When you look at the scoresheet following the Canadiens 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, you see a -2 next to both Shea Weber and Jeff Petry’s names. We know that plus/minus is a flawed stat when used without context, but those identical numbers tell two very different stories.
The Canadiens’ captain continually plays against heavy competition in all situations, but since the Canadiens entered their current tailspin, he hasn’t looked much like the Man Mountain he once was. Against the Jets on Thursday he looked sluggish, unaware, and then got put through a spin cycle by the Jets as he watched the play pass him by.
It’s not a new trend. Weber’s mobility has been a growing issue this season. Even when engaging physically, he’s a step behind and unable to get back to his proper spot on the ice.
When you’re chasing the play so often, you’re prone to taking stick-related penalties, which leads to the other huge issue: the penalty kill isn’t good right now. So this cycle started by Weber’s mobility is exploited. The opposing team sets up shop. The Canadiens take a penalty. The team scores on the power play. The pattern is getting very old and needs to be tweaked if the team wants to get back on track.
The simplest option is that if the team are married to the Ben Chiarot and Shea Weber pairing, its need to be bumped to a secondary role. The Canadiens’ success is predicated on quickly moving the puck and being aggressive. Weber is not a puck-carrier, and even in the offensive zone he’s struggling to get shots on target, or even to the net. For right now, bumping Jeff Petry up to take the top-pairing minutes helps alleviate both of those issues.
In a perfect world you would reunite Petry with Brett Kulak, but even with Joel Edmundson as his partner, Petry allowed fewer shots to Winnipeg, and was more involved in the Montreal goals on the night.
It’s been one game with Dominique Ducharme in charge, so I don’t doubt there are changes coming as the games progress. However, if the defence continues to shamble on like it is currently, Weber’s move down the lineup may be inevitable.