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Canadiens @ Sabres game recap: Habs melt after a decent first period

A strong first period followed by 40 minutes of ineptitude is a nice microcosm of this Habs season.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In their second game of the 2021-22 season, the Montreal Canadiens were slapped with a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Both teams have watched things go downhill since that game — more so for Montreal than for Buffalo — so at least there was a reasonable expectation of a closer contest.

Alas, anyone holding such expectations would have been brutally disappointed.

It honestly wasn’t that bad of a game for 20 minutes. The Canadiens held a slight edge in shots and possession, ending the period tied at one apiece thanks to two giveaways by Artturi Lehkonen and Jeff Skinner respectively. Mistakes were costly for both sides, but another 40 minutes of that would have been a pretty good game. Maybe even a win.

But of course, the Montreal Canadiens are a complete mess.

After putting 15 shots on goal in the first, they followed it up with two in the second period. This, despite having a four-minute power play in that frame — during which they were comically bad — conceding an embarrassing short-handed marker to Kyle Okposo and offering zero threat of their own.

I don’t want to sound dramatic, but the second was perhaps among the worst periods of hockey I’ve ever watched. The even-strength play was brutal, and they somehow managed to get worse when they had more players on the ice than the Sabres.

The third period was an improvement on the second, but still woefully short of what they would have needed. If you take their total shot output from periods two and three together, it still doesn’t equal the 15 that they put up in the first. They just melted after the first intermission, which made it an incredibly frustrating game to watch.

It seems to be a common thread in many of the team’s games this season. They often have stretches where they look great, and are competitive. Those stretches, however, are generally a period long at most, and they spend the majority of their time looking like they did in periods two and three against Buffalo.

I’d say “outworked” is putting it lightly, but I sympathize with Josh Anderson’s struggle to find the words to describe that game. It is telling that the players themselves can’t even identify why they completely disappeared after the first intermission.

The good news is that continued losing only stands to improve the team’s chances of a high draft pick in Montreal next summer. On the other hand, there are few, if any encouraging signs from these games, and even if this team gets the first-overall pick, sweeping changes will be necessary for the team to become respectable again.

Given that Geoff Molson appears content to simply let this season play out, it seems unlikely that any major changes are coming in the front office or behind the bench. Perhaps he’ll make a decision on that later in the year or in the offseason instead.

But perhaps a few more awful games like the one in Buffalo will have him speaking soon enough.