There really is no sugar coating it; the Montreal Canadiens are mired in a serious slump. A Monday-nighter against the Nashville Predators promised an opportunity to reverse the recent misfortunes, with a new face in the lineup. Jarred Tinordi got his first nod of the year, and Dustin Tokarski was given the start during the first half of another back-to-back.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
Bad luck has been the standard for the Canadiens lately, and Monday night didn't start out any differently. Despite a solid first period by the tricolore, the Predators struck first, as Shea Weber blasted a screened shot home from the point. As has been the case lately, the first lapse by the Canadiens burned them.
Despite out-attempting the Preds at a rate of 23-15, the Habs yet again found themselves playing from behind heading into the second. They may have been the better team in the first, but they once again failed to score, and found themselves in serious need of second-period scoring.
While they managed to dominate the first half of the second period, a holding penalty against Dale Weise provided an opportunity at the other end. This time, Roman Josi capitalized through a screen, and Montreal found themselves down by two without necessarily deserving it.
By the end of the second, the attempts were 41-23 in favour of the Canadiens, yet they trailed by two tallies. If they needed scoring heading into the second, the desperation level was surely at its highest after that frame.
An early third period penalty against Alexei Emelin would again exacerbate the woes of late, as Lars Eller appeared to end up inadvertently deflecting a puck into his own net as the penalty expired. The goal was ultimately credited to Ryan Ellis, but the end result was a 3-0 lead for Nashville regardless.
That would be it for Dustin Tokarski on the night, and Mike Condon didn't fare much better. He allowed the fourth goal of the game on only the second shot he faced, giving Nashville a stranglehold on a game they already appeared to have.
Montreal couldn't get one past Pekka Rinne until Nashville had already tallied their fourth, but even that wouldn't count. Daniel Carr has been unbelievable, and he put one in the net, but some minor contact between Rinne and Alex Galchenyuk caused the goal to be disallowed, despite the fact that Galchenyuk looked to have been shoved into Rinne on the play.
Eventually they would break Rinne's shutout bid during a 4-on-3 power play, with Alex Galchenyuk taking a feed from Max Pacioretty, and hammering it home to bring the Habs back within three.
Unfortunately, that was all she wrote, and the Preds were able to ride it out from there, finishing things off with a Colin Wilson empty-netter. In what seems like a foregone conclusion of late, the Canadiens lost, and lost big. You have to wonder when — but right now it's seemingly a question of if — they'll be able to turn this ship around.
While it is clear that the Canadiens have done a good job in putting more rubber towards the net than their opponents lately, the results simply aren't there. As nice as it is to deserve a win statistically, not scoring has and always will be a major impediment to actually winning.
Having a decisive edge in shot attempts and scoring chances is great, but if you can't capitalize, these end up being nothing more than empty statistics. It would be easy to say that things would be better with a healthy Carey Price, but without scoring, even he cannot guarantee a winning record.
It is pretty hard to say whether now is the time to panic, or not. It might actually be the opposite. Perhaps the incessant changing of lines and pairings is an impediment to consistency, particularly in the scoring department. Maybe what is needed is a few games of continuity before consistent scoring can be realistically expected.
I can't pretend to know what the answer is at this point. Michel Therrien has tried seemingly every configuration imaginable, but he's not getting results. As easy as it would be to just pile it all on the coach, his lines and system are working, they're just not getting a single shred of luck.
The Habs outshot the Preds 36-19. They out-attempted the Preds 63-32. You could say the Preds were opportunistic, you could say the Habs were absurdly unlucky, but the one thing you can't say is that the Habs played a bad game as a team. That has been the case lately, and it was more of the same on Monday.
As weird as it may sound, it probably isn't time to panic yet. Assuming that the near universally accepted truth of regression to the mean will strike, the Canadiens play will eventually begin to produce wins. Hopefully this comes soon, because if it doesn't, pressure will start to build on Marc Bergevin to make some major changes.