1. The Canadiens did this to themselves
The talking points were there.
#Habs Julien described tonight’s game as frustrating, unacceptable and embarrassing. Felt his team got sloppy after Deslaurier’s fight which gave AZ energy.— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) November 17, 2017
Sure it’s easy to call out Nicolas Deslauriers. But I mean, what in the world did Claude Julien expect? Here’s a guy who was desperate to return to the NHL. He would presumably do anything to stay and make his mark. Then you are surprised or upset when a fight he has gives the other team energy?
It’s like holding a slab of meat in front of a hungry dog and being upset when he takes it. What did you expect?
Yes the Canadiens were sloppy, but the Canadiens did this to themselves with the roster decisions they made. Which takes me to...
2. The fourth line needs to change
Four minutes and 58 seconds. Five minutes and 22 seconds. Six minutes and four seconds.
Those are the even strength minutes for Deslauriers, Jacob de la Rose and Byron Froese in last night’s game.
If you can’t trust your fourth line to play a regular shift, here’s an idea: get a better fourth line.
There is no excuse for this. Absolutely none. They have Daniel Carr just waiting in Laval. Swap out Deslauriers for Carr and the fourth line goes from “hope they don’t kill us” to “hey maybe they will do something positive.”
We saw this last year as well. They could have played Michael McCarron. They could have played Sven Andrighetto. Or Carr. Or Charles Hudon. They played Steve Ott. Brian Flynn. Dwight King. Andreas Martinsen.
The Canadiens have enough offensive depth to have four dangerous lines. Sure it goes away with injuries to guys like Artturi Lehkonen and (although some will disagree) Ales Hemsky. But they willingly choose to give 5-7 minutes a night to players who you hope won’t hurt you as opposed to playing to win.
Just one change - putting Carr with Froese and de la Rose turns that into a line that actually can hurt the other team. It was a stupid decision at the time and it doesn’t look any better after the game.
If everyone is healthy, imagine if Hudon is on a line with Froese and Carr. Tell me you wouldn’t like that line to play eight minutes a night against the other team’s fourth line. But instead, the Habs use a guy who spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice at even strength.
3. The slot defence needs to be better
The Canadiens controlled the shot attempts. They controlled the shots on goal. But there was one area that sticks out when looking at the shot attempts, and the goals scored.
That’s the Arizona Coyotes shot chart. Yes, that’s three goals (green dots) and many shots (blue dots) from the slot. You can blame Charlie Lindgren all you want, but I don’t care if the Canadiens had literally any goaltender in the world. You can’t allow chances like that so close to your net.
Shea Weber and Karl Alzner are supposed to be good at clearing the net. It hasn’t shown up yet. This is also what is hurting their penalty kill. They are allowing the other team to have way too many chances in prime positions. It’s been a trend since the beginning of the year, and even beyond that when Michel Therrien was the coach.
The Canadiens are a mess in their own end, and that’s a major reason why. I don’t know who designs the Habs defensive zone coverage, but they need to make changes. They can control shot attempts and scoring chances, but if the chances they give up are within five feet of their net, they won’t win many games.
Although the scoring chances were 31-29 Montreal (25-17 at even strength), high danger chances were 17-8 Arizona, according to Natural Stat Trick.
4. The penalty kill needs to be better
We’re into the second month of the season. There’s no excuse for things like this to be happening...
Yes, that’s the Canadiens on the penalty kill allowing two guys behind them. You know when I was talking about slot defence? This isn’t good. It needs to change, and until it does, we can’t truly judge this team. The roster construction isn’t perfect but until the details are fixed, I don’t know if personnel is even the biggest issue this team has.
5. The offence is coming around
The first two goals by the Canadiens last night were exactly what they need to do to turn chances into goals. Both goals were passes across the dangerous part of the ice, called the Royal Road. It’s how teams turn good opportunities into great ones, and it was good to see players like Alex Galchenyuk, Charles Hudon, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron getting involved in plays like that.
The Habs have had a knack for making life easy for opposing goaltenders, but this is an indication of them playing an East-West style in the offensive zone that makes like tough on the goalie. It will help turn those shots and chances into goals.