Canadiens vs. Wild 10 takeaways: Defensive breakdown

There were some bright spots, and some tangible things to improve after the Habs loss to the Wild

1. Sometimes this game is no fun.

It happens. Sometimes you win 10-1. Sometimes you lose 10-0. Sometimes you lose 7-1. Sometimes you win 7-4. That’s hockey. You fail to have decent defensive zone coverage against a professional hockey team, and they will score goals on you.

2. Defensive zone coverage has been really bad

I alluded to it above, but the Canadiens defensive zone coverage is not very good. Players are often out of position, players are left open, and teams will capitalize. Even in a dominating win against Winnipeg, they let too many guys go open. Same thing happened against Washington. Against Toronto. It’s quickly becoming a trend.

The team is playing well, and they are controlling possession more often than not. But they need to make sure opponents get less scoring chances because right now they are capitalizing.

3. Carey Price’s play is not ideal, but not worth panicking over

Players sometimes go through slumps. Even good ones. Even great ones. It happens. Carey Price is one of the best goaltenders in the world, and right now he’s not playing at his best. He may be hurting but it happens in an 82 game season. By the end of the season, I’d bet that we’ll be laughing about exaggerating the demise of the Habs star.

The good news is that the team has played well in front of him in recent weeks, which bodes well for when he does find his game.

4. Players are fighting for jobs

Nikita Scherbak and Bobby Farnham have already been sent down. Players are getting healthy and that means for a bunch of the players in the bottom half of the Habs lineup, they are playing for a spot in the NHL.

Zach Redmond and Mark Barberio controlled over 77% of shot attempts at even strength in his return to the lineup. Michael McCarron had a scoring chance and has played well. Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto, and Chris Terry all need to look over their shoulders.

Some of them will have to go back to St. John’s and waivers complicates things. But you can sense the urgency in their game.

5.  The penalty kill needs to be better

The Wild were 4/8 on the power play, and that doesn’t even include Nino Niederreiter’s  first goal seconds after Alexander Radulov left the penalty box. That’s not good.

In fact, in the last month, since December 13, the Canadiens penalty kill is at 71.4 percent. Only four teams are worse in that span.

And Niederreiter’s goal shows why the Canadiens are struggling, even if it wasn’t on the power play. They are way too passive. Niederreiter gets the puck in front, and Nathan Beaulieu covers the pass instead of the guy alone in front of the net.

It seems way too passive, and if I can see it looks passive, imagine what other teams can see. The fact that the goaltending hasn’t been great doesn’t help, but you can’t blame it on that. It’s becoming a pattern.

6. Artturi Lehkonen is one of the Habs’ best players recently

I couldn’t believe when I checked the game report and saw that Artturi Lehkonen played under 13 minutes. The reason is because I noticed him practically every time he was on the ice. He had a ton of scoring opportunities early in the game, and has probably been the Habs best forward not named Max Pacioretty or Alexander Radulov.

I know that Michel Therrien trusts Lehkonen with Tomas Plekanec and he’s doing great in that role, but when everyone is healthy, he has to be the guy on the second line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher, doesn’t he?

7. Zach Redmond needs to be playing right now

I like Ryan Johnston and I like the fact that he came out of nowhere to become an NHL player. But he is not one of the Habs six best healthy defencemen right now and he shouldn’t be playing over Zach Redmond.

Redmond isn’t elite, but on a bottom pairing with Mark Barberio, you could do a lot worse. He probably is the one to sit when Andrei Markov returns, but it’s a good problem to have if you’re Michel Therrien.

8. This game wasn’t that bad

Sure it looks bad on paper. The highlights look bad. But, in reality, this game turned on 39 seconds on a bad line change and a beautiful deflection.

While killing Radulov’s double minor, Paul Byron had a breakaway that could have made the game 3-1 and shifted momentum. Instead, the play comes back the other way and Minnesota makes it 4-0.

Sometimes the bounces go your way. Last night they very much didn’t. The Canadiens aren’t as bad as the scoreline indicated. And let’s not forget the Wild are pretty good.

9. Tomas Plekanec scored again

I joked on Twitter a couple of days ago, after Tomas Plekanec responded to trade rumours with a scoring streak, that he either really wants to be traded, or really doesn’t want to be traded.

He had a very rough start to the season, but now he’s starting to get bounces. He went through a bunch of stretches where he wasn’t getting many, but now he’s starting to play a little better. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall.

Either way, if he could get scoring, that bodes well when the Habs start getting healthy, and they will start getting healthy. I hope.

10. Carey Price is the leader of this team

People like to look at the team’s success despite injuries and say this is because of the change in the room. I think we’re complicating things. The difference isn’t only Price on the ice. It’s Price in the room.

When he says after the game that he wanted to finish the game because none of the other players can get pulled, so why should he, that means something.

People criticized the Habs for how they handled Al Montoya in the 10-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Well, Price showed that he also is willing to take it on the chin. When your star doesn’t ask for preferential treatment and sets an example like that, it goes a long way.

It also probably means that he’s not as hurt as people believe. If he were, you’d imagine he wouldn’t have wanted to stay in a game the team was losing badly.

The game is over. It doesn’t matter if you lose 3-1 or 7-1. What matters is how you respond from this game. And Price’s words and actions should have them respond well.

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