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What has happened to the Montreal Canadiens’ defence?

One of the stingiest teams in the opening month, it’s been a disastrous November for the Canadiens’ blue line.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New Jersey Devils Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens were one of the NHL’s worst defensive squads last season, surrendering 258 goals to rank 25th in the league. As a result, there was a shakeup to the coaching staff, the most relevant in this case being the firing of defence coach J.-J. Daigneault, who was replaced by Luke Richardson.

With no changes affecting the on-ice personnel, there was no reason to expect major improvements to begin the 2018-19 season. Yet it was a much different team nonetheless that took to the ice when things kicked off on October 3, surprising just about everyone with a closely contested match versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team was 6-3-2 after the first 11 games, and in the top 10 in many defensive categories.

Yet as the first month came to a close, things began to fall apart. A difficult November has caused many of those defensive metrics to plummet. The struggles of Carey Price have been discussed at length, which somewhat explains the increase in goals against, but the allowances are up nearly across the board.

Defensive statistics - Season splits

Statistic First 11 games Last 11 games
Statistic First 11 games Last 11 games
CA/60 52.6 (6th) 59.5 (23rd)
SA/60 27.7 (5th) 34.1 (27th)
SCA/60 25.6 (14th) 28.3 (25th)
HDCA/60 11.4 (18th) 10.9 (15th)
GA/60 1.89 (6th) 3.96 (30th)
All stats are per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time | CA: Corsi (shot attempts) against; SA: shots on goal against; SCA: scoring chances against; HDCA: high-danger scoring chances against; GA: goals against Stats via Natural Stat Trick

They were the fifth-best team in preventing shots on goal in October. They rank 27th in the games since. High-danger chances are slightly down, but overall chances from close to the net have gone up.

Even Price returning to a more familiar form — which many, including Alex Ovechkin, agree has happened over the past week or so — hasn’t been enough to prevent teams from scoring at will.

The game in Edmonton a week ago was called the worst of the year by many parties involved, including the head coach. After a night of puck-watching in Wednesday’s game versus the New Jersey Devils, they may have set a new mark for that distinction.

The team will get Shea Weber back in the lineup sometime soon, and perhaps an all-star defender can help settle things on the back end. Management may be hoping the club can hang around a playoff spot until he’s ready to return, but everyone involved in the defensive scheme needs to do a better job of limiting what opponents are able to do in the Canadiens’ zone.