Anyone who has followed me on Twitter and here at Eyes On The Prize knows how strongly I believe in looking at the numbers to do a proper analysis of players. However, I was given the chance to take in the game from the seats at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, and despite the tickets being free, I feel like I still overpaid.
Watching the game unfold it was very apparent that the Montreal Canadiens were desperately lacking in a major department: puck movement.
The defence when pressured even slightly panicked with the puck, creating clusters of rushed passes, turnovers, and inevitably goals against. Nothing seemed easy for the Habs while in possession. Everything felt improvised, and nothing felt natural. Against a top team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, some bumps in the road are expected. Against a team like the Buffalo Sabres, it’s a cause for concern.
Even when the forwards had the puck, the passing was off the mark and didn’t seem to have a definite purpose. For a team that’s going to rely on its speed and finesse to win, they need to figure out how they can link up in attack far more consistently.
The roster Buffalo rolled out was soundly mocked by fans across the league, and somehow the Canadiens made them look incredible for large stretches of the game.
Even with another five-on-three power play, Montreal handed the momentum right back to their opponents. Watching Joel Armia and Chris Wideman limply pass the puck back and forth with no real shooting threat was akin to torture as the power play failed to make a difference for the second straight game. After they failed to cash in on that chance you could feel the shift in energy in the building, Buffalo just flat out wanted the win more.
The Habs were already in for the fight of their lives to make it into the playoffs going into the season in arguably the toughest division. Losing games like this that were put on a platter for them isn’t going to help the cause.
It’s just one game in a long season, but there was a lot that sets off alarm bells when seeing it all in person. There’s another tough ask on Saturday against the New York Rangers, a team that piled on the grit while keeping its offensive stars in the lineup. Montreal cannot afford a lackadaisical effort like Thursday’s against a team boasting talent like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.
This team is capable of better, and hopefully they step up to deliver on that soon, or this season may quickly get away from them.