In the NHL playoffs, there's very little room to make mistakes. One misread can cascade from a turnover to a loss, to losing a series entirely. The playoffs are about the process you've laid down all season long carrying you through, but it's also about catching lightning in a bottle and running with it. We saw that last year with increased roles for Lars Eller, Rene Bourque, and Dale Weise, but this year, so far, Therrien's gambles have been both less logical, and less effective.
After being incomparably brutal down the stretch after being acquired at the trade deadline, both in possession and production, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn had an otherworldly game to begin the playoffs. Because of this, they seem to have gained Therrien's unflinching trust, even though the fourth line was caved in the following three games. In Game Five, Torrey Mitchell was given as much ice time as Lars Eller (Under 14 minutes), despite the latter putting on the best performance of any Habs forward in the playoffs with an insane 83.3% control of shot attempts.
When asked post game by Francois Gagnon what Eller would have to do to get more ice time, after being easily the Canadiens' best player in the game and setting up the Habs' only goal, Therrien responded "We roll four lines". When pressed again, that the top two lines got significantly more ice time, and why didn't Eller, Therrien responded "We roll four lines". Coaches rarely give you answers worth printing at the best of times, and it gets even worse in the playoffs, but that's an answer that just looks smug, from a coach that looks lost.
Combine that with the fact that Therrien has once again shoved P.A. Parenteau aside for seemingly no reason, with the result being three goals in three games, similar to the last time the coach stubbornly scratched the skilled winger. When Parenteau was re-inserted, eh led the Canadiens in scoring at even strength from that moment to the end of the playoffs, almost like he can make a difference when you're trying to put the puck in the net.
As it stands, the Canadiens have six players in their lineup who, currently, should not be anywhere higher in the lineup than the fourth line; Flynn, Mitchell, Brandon Prust, Dale Weise, Devante Smith-Pelly, and as admirable a job as he's doing in tough minutes at just 19-years-old, Jacob de la Rose. Simply put, that's just way too many players who won't be regular factors offensively to have on one team, and it's burned the Habs big time.
A good possession game, kind of
It's pretty clear from my vantage point that outside of the Eller line, the Canadiens dialed in another stinker on Friday night, but on the surface, it looks like they were dominant in terms of possession. The shot clock of 46-25 especially, makes it seem as though the Canadiens had the puck all night, and in a way they did, but it wasn't a great game.
It sure looks like one if you look at their raw possession numbers, especially in all situations, but when you take the extra step of adjusting for score situation, and counting only even strength ice time, you get a very different story.
It wasn't until the final 10 minutes of the third period where the Canadiens finally began to pull away, and even for all those shots, what was the damage? According to War on Ice, the scoring chances were 20-16 at even strength, while Martin Leclerc had the chances at 13-11, both in favour of the Habs. An extra 21 shot attempts at even strength, 17 shots on goal, all for 2-4 extra chances to score? That's just throwing pucks at the net and hoping something happens, it's not playing well.
The Canadiens have one more chance to close out this series without their backs being against the wall, and judging by their first two attempts, it doesn't exactly look promising.