1. That was atrocious
There is no beating around the bush here, that was the most lackadaisical, god-awful effort I’ve witnessed from the Montreal Canadiens this year. Right from the outset there was no urgency in their game, no drive to make things happen around the net.
It took so long to mount sustained offence that Craig Anderson probably could have built a snowman in his crease, put his pads on it and it would have made just as many saves against the Habs.
Even while down a goal, there seemed to be no pushback from Montreal, they were content to take low-percentage shots and not really test Anderson or the Ottawa defence. They’ve been blown out multiple times this year, but there was some fire mixed in at some point. Last night was a listless, boring effort.
2. Someone please help Carey
The only player that showed up to play for the Habs was Carey Price, and that’s a surprise to absolutely no one. He did his damnedest to drag the Habs to any sort of positive result. The two goals against are hard to pin on Price alone, as Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s redirection was perfect, while going head-to-head with Bobby Ryan isn’t an easy feat, especially so quickly after a teammate’s turnover. He can cover so many of the Habs flaws, but right now the team can’t score to save their lives, and unless Price suits up as a centre, even he can’t resolve that issue.
Claude Julien has fixed many things with this team, but the current roster available simply isn’t working to the level it needs to. The big names in the lineup need to step up and help the guy in net right now, because he might be the best goalie in the world, but he can only handle business at one end of the ice.
3. The power play is DOA
The Canadiens got one power play on the night, and spent more time fishing it out of their end than testing the Senators. Shea Weber is an obvious pillar for it to be built around, but David Schlemko playing on the first wave is a head-scratcher to say the least. Players aren’t being used in their area of strength, and as a whole they look disjointed and utterly bewildered on some occasions.
Kirk Muller was brought in to jump-start the man advantage last year, and now it’s sputtering to even get the puck in the zone most nights. With the options available on this roster, there is no reason why the power play should be struggling this badly.
A returning Artturi Lehkonen is very likely to help, and giving younger players like Daniel Carr and Charles Hudon expanded time might be worth trying out. It’s not like it can any worse than it already is.
4. Fourth line love
It needs to come to an end: the fourth line is playing far too much and it’s not a good thing for the Canadiens. The two best or at least most consistent players in Montreal’s lineup for the last stretch have been Hudon and Brendan Gallagher, and it’s not overly close either.
I’ve defended a lot of Claude Julien’s decisions, but last night Nicolas Deslauriers played just as much as Hudon and had more ice time than Gallagher. In a game where the team struggles to get the offence going, a fourth-liner who wasn’t even lighting up the AHL played more than the team’s two best wingers.
The fourth line with Daniel Carr is fine in small bursts, but deploying them in the way that they have is only hurting the team. Carr has been fantastic, but both of Byron Froese and Deslauriers should be in the AHL with Laval right now.
As it stands right now, the fourth line is being overused, and Claude Julien needs to lean more on the guys who are actually capable of putting the puck in the net.
5. Erik Karlsson was incredible
Listening to a neutral broadcast fawn over a player on the opposing team is never fun, especially when it’s a direct rival. However, Erik Karlsson was probably the best player on the ice last night for either side, and was more than worthy of the praise. Given all the nonsense about his team’s owner being mad that his superstar wants to be paid exactly what he’s worth, and his negetive remarks about the team, players, and fans, Karlsson putting on a performance like that is nothing short of incredible.
He’s likely not even 100% healthy and is an incredible talent in the modern NHL, which is what makes it all the more funny when you realize Ottawa isn’t going to pay him what he deserves, and he’s going walk and leave the Senators in a pile of irrelevancy.
Bonus point: Go West Young Habs
The Western Canada trip looms large in front of the Canadiens now, and it couldn’t be a bigger deal right now. Montreal heading out west is usually a trip that doesn’t go well for them. The Oilers, Flames, and Canucks will provide a sort of measuring stick for a team struggling to find it’s identity.
If the Habs don’t figure it out there, they head to Carolina and face both Florida teams the week afterward. Things are either going to get better for the Habs as they face this major road trip, or things are going to get much worse heading into the new year.
Marc Bergevin is going to have to make some serious decisions by the time January rolls around, these next two weeks will likely dictate the strategy moving forward.