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Canadiens vs. Sharks 5 Takeaways: Searching for answers

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The Canadiens played well until they surrendered a goal, then lost confidence and heart, ultimately losing the game 4-1.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

1. The solution is not in the room

Despite a bold claim from the general manager earlier this year, the Montreal Canadiens’ woes continue despite nearly no change to the roster or staff. Something about the 2017-18 Habs is simply off, and it is increasingly apparent with every loss that change will have to come to the team and not from within it.

2018 kicked off much the way the previous year ended, in low-scoring hockey that challenged the patience of Montreal fans. Someone has to do something to get this team pointed in the right direction.

2. Goals in bunches remains a problem for the Habs

Once again, the Canadiens allowed two goals in less than two minutes of game time. Timo Meier scored with 10 seconds left in the second, and again with just over a minute played in the third. Having two goals that close in the same period may well be more demoralizing, however a late-period goal and one right at the start of the next can also be deflating in their own right, let alone scored by the same person within such little time.

Montreal doesn’t respond well to being scored upon. It’s a trait they’ve displayed since the season’s early going, and it has not relented as theu approach the mid-season mark.

3. Even the remotest playoff hopes are fading

The Canadiens sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with their 16-20-4 record. Only the Ottawa Senators (12-17-8) and Buffalo Sabres (10-20-9) are inferior, and the Sens have played three fewer games and sit only four points behind Montreal.

The Habs’ poor standing, lack of offence, and ugly goal differential put them up against hard odds to make the post-season. Anything can happen with a whole half-season remaining, but it’s difficult to see how Montreal could turn it around so completely at this point.

It took the Toronto Maple Leafs 95 points to qualify for the final wild-card spot last season. In the Habs’ remaining 42 games, they would need to win 30 of them to match that pace, and even that is not guaranteed to be good enough.

4. It doesn’t have to be completely blown up

Things aren’t good right now, but it’s not as if everyone on the team is consistently bad. There are good things to build on. Charles Hudon had himself another solid night of action, generating 16 shots attempts while only allowing two against while he was on the ice. He finished with an even-strength Corsi-for percentage of 88.9% despite being deployed in the offensive zone for less than half of his shifts.

Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault had similarly strong nights with the puck. Carey Price allowed four goals, but actually made nice saves (a pad save on Logan Couture early comes to mind) when the game was still even or within reach. Alex Galchenyuk has been playing some decent hockey, and Andrew Shaw was rewarded with his 10th goal of the season.

Something has to give in Habsland, but it’s not going to require emptying out the tool shed to start over.

5. The boo birds, they are a-callin’

Some people dislike the home crowd’s boos. It goes against the notion of loyalty or ultimate fandom. I’m someone who has seen his fair share of bad hockey played by bad Canadiens teams at their home rink. I’ve shamelessly booed before, and I defend the right of those who do so.

It costs a lot of money to go to a hockey game and to be disappointed with not only the outcome, but the effort of the team merits an exercise in free speech. The beauty about an exciteable Montreal crowd is that when the team comes around to winning again (whether it’s this year or in the future), the building will again be loud, but with the cheers of hopeful fans.