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Ten Takeaways from the Habs vs Blackhawks game

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Ten observations after the latest Canadiens loss.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Canadiens are a heck of a lot better when they use controlled exits and entries.

One of the goals the Blackhawks scored was shortly after a failed clearing attempt. Nearly every dump-out and dump-in on the night failed to lead to anything positive. Why this is a strategy the team insists on continuing to use is maddening, because when they actually try to execute controlled breakouts, they look great, and when they do the same for break-ins, they also look great.

To say that the coaching staff can't see this would be quite a hard statement to believe. This is what makes the use of the dump-and-chase strategy so maddening; it's very obviously not their strong suit. All of a sudden, in the third period against Chicago they did away with the strategy, and peppered Corey Crawford with shots. It is clear that the control strategy needs to be employed much more consistently.

2. The return of the stretch pass?

Before the third period, and after the blatant failure of the dump-and-chase game, the dreadful stretch pass reared its ugly head again. This is a familiar strategy from last year, whereby the Canadiens constantly look to fire hail mary passes through the middle and create breakaways.

The problem with this is that it fails nine times out of 10, and those nine failures are usually interceptions or icing calls. Either way, you don't get the breakaway you were looking for, so it's a very low-percentage gamble. It can be likened to putting your life savings on the powerball; if it works out, great, but the odds of success are heavily stacked against you.

3. Mike Condon is far from being a problem right now.

Yes, it would obviously be amazing to have Carey Price back in the lineup. There is no replacing him, unless you have, say, Braden Holtby, or a clone of Carey Price. That said, Condon is giving the team a chance to win every time he plays. He had virtually no chance on either goal last night, so there's no way you could say he's at fault for the loss.

4. The Habs are who we thought they were.

It was said many times last year; without Price the Habs would be battling for their playoff lives. Now, without him, they are doing exactly that. Yes, Mike Condon has been very good, but they don't have that magical presence stealing games for them on a regular basis. Condon gives them a chance to win, but Price often goes out and takes wins himself.

Sure, having that star goaltender back would be great, but then they are in the same position as last year; riding the Price train. That's a pretty good train to be on, but heavy reliance on your goaltender is not a recipe for long term success, and the Habs have known that for a few years now.

5. Alex Galchenyuk is undeterred by controversy.

His Corsi For score was 54.17% at even-strength, and he looked like a man on a mission at many points last night. Clearly, the recent media storm surrounding his incident hasn't slowed him down at all, and that has to be taken as a silver lining to the loss.

It was, in my opinion, an overblown issue in terms of what it means for him. He didn't do anything wrong, and it's probably high time to stop talking about it. What should be talked about is his play on the ice, and last night it was nothing short of excellent.

6. Late-game pushes are not a winning strategy.


Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca

I know that score effects are a thing, but the chart to the right is score-adjusted. The Habs really turned it on late, but it was the proverbial "too little, too late." If they just play that way for 60 minutes they probably win this game, barring 60 full minutes of Corey Crawford dominating. Why does it take a third period deficit to illicit that play?

I know that the way hockey is played evolves based on the score, but if the ability to play like that is there, why not use those exact strategies during an entire game? As aforementioned, the first period was a dump-and-chase fest, yet they recognized how bad that was, and switched it up. Seriously, why not just play 60 minutes the good way?

7. How short is Michel Therrien's leash right now?

Yes, Marc Bergevin has repeatedly stated his support for the coach. No, I'm not going to publicly beat the new coach drum just yet. That said, a few more losses and the Habs are on the outside looking in. Does anyone seriously think that there is not a real possibility that he's on his last legs?

Missing the playoffs is unacceptable in Montreal. If Marc Bergevin doesn't want his job to be in jeopardy, he must have some kind of countdown going before he reaches a point where a decision must be made. If they can't string together a few wins soon, I'd venture to guess that a coaching change isn't far off.

8. "We have to find a way to score" - Max Pacioretty

That quote about sums it up. Price in nets or not, the problem right now isn't goaltending, it's putting the puck in the other net. Michel Therrien likes to say that you need three goals to win a game, and right now it would be very refreshing to see the team do exactly that in consecutive games.

Corey Crawford probably stole a few goals from them last night, that much is true. Regardless, the goal scoring problem goes much deeper than last night, and Pacioretty has a point; they won't start winning if they don't start scoring more goals.

9. The line blender might be part of the scoring problem.

How can a team realistically be expected to achieve scoring consistency when the lines are about as consistent as the current of the Niagara river? Shaking things up has always been thought of as a way to generate more scoring, but when you're shaking things up as often as the Habs have lately, is it counter-productive?

I think so. I think that the way to go is to look at the last month or so of games, determine which configurations have been working best, then stick with exactly that for 10 games or so. Let them try to build more rapport. Let them try to build more consistency. I'm not an NHL coach, but I'd try that before I'd keep constantly blending to no avail.

10. I'm exasperated, and I'd bet that most fans feel like I do.

I watch every single Habs game, every year. Barring a completely unavoidable obligation, I'm watching intently. I honestly can't remember a stretch of games this frustrating in my adult life. I can't pretend to have all the answers, because I don't, but I know that right now the on-ice product isn't living up to the standards that Habs fans hold the team to.

The harsh truth is that the Habs are about to fall out of a playoff spot, and that is completely unacceptable in this city. Something has to give, and it needs to happen soon.