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Jeff Petry joined the Montreal Canadiens at the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, signed a six-year contract that off-season after the Habs’ playoff run, and re-upped for an additional four seasons a year before that deal was up. He had become a core player in Montreal soon after his arrival, and the new deal would have taken him close to the end of his career.
That plan unravelled last season. Border restrictions meant his family was unable to easily travel between the United States and Montreal, creating off-ice tension for the Canadiens’ top defenceman. On the ice, the Habs were having similar issues at their own blue line, employing Dominique Ducharme’s defensive system that simply didn’t work, and once the coach was fired Petry all but admitted that he had given up on the coach and his failed tactics, which had been readily apparent in the defenceman’s play.
With the arrival of Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes as the new front-office brass, they quickly shed light on Petry’s familial situation and stated they would look into a trade of their star blue-liner. Petry was back to his usual self under Martin St-Louis’s more logical structures and hinted at wanting to stick around to play for the new coach, but the management staff’s message never wavered, suggesting that the situation behind the scenes hadn’t changed.
Sure enough, on July 6, Petry (along with Ryan Poehling) was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Mike Matheson and a draft pick. Tonight, Petry will play against the Habs for the first time since February of 2015 when he was a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
Tale of the Tape
|40.7% (27th)||Scoring-chances-for %||64.8% (3rd)|
|1.67 (30th)||Goals per game||6.00 (1st)|
|3.00 (16th)||Goals against per game||2.00 (6th)|
|0.0% (28th)||PP%||40.0% (3rd)|
|88.9% (8th)||PK%||87.9% (10tth)|
|1-2-0||H2H Record (21-22)||2-1-0|
There’s sure to be a mixture of appreciation for the former player for his years with the team and derision for how his tenure came to an end. Unfortunately for fans, they can’t make a direct comparison between him and the player who replaced him because Matheson has yet to play a game and is expected to miss about the next two months with an abdominal strain.
Despite Petry’s departure and the absences of both his replacement and his defence partner last season, Joel Edmundson, the Canadiens’ defence has been holding together decently well. The rookies have seen periods of scrambly play in recent games, but they’ve also held the fort well enough to keep the Habs competitive right to the end.
The bigger issue, and it’s a familiar one, is that the team hasn’t mustered enough offence. They were shut out in Detroit despite holding the Red Wings to one goal for most of the night, and Nick Suzuki’s nice wraparound tally was the only highlight from Saturday’s game in Washington. They do have players who can score and they have been getting some chances from a more creative offensive approach, but they haven’t come close to matching the four goals they had on opening night. Perhaps returning to the scene of their greatest production to date, and their only win, is the answer.
They will need to generate a few goals just to keep pace with Sidney Crosby, who has started the season on a tear with six points in two games. The Nova Scotian shows no signs of letting up in his 18th NHL season after turning 35 in the summer, and Pittsburgh leads the league in goals as a result.
The Penguins already have 11 players with at least one goal, and Crosby is one of three on the team with two. A strong power play is part of that offensive outburst to begin the season, something else the Canadiens can’t hope to match with their current construction and man-advantage alignments. They will have to limit the times Pittsburgh goes up a man, but that’s a tough ask for the young defence facing this potent offence for the first time.
It all sounds like Montreal is headed for another loss, which will very likely be the case for the majority of games this year, but even last season, during one of the worst losing stretches in a miserable campaign, they pulled off a 6-3 win. This year’s young Habs team is eager to keep proving itself while some of the veterans like Matheson and Edmundson are out, and an upset will always be a possibility with that mindset.