that he is still one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league. Where the Canadiens need Shea Weber to pick it up however is on offense. Weber only has one assist so far this season in five games and it seems like the system and the team haven’t been able to take advantage of his booming 106 mph shot, either at even strength or on the powerplay. As a matter of fact, the Habs’ defensive corp has a grand total of 4 points so far this season, two of which belonging to… Karl Alzner!

4- Alex Galchenyuk

Everything but the kitchen sink has been said or written so far about the enigmatic Galchenyuk. Some feel like no matter his effort level or performances, he should be given indemnity and be moved to the top line with Pacioretty and Drouin but most, myself included, range with the coaching staff in thinking that he must first earn that promotion by displaying an constant effort and better focus on the ice. Either way, as a team struggling to put pucks in the net, the Canadiens need Galchenyuk’s offensive production. Something tells me that there nothing that coach Julien would love more than promote him to first line duties, but early in the season is when you want to instate your system and expectations, at the risk of losing a few games. It was great to see Chucky put one in against the Leafs, and here’s hoping that he can use this goal to get his season going.

5 – The powerplay

The Canadiens finally broke the goose egg when Galchenyuk scored the team’s very first powerplay goal against the Leafs, but that’s a very small victory in the hearts of Julien and Kirk Muller. With one goal in 16 opportunities, only the Vegas Golden Knights, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks have a worse success rate with a man advantage than the Habs so far this season. In a league where the first goal of a game is so important, having a strong powerplay can make the difference between a win or a loss, and on a team struggling to score goals, taking advantage of your opponents’ indiscipline is that much more important. This, folks, is where the absence of Andrei Markov is mostly felt, as the general had a way of finding passing lanes where few others could. Someone else has to find a way to get this thing going in the right direction and the sooner, the better.

 

So as you can clearly see, this is not a managerial problem at this point. When the players are playing at their full capacity, only then talk to me about Bergevin being fired! Until then, it’s a matter of players finding their game, for the coaching staff to find lines with chemistry and for key players on the team to find their legs. Which reminds me of this quote from one of my very favourite movies all-time:

Lieutenant Da

Here’s hoping that the Canadiens do have legs to find! Go Habs Go!

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Habs’ Twitter Blunder… Or Not

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Sometimes, fans and media get rather desperate and this year seems to follow the trend of last year. The loss of a couple of key players from last season seems to have overtaken fans and media’s mind, even making them forget the gains the Montreal Canadiens have made this summer. This has for effect to blow little things out of proportion, even taking everything as facts even if it makes absolutely no sense. Guys like Eklund, for example, have been feeding on this for many years now.

The Habs’ fan base had a perfect example this week when a Reddit user apparently caught a glimpse at Colorado Avalanche’s forward Matt Duchene‘s Twitter account noticing that the Montreal Canadiens’ Twitter had, for a very short time, followed the centre’s account.

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It didn’t take more to make this the talk of town amongst Habs’ fans. It is no secret that Duchene and the Avalanche are not in best terms and team GM Joe Sakic has admitted listening to offers for him. It has also been well documented that the Canadiens, in desperate need of a top-two lines centre, are one of the most serious suiters for Duchene, as reported as recently as earlier this week by the most notable NHL insiders. But not so fast folk!

Common sense

Who runs the Montreal Canadiens’ Twitter account do you think? If you answer Marc Bergevin or any of the people “in the know” of classified information about such topics like trades or player signings, I’m sorry to say that you are dead wrong. And it’s not Geoff Molson either folks. No, the twitter account is maned by a few staff members in the social media section of the PR department, no more, no less.

So before taking this to the bank as the Canadiens having a deal in place for Duchene, ask yourself: would Bergevin and his team inform the Twitter account users or the NHL for an announcement? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Also, don’t you think that it’s bizarre that nobody else but this user saw that and “reported” it immediately? Further, in a world where fake Twitter accounts pop up at every trade deadline or free agency period, have you ever heard of how easy it is to photoshop something like that, to get their 5 minutes of fame?

Some are comparing this to the instance of this past summer when Alexei Emelin started following the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Twitter. We all know that Vegas ended up claiming Emelin at the expansion draft. However, those making the correlation are forgetting one important fact: a player finding out that a team will select them at an expansion draft is NOT the same as a NHL social media team staff finding out about a trade of such magnitude as Duchene to Montreal. Nowhere close, even.

Conclusion

While there is no doubt that Matt Duchene has been on the Habs Radar for quite some time, there are two possibilities, in my humble opinion:

1- It was made up and photoshop

Yes, this is the most likely possibility, in spite of the desperation in hoping that Marc Bergevin would pull the trigger to address one of the Canadiens’ biggest need. Someone feeding on the biggest fan base’s desperation, what an incredible concept, right?

2- It was a mistake

The staff tweeting from the Canadiens’ Twitter account all have their own personal Twitter account as well and it is very likely that they all use Apps and programs such as UberSocial, TweetDeck, HootSuite (just to name a few) to run their multiple accounts. If you have used those yourself, you will know how easy it is to mistakenly pick the wrong account. I’m guessing that if the image is legitimate and that the Canadiens’ account followed Duchene for a short time, it was a staff member wanting to follow him from his personal account and clicked the wrong account to do so. Realizing the mistake, the Tweet was immediately deleted.

So before letting desperation dictate our thoughts, let’s think the situation over folks. Yes, it is possible that Bergevin and the Canadiens get their hands on Duchene. They have $8.4 million reasons do to so and definitely the need for him. But if or when that happens, you can bet your pay check that the NHL and major insiders like Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun or Elliott Friedman will know and publish the news well before Mr. or Mrs. Smith working the team’s Twitter account. I’m not a betting man but I would definitely gamble on that one.

If you would like to follow Matt Duchene on Twitter, you can do so by following @Matt9Duchene. If you are wanting to do this and are handling the Montreal Canadiens’ official Twitter account, please ensure that you are doing it from your personal account, not to give desperate fans a heart attack. Go Habs Go!!!