What exactly are the Montreal Canadiens trying to accomplish?
It sounds like a stupid question, but the coaching staff and management seem to be sending diametrically opposed signals. Management spent the trade deadline period making up for the mistakes of the summer, acquiring the extremely solid Mike Weaver to bolster the defensive corps, and the best scorer available in Thomas Vanek.
Marc Bergevin sent the signal at the deadline that the Canadiens expect to compete deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, while Michel Therrien sends the signal that they don't care enough to take games seriously and give themselves the best chance to win.
Heading into the playoffs, Therrien is too busy playing head games with P.K. Subban to extract the best performance out of his team, continually cutting the Norris Trophy winner's ice time, overplaying Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin to disastrous results.
Most playoff teams spend the last 10 games of the season either jockeying for position, or if their position was secured like Montreal's was, getting everyone on the same page heading into the first round. Therrien still doesn't know what role his third line will play, and instead of testing out his better, rookie defensemen, he has the defensive core in a blender, moving guys in and out for seemingly no strategic reason.
The Canadiens have won a lot of games in the last quarter of the season, but the possession game they were playing coming out of the Olympics has disappeared once more, getting curb stomped by an AHL team with one of the worst starting goaltenders in the NHL holding the fort against Long Island. They were winning due to an absurdly high shooting percentage over that time, nearly doubling their season average with over 13% of their shots turning into goals.
That kind of shooting percentage hides a lot of nonsense. Brian Gionta playing on the left for the first time in his career, Thomas Vanek still playing on the right even though he's more comfortable on the left, Francis Bouillon either being a healthy scratch or a first pairing defenseman, Rene Bourque getting more ice time than Daniel Briere, and Alexei Emelin getting more ice time than P.K. Subban in spite of doing things like this:
Watch that play, then watch it again. Ask yourself honestly if you believe P.K. Subban would see another second of ice time in that period if it was he who pulled that boner move. That's what I thought.
The Canadiens continue to be a mixed bag, showing up in most games, but putting forth four of their worst games of the entire season in their last eleven.
The highly vaunted Pacioretty - Desharnais - Vanek line has been scoring like crazy, yet getting outchanced nearly every game, in spite of getting a severe offensive zone push that sees them start 59.1% of their non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone.
That doesn't seem that extreme, until you realize that only 42.0% of the Canadiens' non-neutral zone faceoffs have been in the offensive zone since that line was created. What this means, is that when the "top" line isn't on the ice, the other three lines have a combined 33.9% offensive zone start percentage.
The Vanek line has seen a whopping 45% of Montreal's total even strength offensive zone faceoffs, in spite of being on the ice for just 31.3% of the total faceoffs the team takes.
In raw numbers, the Vanek line has seen 81 even strength offensive zone starts, and 56 defensive zone starts. The rest of the team combined has seen 99 offensive zone starts, and 193 in the defensive zone. This essentially turns the Canadiens into a one line team, and due to the defensive black hole that is David Desharnais, and Vanek playing on his off wing, that one line has still been outchanced.
This is not a recipe for success.
If you're going to mortgage the entire roster to benefit one line, you have to have the defensive horses to carry the load, and Montreal just doesn't.
If Ben Bishop is out for the playoffs, the Canadiens may win one round, but unless things drastically change, be prepared for disappointment.