I don’t know who or what Artturi Lehkonen did to have a crippling curse put on a his goal scoring abilities, but it’s real, and it’s almost unbelievable at this point. The young Finn has done nearly everything possible to break his goal scoring slump, and yet he cannot seem to break through. In the first period he and Brendan Gallagher broke in on a prime scoring chance, and as Lehkonen went to take a shot or pass the puck, his stick exploded into several pieces.
Normally a scoring slump over 20 games is cause for concern, yet with Lehkonen it’s best to let this horrendous run of luck play out, and run its course. He’s doing all the right things still, he’s getting pucks on the net, and playing a smart defensive game in his own end. Things will balance out, and the points are likely to start flowing for Lehkonen. It’s tough to see him struggle when he’s playing so well, but like all slumps it’s just a temporary issue.
Carey Price has had a decidedly un-Carey Price-like season so far, but in his first game back from the All-Star game Price looked to be in peak form. Facing down several Blues power plays the former Vezina winner tracked the puck well, putting an early end to any loose puck scrambles and scoring chances. Sure he was beaten cleanly by Ivan Barbashev to give St. Louis the lead, but with Karl Alzner acting as a perfect screen, it’s hard to pin that goal on Price. It’s hard to do much with your defender trying to play your position.
Price playing well is a double edged sword, he might steal games, throwing the tank into a bit of disarray. On the other hand, his improved play might do well to set minds at ease over his mega-deal that kicks in next season, and for the next eight years. Above all else, it’s a treat that night in and night out we as fans can watch one of the best in the world do his thing, and look completely composed during it.
Paul Byron was the recipient of an ugly crosscheck by Colton Parayko and it gave the Canadiens a five minute power play to end the game. With just under three minutes left on the clock, the Canadiens had a minuscule, but tangible chance to possibly score two goals and force an improbable overtime period.
Instead they couldn’t even get the puck in the zone before turning it over to Alex Steen who had a perfect view of the empty net and deposited a puck to make it 3-0. Just like that, any slight chance of a comeback went out like a light, even with a late goal still being scored on the power play. It’s the biggest storyline of the season in Montreal: the minute there’s any sort of momentum in the Canadiens favour, they seem to lose their grasp on it immediately and a puck ends up in the back of their net.
Paul Byron leaving the game nursing what could be a potentially serious injury is just another issue stacked onto a growing pile of injures and mismanagement this year for the Habs. With Byron out he would join Phillip Danault, Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber on the sidelines. That’s three core pieces not in a lineup that already can’t generate any offence. Not only that, the Canadiens become even more thin at the centre position if there’s any sort of severity to this injury. It’s not the sole reason for a disastrous season, but the combination of injuries and bad luck has warped this from a likely playoff season into a nightmare for pretty much everyone involved with this team. The injuries hopefully won’t be as major next year, but sometimes hockey luck isn’t on your side.
It’s a crazy thought, but with the season almost entirely wrapped up and down two of their top three centres, Claude Julien almost has no choice but to shift Alex Galchenyuk back to the middle. Current stubbornness makes it seem highly unlikely, but the Habs need to use the rest of this sinking season to analyze their best roster going forward.
It’s officially time to decide what to do with this team and its potential assets, and Marc Bergevin himself is included in that. Reports came out during the game that the Canadiens might be interested in bringing back Tomas Plekanec, which shouldn’t be a priority for this team at all right now, especially given that the veteran can be easily flipped at the deadline to accrue future draft picks, then just be re-signed in the off-season.
What does the future hold for players like Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty? Both have taken off in terms of production and the overall quality of their game, do you try and grab king’s ransom for them in trades, or do you hold onto quality pieces like them and hope next year is better with them still here?
This is where the team is at this point, worrying about trying to squeak into the playoffs this season shouldn’t matter. It’s a nigh impossible task even for better teams than this one. The team needs to begin to ready itself for a new regime at the helm, and to replenish it’s prospect depth, and it’s possible to do that while keeping players like Pacioretty and Galchenyuk.
Unless Marc Bergevin decides to blow up everything. Then it’s anyone’s guess how things will go from there.