1. Puck-watching in the defensive zone
There seemed to be a lack of activity in the defensive zone last night. Not enough players keep track of the other team’s skaters when they play defence. Even if the first two Carolina goals come under special circumstances (a turnover and a power play), the Canadiens defenders were too busy watching the puck.
All five players were on the same half of the ice when Teuvo Teravainen scored the opening goal. He was all alone and had all the time in the world (even if he scored from a direct shot).
The second goal is a little bit different as it is scored during a penalty kill, but once more the Canadiens defence is watching the puck and are all on the same side of the zone.
Justin Faulk is left all alone on the far end, and even without covering Faulk the Canadiens lose the puck battle on the half of the ice they are defending, and Sebastian Aho can score off a rebound without anyone forcing him off the puck.
2. Max Pacioretty is cursed
There is no voodoo master than can reverse it. Normally Pacioretty will net this chance, but this season he can not get his shots to enter the net.
Right now, Max Pacioretty is in the longest goal-scoring drought since around his 200th NHL game; right near the end of the 2011-12 season. Then he went 11 games without a goal. He is currently at 10 games without scoring.
Playing with Jonathan Drouin, the pair was outshot and out-chanced yesterday and it might be time to start playing Pacioretty with another centre on the team. The experiment is clearly not working.
3. It would be worse if not for Carey Price
Carey Price was astonishing last night. The superlatives that are thrown around the world’s best goalkeeper could all have been used last night again. It was thanks to Price that the score was tied deep into the third period.
Don’t get me wrong, the Canadiens played a good second period and Cam Ward made some great saves, but it felt like it wasn’t as dangerous as on the other side of the ice where Price once more held a master class in goaltending. Price looks calmer and more relaxed than I have seen him previously during the season, and that should bode well for the foreseeable future.
Montreal won’t be going up against a Cam Ward that found his time machine and went back to 2010-11 season every night ... right?
4. Stuck in the middle with who?
The difference between natural centres can be summed up with two plays from the second period. The first was Drouin, who had the puck and when coming towards the defender he went to the outside. A few minutes later Alex Galchenyuk comes in more or less in the same situation but he chooses to go through the middle, and scores. Sometimes small plays like that make all the difference in the world.
Galchenyuk had another good game last night and not even Claude Julien seems to be able to make a case for keeping him on the wing forever:
Julien says “Galchenyuk came to play tonight” and...”we’ve got him on the wing but it doesn’t mean we’ll never see him at centre again if we have the need.”— Dan Robertson (@DRTSN690) December 28, 2017
5. The little things
This game was decided by two things: a turnover in their own zone, and a penalty late in the third period. The devil is in the details, and it seems that with these two things, along with the puck-watching mentioned at the top of the article, the team isn’t focused or in harmony. It’s time to fix it one way or another.
That falls on Marc Bergevin. He is the GM and he will have to make a statement of intent. The draft class is decent, and there is a star ready for the taking at number one, and several other top prospects waiting for their name to be called.
It wouldn’t be the worst year to have a really bad season. To end up in the middle of the pack is not an option. It’s playoffs or playing the draft lottery to win. The fanbase would probably be fine with either, it is the unknowing that is causing the problems.