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The Canadiens had what should have been an easy opportunity for a win on Monday night. Last season had proven as much with Montreal winning six of the nine meetings with the Vancouver Canucks and not losing in regulation once. But the issues that plague the current team didn’t give way versus another poor opponent, and rather than getting the win, Montreal slipped even further down the league pecking order.
Vancouver didn’t score the large number of goals teams tend to when they beat Montreal this year, but that was mostly thanks to the work of Jake Allen who stopped 40 shots that came his way in another busy performance.
The goaltender seems to be getting used to seeing opposing players getting right in front of him for prime chances. No matter what calibre of team the Habs play, the defence just isn’t up to par this year, offensively or defensively. There was a glimmer of hope a few weeks ago when Joel Edmundson was reported to be returning soon, but we recently learned that he’s still dealing with back issues, and given how long those can linger for athletes, the team is, correctly, allowing him to fully recover.
Right now, the only option is to shuffle around the players available on the blue line, and it sounds like Brett Kulak and Chris Wideman could be coming back in tonight, which will more than likely mean Mattias Norlinder draws out, and his time in North America this season may be coming to an end.
The six blue-liners who do get the call were going to be in tough against the Colorado Avalanche for this game anyway, but their task will get tougher with the visitors looking to put a terrible game behind them.
Tale of the Tape
|49.2% (18th)||Scoring-chances-for %||53.8% (5th)|
|2.29 (29th)||Goals per game||3.95 (1st)|
|3.54 (31st)||Goals against per game||3.37 (27th)|
|12.5% (30th)||PP%||22.1% (9th)|
|68.1% (31st)||PK%||76.5% (26th)|
|0-1-0||H2H Record (19-20)||1-0-0|
The Avalanche had a chance to measure up to the league’s top team last night. They were dealt a blow earlier in the day when starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper was ruled out with an upper-body injury, and that was a bad omen for the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jonas Johansson wasn’t up to the task of playing the Leafs’ stars as their top four offensive options combined for 10 points in an 8-3 win.
Colorado was supposed to get a boost from the return of Nathan MacKinnon, who was playing for the first time since November 8, Instead, perhaps his addition to the lineup caused the rest of his teammates to relax a bit, and they were outshot 41-31 as a result.
MacKinnon did his best, with five shots and two assists in the game, but the best offensive performance belonged to Nazem Kadri who had the same amount of shots and two goals, included his 200th in the NHL, versus his former team. He also finished with a minus-three goal differential, and he wasn’t the only Avalanche player to find his number numerous times on the bad side of the game summary.
Instead of being a slightly fatigued team that travels to the Bell Centre tonight, it’s going to be an embarrassed one eager to get back to its proper form now that the team has returned to mostly full strength, and also knowing it needs to play better for the third- or possibly fourth-string goaltender. Colorado is far from where it wants to be, ranking sixth in the Central Division and three spots removed from even a wild-card spot, but they had entered last night’s game as the hottest team in the Western Conference, so it’s just a matter of flipping the switch.
If they do come out playing their best, Allen may be forced to set a new save record to earn his team the win. The Habs would have to play a full 60 minutes of solid hockey to counter the attack due to come their way, and based on their general standard of play so far this year, we’re unlikely to see the required performance.
If the Canadiens do lose this game and the New York Islanders win, the two teams will be tied in points despite the Islanders playing seven fewer games as they waited for their new home arena to be constructed. The Islanders have lost eight in a row themselves, so there may not be any movement in the lottery standings. Now that the Habs have fallen this far, they could begin to discover how difficult it is to descend at these depths.