1. 19 Minutes of utter disaster
The Montreal Canadiens scored 31 seconds into the first period, with Jakub Jerabek throwing a puck on net, and Zdeno Chara re-directing it past his own goalie. The following 19 minutes and 29 seconds were a car crash mixed with an explosion, inside a hurricane.
In short, it was an utter disaster.
David Pastrnak took advantage of Jeff Petry getting his stick stuck in the boards, and tied the game not long after the Habs opening goal. Then inept breakout strategies, badly timed passes, and no answer for a relentless forecheck forced the Habs into their own end for what felt like an eternity. In fact Montreal was likely extremely lucky to be tied after the first 20 minutes, as Riley Nash was fed a perfect pass from a Montreal defender, but couldn’t bury a loose puck with Carey Price out of position. And Noel Acciari beat everyone, including Price, but couldn’t fit his shot under the crossbar. Montreal’s up tick in play lately has been due to very good first periods in games, but Wedjnesday was the exact opposite, giving up 25 Corsi events in all situations, while recording just six of their own in the opening 20 minutes. It’s a small miracle the gap after the first period wasn’t larger.
2. Ride the young horses the rest of this season
This season is going down at a rapid pace, and after a game where the only two defenders who seemed to give a crap were Jerabek and Victor Mete, the time to make some changes is now. Claude Julien needs to realize that Mete is probably his second best healthy defender right now, and at worst third when Shea Weber is healthy. The kid played a million minutes at the World Juniors.
If this season is slipping away and he’s part of the long term plan, then you need to start trusting him before you’re forced to throw him into the deep end whether or not he’s ready. Jerabek has been quite good of late, with three points in his last two games.. Not only that, but, he’s a dynamic presence, willing to carry the puck in the zone and try to make space for plays to happen. The modern NHL is about speed and mobility, both Mete and Jerabek have that, start trusting them or this team isn’t going to get any better anytime soon.
3. Centre of Attention
Just enough of this merry-go-round of mediocrity at the centre position, there’s no reason for it anymore. This game started with a third overall pick, who is a natural centre playing on the wing on a line with the big off-season trade target who was forced to play centre. They were on the wings of a player with 11 career NHL points, and in a twist that literally everyone expected, it didn’t work. It took 27 minutes for Jonathan Drouin to move back to the middle, Alex Galchenyuk to stay on the wing, and Nicolas Deslauriers to get promoted from the fourth line.
And then it still didn’t work.
Much like with the defensive players, there’s no downside to trying Galchenyuk back at the centre position. The worst thing that happens is both Julien and Marc Bergevin are forced to eat a double size helping of crow if he thrives and the Canadiens offence clicks into gear. Until then, the lack of offence being generated is almost entirely self-inflicted.
4. Snooze City
If the Canadiens are going to tank out this season, and given the talent in this draft it wouldn’t be the worst idea, the least they can do is try and be exciting. Against the Bruins last week and the Islanders this week the team was scoring goals and going end to end on plays. Even if they lost they played well and were exciting to watch, the same could not be said for tonight. They scored in 31 seconds and that was cool and all, but the following 59:29 of the game made me wish that I was watching the 2000’s Devils again.
This goes hand in hand with previous points, let the younger guys go, don’t bench them for mistakes while the “defensively responsible” players get right back out on the ice after bad penalties. It might just be tweaking the system or reuniting some old lines, but give the fans something to watch when they go to the games, otherwise the Bell Centre is going to be a very unfriendly environment until the end of the year.
5. Another One
Due to the NHL’s inability to draw up a schedule properly, the Canadiens and Bruins will meet one more time this week on Saturday, a day after they play the Washington Capitals. The teams are trending in very different directions, with the Bruins closing in on the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division lead. There’s not much at stake at this point right now, but getting a win is one of the small moral victories this team needs right now, and it would be a boogeyman conquered for Claude Julien. He won’t want the losing streak against his former employer to continue.
Last night’s game honoured Willie O’Ree, the man who broke the NHL colour barrier. For such a major achievement, and make no mistake it is a massive achievement, O’Ree is not enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He only played 45 games in the NHL, but it’s not the games played or the points scored that matter, he stepped into a league as the first black player, in a time where segregation reigned supreme in the United States. The MLB honours Jackie Robinson every year, Willie O’Ree deserves a similar respect for his bravery to break the colour barrier in hockey. An enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is long overdue, and would be more than well deserved.