The Montreal Canadiens probably deserved to beat the Minnesota Wild last night. They outplayed their visitors, albeit not by a large margin, and were at least within striking distance until Joel Eriksson Ek’s empty-netter put the game out of reach late in the third period. One goal would have made a world of difference for this team on Tuesday night.
Perhaps if their power play was remotely effective, they’d have gotten that one goal.
It might seem like an odd game to single out Montreal for a lack of power play production — both teams went scoreless on three attempts on the night — but this is a microcosm of the Habs’ season thus far. They currently sport a 4.8% success rate on the year, good for second-last in the league, and certainly a big reason for their current 3-4-0 record.
Now, the record this season isn’t all that important. We know this team is in line for a lottery pick, and picking up extra points with a functional power play likely wouldn’t change that. But they have to strive for improvement with the man advantage, because getting to the other side of the rebuild will require an ability to cash in on those chances.
This team looks better than they were expected to be, and could be very good in the next couple of seasons. But sometimes, the difference between a very good roster and an elite one can lie in their ability to kick an opponent when they’re down. Right now, the Habs are playing like they have no legs to kick with.
#Habs Martin St-Louis on the powerplay: "to me if you have to move it 10 times before you take a shot, it's probably not the right strategy; you're not breaking down the PK. To me a good PP is 2-3 passes and a strike and retrieve and do it again..."— Priyanta Emrith (@HabsInHighHeels) October 26, 2022
I’m choosing to take this as a good sign. Martin St-Louis knows that they’re not currently doing enough — or rather, are doing too much — to break down the opposing box, and they’ll get back to the drawing board. Whether this leads to more wins right now is irrelevant, they just need something they can build on into next year and beyond.
If there’s one thing we learned from the last decade of Habs hockey, it’s that winning without a power play can be maddeningly difficult, even when your roster is solid.
Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available on your podcast platform of choice. We’ll be back on Thursday night, as the Canadiens will make their first trip of the year to Western New York and take on the Buffalo Sabres.