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Canadiens vs Blue Jackets Game Recap: We all need a break

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Coming into this game, one team was the worst team in the league and didn't even have a coach. The other team lost.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens came into their rematch against the Columbus Blue Jackets, having won just five of their last 23 games. They now have five wins of their last 24 games.

Michel Therrien juggled his lines ahead of the game in an attempt to spark some offence. This resulted in some unusual line combinations, and led to certain players playing on their off-sides.

20160126 5v5SA Corsi
Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

The Canadiens got off to a good start, nearly springing Jacob de la Rose on a breakaway and earning an early power play after sustained pressure in the Jackets' end. Montreal made a slight tweak to the power play units, icing four forwards and one defenseman during the man advantage.

This decision nearly paid off when Brendan Gallagher pulled a nifty move to get the puck to Max Pacioretty, but the captain couldn't bury the opportunity. Montreal's push came to a sudden halt when Torrey Mitchell's ill-timed holding penalty gave the Blue Jackets a chance of their own. Boone Jenner was left unchallenged in front of Ben Scrivens, and had no trouble tapping in his own rebound past the goaltender. Though Scrivens was out of position on that goal, Montreal's poor defensive coverage was equally to blame.

The Canadiens got another opportunity on the man advantage before the end of the period, courtesy of Seth Jones' holding penalty, but managed to generate very little from it. The Canadiens returned the favour less than five minutes later when Pacioretty was penalized for tripping. The Blue Jackets took full advantage, with Scott Hartnell redirecting a pass from Nick Foligno through Scrivens' five hole. As with the first Columbus goal, Hartnell stood uncontested in front of Montreal's net.

An undisciplined play by Alex Galchenyuk put the Canadiens back on the penalty kill a mere twenty-two seconds into the second. The third time was the charm for the penalty kill and the Canadiens parlayed the momentum from the successful kill into sustained pressure in Columbus's end. A P.K. Subban pass from the blue line found Torrey Mitchell, who went on to make a fantastic pass to a wide-open Devante Smith-Pelly. Smith-Pelly buried the puck into the open net — his first goal in thirteen games — and brought the Habs within one.

As is tradition with the Habs, no good deed went unpunished. P.K. Subban's slapshot later in the frame changed trajectory and hit Max Pacioretty near his neck. That marked the end of Pacioretty's night as he left and did not return.

Just minutes later, Subban turned the puck over to Cam Atkinson behind the net, and Brandon Dubinsky fired his pass past Scrivens' shoulder.

The Blue Jackets's indiscipline threatened to squander their lead, as they took three consecutive minor penalties in the second period, but the Canadiens couldn't take advantage of their opportunities. Brendan Gallagher was a force to be reckoned with on the man advantage, and was instrumental in applying pressure on the Blue Jackets.

The third period started off at a snail's pace, with both team's making little effort to avoid icing the puck. But Ryan Murray's impatience gave the Canadiens an early power play opportunity nearly three minutes in.

The futile power play flickered back to life, as Alex Galchenyuk snaped a one-timer from Subban past Joonas Korpisalo, cutting Columbus' lead to one again. It was a smart play by Subban who opted not to shoot but to feed an open Galchenyuk instead.

With time running out, the Habs amped up their pressure, but another costly turnover by Subban in the neutral zone sprung Cam Atkinson on a breakaway, and he went five hole to restore his team's two-goal lead. The Canadiens went on to pull Scrivens in one last attempt to pull even with the Blue Jackets, but Brandon Saad scored an empty netter to end Montreal's night, the Blue Jackets winning 5-2 for the second consecutive night.

Thoughts

  • The Montreal Canadiens dropped back to back games against the worst team in the league by a combined score of 10 to 4. Even more impressively, the team has managed to give up five of a possible six points to two of the worst teams in the NHL. This trend doesn't bode well for the Canadiens' playoff aspirations.
  • Montreal's power play is shockingly awful. Despite Alex Galchenyuk's power-play marker in the third, the Canadiens went 1 for 6 in the game. Their power-play prowess ranks a paltry 20th in the league, largely buoyed by the strength of the 22 goals they scored on the man advantage before December 3rd. The team has only managed to score eight goals since.
  • Though Subban's turnover did lead to Dubinsky's goal, it is difficult to blame him alone for that goal. Looking back at that play, it's clear that he had no support in his own end despite being covered by two Blue Jackets. Of the four other Canadiens on the ice, Nathan Beaulieu was the only one near enough to Subban to reasonably provide a passing option.
  • Though its unfair to hang this loss on Ben Scrivens, an .840 SV% isn't doing the Canadiens any favours. The team needs at least league-average goaltending to help them out.

The All-Star break couldn't come at a better time for the Montreal Canadiens. It'll give the team an opportunity to lick its wounds and re-group after a tough stretch of games. Their upcoming schedule is littered with teams who are less focused on a playoff spot at the end of the season, and more on Auston Matthews. If not for the players, it will, at the very least, spare Habs fans the misery of having to watch this team lose on a consistent basis, all the while knowing that nothing is going to change in the near future.

The Canadiens' next game goes on Tuesday, February 2 versus the Philadelphia Flyers.  You can see Subban a little sooner, as he will take part in the All-Star festivities this weekend, facing the St. John's IceCaps' John Scott in Sunday's 3-on-3 competition.