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Though there have been some improvements in the team’s play since Martin St. Louis took over, notably with the power-play formation and better forward support on breakouts, the Canadiens still have too many fatal flaws in other areas. They haven’t exactly faced juggernauts in the new coach’s tenure, facing two non-playoff teams and a struggling Washington Capitals club, yet the win that ends a long losing streak still hasn’t come.
Samuel Montembeault has started the last two games following Cayden Primeau’s reassignment to the AHL. He was unlucky in the first one, giving up just two goals and stopping the other 40 shots he faced, but he was beaten early and often by Jeff Skinner on Sunday afternoon in a 5-3 loss.
His defencemen haven’t helped him — or any of the other goaltenders — much at all with bad clearances and giveaways all season long. Three of Skinner’s four goals had just one assist attached, coming off giveaways on zone exits and one a lost battle beside the crease. The Habs aren’t making teams work for their opportunities, and a third- or fourth-string goalie can’t bail out that lack of effort and execution.
That’s probably a good thing for the long-term success of the club; these issues aren’t going to solve themselves, and improving the play in the defensive zone is the best way for the coach to make his mark on the club in his interim role. It’s a common talking point about this team, but that’s because it is the single most important aspect that needs to get corrected if the club is to become competitive.
Tale of the Tape
|45.6% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||48.8% (21st)|
|2.19 (32nd)||Goals per game||3.51 (5th)|
|3.98 (32nd)||Goals against per game||2.74 (7th)|
|13.5% (31st)||PP%||27.7% (2nd)|
|73.3% (30th)||PK%||83.9% (5th)|
It’s not going to help the team’s cohesion that players have already begun to depart ahead of the trade deadline, with the promise of more to come. It turns out that game versus Buffalo was the final one for Tyler Toffoli in a Caandiens jersey, and tonight’s game versus the St. Louis Blues could be the end for one or two more with a couple of days before the next game.
At this point, those who are on the trade block probably know who they are, and a few will have known for a while. But there’s always some uncertainty during negotiations when a player who wasn’t available suddenly is, so everyone on the team will be a bit anxious for the next couple of weeks.
No matter what is on the horizon, everyone will want to end the run of losing performances they’ve been experiencing, a stretch that has now reached 10 games. They will have to take down the fifth-best offensive team in the league to get a first win in 30 days.
When the Canadiens travelled to St. Louis to take on the Blues in mid-December, the home team was being led by Jordan Kyrou’s 25 points in 27 games. Despite missing a few matches since then, Vladimir Tarasenko has leapt to the top of the leaderboard with 44 points, 15 of them on the league’s second-best power play. He enters this contest with four goals in his previous four games, and has been held off the scoresheet just three times since he last saw the Habs.
The just as bad news is that the Blues don’t allow many goals for their opponents. The silver lining is that three of their worst defeats have come in the last six games, so the Habs are catching them in a bit of a lull in their season.