1. Style points don’t matter
It wasn’t a very pretty game from a coach’s perspective. Heck, it wasn’t even a pretty game for the Montreal Canadiens in terms of possession numbers. It doesn’t matter.
This team needs wins. Their first half of the season (which had good underlying numbers but bad results) don’t give them the luxury of waiting for things to turn around. They just need them to turn around.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were some really bad things that happened last night. But leaving Vancouver with two points to start their historically-awful Holiday road trip is the only news that matters.
I’m not saying Corsi or possession doesn’t matter - it very much does. But the thing that needs to matter most right now is points in the standings. Not how they come.
2. The Canadiens fourth line is actually good
All Daniel Carr did at the NHL level is get points. But this year, since his recall, he’s doing so at a pace that is quite remarkable. In eight games he has nine points, a total he reached after 23 and 33 games in his first two NHL seasons.
Carr, by all accounts, worked hard to improve all aspects of his game, even getting Sylvain Lefebvre to trust him on the penalty kill in the AHL.
I’ve said this before, but I severely doubt he sees the AHL again. He would require waivers with two more games (which he will see) and I doubt he makes it through this time.
He breathed life into the fourth line, and even Nicolas Deslauriers is benefitting from it. When Artturi Lehkonen returns from injury, this team will have an even better fourth line. It means that someone currently in the top-nine will have to drop out of it. The fourth line has earned Claude Julien’s trust and has rewarded that trust. It’s making the Canadiens a four line team once again.
3. OK, seriously, fix the penalty kill
I can deal with the team allowing power play goals to the other team. But it’s not the fact they are giving up goals. It’s how they are giving up goals.
Great penalty killing as usual. Why bother trying to move Vanek. such a tough, hardnosed gritty winger #habs #tsn690 pic.twitter.com/jrYTuehdmf— Rod Francis (@InRodWeTrustMTL) December 20, 2017
Vancouver's best player had a wee bit of room. #habs pic.twitter.com/CIwKKAmoeY— Rod Francis (@InRodWeTrustMTL) December 20, 2017
Positioning is so key on the penalty kill and I can safely say that at least seven of the eight Canadiens in the frame (not counting Carey Price) are out of position. It may even be eight, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to one of the four guys covering air in the slot of picture one.
This is not good. It’s been an issue since the beginning of the season. And if it is one of the assistants, they should be given another task. If it’s Claude Julien, he should find someone to help him. There’s no excuse anymore and it isn’t an anomaly. It’s a trend, and a troubling one.
4. The power play is showing signs of life but still needs work
The Canadiens power play is not perfect. But it scored two goals from shots from the point and traffic in front. Carr’s goal was tipped and Jeff Petry’s goal had a great screen in front in addition to being a great shot.
Jonathan Drouin’s talents on the power play as a playmaker are being wasted because his teammates are not helping him out away from the puck.
As soon as the team sets up in the offensive zone, they know exactly what they will do and don’t move. What good is having a quarterback like Tom Brady if his receivers stay in one spot waiting for a pass? It makes those dangerous cross-ice passes telegraphed and easy to stop. If we can tell what the Habs are trying to do watching from home, you can be sure that the other team filled with professionals can do it too.
It’s encouraging they actually scored a couple of goals, but it still seems like a frustrating waste of all the talent the power play has at its disposal.
5. Max Pacioretty will be fine
I can just imagine social media if Pacioretty had scored that empty net goal “oh there’s another useless goal”
OK, those last two will happen anyways. But Pacioretty looked like himself yesterday and that is good news for everyone.
I personally think rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated but this is Montreal and the Canadiens are struggling so it is what it is.
Pacioretty was the only Canadiens player on the ice for more shots for than against at even strength. No one else was above 50%. He had several scoring chances that should have gone in if not for Anders Nilsson. Those shots will go in more often than not and his two assists were on the biggest goals of the night (both times to give Montreal a two-goal lead in the third period).
To paraphrase the great Shawn Carter, the Canadiens may have 99 problems but Pacioretty isn’t one.