Before we get into the serious stuff, because there is serious stuff, let's take a moment to acknowledge the amazing work done by the Montreal Canadiens' amateur scouting staff. Trevor TImmins and company took Sven Andrighetto in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, a player most fans watching had never heard of. The first reaction was that the Canadiens took someone who had gone undrafted already, twice.
There would be no time to evaluate Andrighetto as a prospect, he had to be signed to a professional deal right away, and head to Hamilton. On a dismal team, Andrighetto had a solid first season in the AHL, finishing second on the team in points, and third in goals (first in goals per game). This season, his AHL scoring pace is 33 goals over a full season, and 65 points.
Even at that, it's been an astonishing run for Andrighetto, who fought his way through the lower level Swiss hockey leagues before heading over to the QMJHL. But the story got even sweeter on Saturday night when Andrighetto was not only called up, not only put in the lineup, but scored his first NHL goal, on his first NHL shot.
Andrighetto was overwhelmed playing third line center in his first NHL game, but when moved to wing he instantly looked the part.
Now comes the depressing part
In the span of two weeks, the Canadiens have fallen from first overall in the NHL to 11th. Worse yet, their -5 goal differential (remove shootout winners from the results on NHL.com) is tied for 19th overall in the NHL, with the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators.
In those two weeks the Canadiens have as many losses in seven games as they had in the previous 22. As has been the case in most of their games this season, the Canadiens were taken apart tactically by a Dallas Stars team that had allowed 20 goals in its previous four games.
The lack of Lars Eller to stabilize the third line was more than apparent, with Jiri Sekac cratering to just a 26% Corsi at even strength, possibly his worst game of the season.
If this game was any indication of what can be expected of the Habs with Eller on the sidelines, Michel Therrien better be praying for a quick recovery, because it's only going to get uglier against Vancover and Los Angeles next week.
Without Eller to take defensive zone draws, Therrien has a tough choice going forward. He can load up Plekanec with defensive zone starts and possibly submarine his production, or he can spread the load out relatively evenly and hope it holds. This would mean giving an inexperienced center a fair number of defensive zone draws, and it would also mean Desharnais losing his extreme zone push, and probably a lot of his offensive production too.
He tried to have the best of both worlds against the Stars, keeping Desharnais in the offensive zone for most of his starts, and spreading the rest between Plekanec and Andrighetto, and it was a disaster. Not only did Andrighetto's line fail while he was centering it, but the Desharnais line didn't produce at all.
Late in the game, with nothing to lose since the score was 3-0 already, Therrien finally tried Alex Galchenyuk at center, and even broke up David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty to do it, which would be interesting going forward, but it was readily apparent that unless the way the Habs approach their systems changes, juggling lines is only going to make a minor difference.
What ever happened to the Therrien the Habs hired in 2012-13?