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Habs vs Avalanche 10 Takeaways: An embarrassing effort by the Canadiens

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The Canadiens put up a listless performance against the league’s worst team, and found out that a 4-0 loss is just as bad as 10-1.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

1. Not the start you want against a team you beat 10-1 less than two months ago

I feel like the Canadiens came into this game thinking that the score was going to carry over from the last time they faced off against the Avs. Not the case, boys.

The Avalanche came out ready to get even for being embarrassed in mid-December, and the Habs appeared as though they had barely touched down on the Colorado runway. Shift after shift, they were held almost effortlessly at their end of the ice for the first half of the period. The result? Two goals past Carey Price very early on. With more speed than they knew what to do with (which is very out of character for this Montreal team), the Canadiens were simply outmatched and overwhelmed.

2. When life gives you a powerplay…

…it’s probably not the time to worry about making lemonade.

The Canadiens were gifted a powerplay after the midway point of the first period, and they sat on their heels. Down by two before three minutes had elapsed, there was no urgency where there should have been, and the Habs seemed almost content to continue chasing the puck back down to their zone again and again.

They got lucky in the second period, when down by three, they were awarded a powerplay on a penalty that didn’t even happen, but sloppy play in the offensive zone didn’t allow for much to get going. Perhaps they had a few unlucky breaks, sure, but when you don’t take advantage of golden opportunities, you can’t exactly complain about things not going your way.

3. 65-14-42 was perhaps the best line early on

Okay, so they didn’t look particularly dangerous, but they seemed to be the only line who could get any kind of hold on the offensive zone in the first period, where the rest of the team struggled. These days, when I think, “We need to spark the offence,” Tomas Plekanec is not usually the first person to come to mind, but his play, paired with Shaw and Andrighetto, helped the team find their footing at the tail end of the first.

4. Artturi Lehkonen continues to be one of my favourite takeaways

He’s been an absolute joy to watch all season long, and continues to stand out even when his team is playing less than formidably. Did anyone else catch that Weber-esque point drive on that second period powerplay? Or how about when he played keep-away with the puck by using his skates to keep the Avalanche from gaining the zone? Two of Montreal’s very few chances in the first period came off his stick, and he came this close both times. Offensively and defensively gifted, this kid is a gem and continues to improve quietly game after game.

5. Lehkonen-Galchenyuk-Byron

Coming out into the second period, the Canadiens looked a little less flat than their first period debut, but they lacked jump in their step just the same. Galchenyuk’s trio turned things up a notch (or 20), where their sustained zone time with the Markov-Nesterov pairing helped to provide a much needed (albeit short-lived) momentum swing in the CH’s favour. Galchenyuk seems to be playing with a little more confidence, and his speedy line mates can help provide a little insurance for a player who is still trying to get his groove back.

6. Montreal’s defensive coverage was suspect

Through three periods of play, the Canadiens’ defence was shoddy at best. The disconnect between partners was evident as they were often out of place and Avs were left dangerously uncovered as a result. Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu were soft in their zone, and all three pairings allowed the Avalanche to breeze past them without a blink to contest. The Habs’ offence hasn’t been fantastic of late, but it’s just as important for things to click on the back end, as well — especially when your team isn’t putting up points.

7. And no, this team is not putting up points

The Habs have been shutout through the last six periods, which is not what we would associate with a contending team. Is this a cause for concern? Of course it is. Is it a reason to scream for help and abandon ship? Perhaps, perhaps not. Alex Galchenyuk will get his groove back, Max Pacioretty is likely going to put up close to 40 goals, Alexander Radulov is going to continue to shine for this team, and Brendan Gallagher is going to come back and resume his haunting of goaltenders everywhere.

Montreal is a strong team. Montreal is a good team. Are they infallible? Far from, but we have to trust that they’ll emerge from this slump soon.

8. ... That said — can the Habs have Matt Duchene?

There’s no Canadiens fan under the impression that the team has all the pieces they need. They need more talent in the top six. They need a top four puck mover at the back. If Bergevin can make even one of these happen before the trade deadline, it will probably be a miracle, but in the meantime, I’m going to sit here and keep my fingers crossed for Duchene. What a talent!

9. Mark Barberio was fantastic

The most noticeable defenceman on the ice all night (even beyond Emelin and Weber mysteriously falling on their own), Barberio had an amazing game. He stood tall against his former team, cutting them off at every turn, and looked great offensively. Heck, he had two points on the evening! Not too shabby for a guy who was claimed off waivers.

In a lot of ways, he was the Barberio we’ve come to know. In others, he was a brand new player. Barberio was a trooper through two seasons with the Canadiens, and it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t find a place for him here. Here’s to hoping that he can finally find a home in Colorado, and that he can, perhaps, be who Paul Byron was for Montreal, for the Avalanche. He certainly looks like he’s fitting in nicely.

10. Montreal Canadiens: A Tale of Two Seasons

It’s interesting to see what a calendar year can do. You’re older, perhaps wiser having learned valuable lessons from the year before, and when the going is tough, you can only hope that things are looking a little different some 300 days later. When this team made their annual trip to Colorado in 2016, they found themselves very much out of the playoff picture, with little to be hopeful for. They put up another poor performance in a string of poor performances, and came out having played one of the more memorable games of the season, and not at all for positive reasons.

Tonight in Colorado, the Canadiens put up a similarly despondent performance despite being at the complete opposite end of the spectrum in terms of overall showing for the year. In this 2016-17 season, the Montreal Canadiens are, barring a supreme disaster*, heading to the playoffs, where just about anything can happen. We’re not seeing this team perform at the level we’ve grown accustomed to from the start of the year. With four games lost, things may start to seem bleak, but I don’t think it’ll be long until the Habs (and notably Carey Price) shake off their funk.

*If nothing else, then we can just blame that kid in the stands. That puck had “bad omen” written all over it.