The Montreal Canadiens entered Tuesday night on their worst losing streak since World War II. Though they did manage to snag a few points during said streak by getting to extra time, they needed a win badly, and by any means. They got it, and did so by absolutely dominating the New York Islanders.
The Islanders are in a far better position than the Habs when it comes to the standings, and they would have been so regardless of the result on Tuesday. With 38 points, they still sit just behind the Washington Capitals for second in the Metropolitan division. They’re one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Habs went in as losers of eight straight games, but they absolutely throttled an ostensibly superior opponent. They were the better team on the night by far; controlling 61.4% of shot attempts, 64.2% of scoring chances, and 80.0% of high-danger scoring chances at even strength. They made one of the best teams in the league look like an AHL squad for large parts of the game.
Brendan Gallagher was unreal. Nick Suzuki was electrifying. Shea Weber put forth a poetic performance on Canadiens Captains’ night. I’d run out of adjectives to describe the quality Habs performances before you could find one worthy of reproach. It was a great game for the Tricolore.
It does, however, remain somewhat concerning that they could control the game so convincingly, yet only win by the skin of their teeth and an empty-net goal. I maintain what I said a few games back: management needs to decide if they’re tanking, or going for it. If they’re going for it, which I think most fans are on board with, they need reinforcements.
Marc Bergevin’s job likely depends on going for it, so that’s where he comes in. I’d argue that top targets include an upgrade on left defense, as well as someone to boost their scoring at the other end. Which one is more important, well, for me that depends on the day. After last night I’d say it’s best to get a finisher, but ask me again after Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche and I might change my tune.
Though the losing streak hurts, it hasn’t killed the Habs’ chances of making the playoffs since teams around them in the Atlantic Division are also struggling. If I’m Bergevin, I start working the phones, because I don’t think you wait in this position. This team can clearly compete with the better teams in the conference, but they need an addition or two to do it on a more consistent basis.
I have endeavoured to remain positive wherever I can this year, so I have to say that the team was very impressive last night. But if I’m being honest, it’s clear they need a little help if they’re to get into the playoffs.