Looking up and down Natural Stat Trick’s post game report for the Montreal Canadiens’ 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames yields a lot of information. Only one Montreal player finished with a positive shot-attempt differential, and that was Tyler Toffoli. It tells us that across the board, the Habs were handled pretty easily by Darryl Sutter and the Flames.
Montreal had played a game that started at 11:00 PM ET the night before — a late start even for the Vancouver Canucks — then had to travel to play in Calgary. It’s not an excuse, back-to-backs are always a part of NHL life, but it was very easy to predict that the legs were not going to be with the team on Thursday. Which brings me to something that Dominique Ducharme could very easily manage: using some of the players assigned to his taxi squad to try and breathe life into a tired team.
Namely that should have been in the form of Artturi Lehkonen, who bafflingly remains a healthy scratch. With a game played the night before, using not just a proven NHL player, but a normally everyday one like Lehkonen should be a relative no-brainer right now. Even someone like Michael Frolik could very well be a useful asset in situations like this. Frolik hasn’t played a game for the Canadiens yet, and as it stands there are fewer and fewer reasons for that.
Right now, the fourth line is struggling in terms of possession, often ranking dead last on any given night. While the speed of Paul Byron is an asset, and the net-front savvy of Corey Perry is nice, eventually you have to tweak things a bit to try to invigorate your squad. It’s not a guarantee that inserting either winger, or both, would have pushed the Canadiens over the finish line last night, but putting fresh legs in the lineup still feels like a smart bet.
I understand there are complicated cap gymnastics involved, but as it stands right now there are not a lot of concrete reasons to not put Lehkonen back into the lineup, let alone keeping him scratched on a back-to-back. Ducharme is still learning on the fly, and this game is the perfect teaching moment for him as a coach and player manager. Let’s just hope he’s picked up on this mistake.