Change is hard. A few games after Dominique Ducharme took over as interim head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, he said that habits are called habits for a reason and that it takes time and work to break them.
Everyone can understand that. If you have tried to make any changes, one of the hardest things is to break old habits. The Canadiens have shown significant improvement in almost all areas of their game since the coaching change happened.
They are clearly on the right path, however, a 2-1-3 record means that the results haven’t caught up to their play.
It’s an overused sports cliché nowadays to say ‘trust the process’, but that’s essentially what the team needs to do. It’s hard to keep pushing in the right direction when the results aren’t there to provide positive reinforcement.
The bad news is that one mistake (which David St -Louis looked at briefly here) cost them two points in regulation on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks. It’s not the first time. They had dominated the Winnipeg Jets a few weeks ago, only to lose in overtime. It happens, but they are trending in the right direction.
The good news is that despite the costly mistakes, the Canadiens are still collecting points. They have seven of a possible 12 points, which isn’t great, but it’s better than if they had lost those three games in regulation.
It would be better to get the extra points in overtime, sure, but focusing on their new systems at five-on-five, the penalty kill, and the power play is why they are in a position to get to overtime to begin with. Banking points for losing in overtime is not the most pleasing way to bank points, but they can’t take those points away from you.
If it’s frustrating for fans to see the Canadiens be close to two points and not get them, it’s doubly so for the players who are doing everything their coach asks of them only to see the result they want slip away.
The good news is that the tactics are working, and the attitude has changed as well. While Claude Julien preached mistake-free hockey, Ducharme is looking at not compounding mistakes, saying that the issue isn’t the mistakes, but how the team reacts to them.
When you’re thrust into crisis after a mistake, your instincts — the habits you are trying to break — take over.
If the Canadiens keep going in the direction they are going in, they will win more games than they lose, and that will be a recipe to make the playoffs. If they continue to incrementally improve, they may even be able to do some damage.
If that doesn’t encourage you, remember this: Once you get to the playoffs, there’s no more three-on-three overtime or shootouts.