There were various factors that resulted in the Montreal Canadiens’ loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, but some issues on defence may have been the most concerning.
Two of the three pairs were excellent in terms of possession and shot metrics against Tampa Bay. Only one player stood out having had a rough game, and unfortunately for Montreal’s long-term success, that person was Shea Weber.
Weber and his defence partner, Victor Mete, face heavy competition on a nightly basis, so not winning the battle of shot attempts makes some sense. The bigger issue is that Weber’s use as a power-play weapon just is not paying off.
Through six games, Weber has just two assists (one primary, one secondary) and neither came on the power play, where he has often been a gamebreaker in his career, and for Montreal. His heavy shot has become telegraphed, poorly aimed, and easily defended when the Canadiens throw out their first power-play unit. He hasn’t found the back of the net yet, and since he’s the focus of the attack, no one else on his unit has, either.
His unit is static as he takes up a position waiting for a feed, which causes teams little trouble to set up against it. Right now, the fivesome is just killing off a large chunk of limited time the team gets on a minor penalty.
So how can the Canadiens fix this?
The simplest change is for Jeff Petry to swap roles with Shea Weber on the man advantage. His skating ability allows him to be a dynamic presence that forces defences to adjust rather than just stay in designated positions. Petry scored again against Tampa, his team-leading second power-play goal.
This is not to say that Weber won’t rebound, but it seems like something is off with his game, and Claude Julien has taken notice; Weber was the least-used defender at five-on-five. At the end of the game was the team’s most-used player, amassing 24 minutes of ice time in all situations.
The defenceman can bounce back from this, but for the immediate future, it seems like limiting his time on special teams might be a good thing for Montreal.