Canadiens vs. Wild Five Takeaways: Back to square one
Win streak over, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars
1. Disasterpiece Theater
There is absolutely no beating around the bush when it comes to the opening 20 minutes of this game. Nothing went right for Montreal from the outset as they nearly gave up a goal less than a minute into the game. Then in what is becoming a startling trend this year, the Canadiens imploded like a building laced with dynamite. Perhaps even more concerning is that Carey Price, who is typically unflappable, looked like someone plucked from the bleachers on the first two goals against. A third was a nearly flawless 2 on 1 between Matt Cullen and Tyler Ennis, that even Price at his best would struggled to handle.
It’s a disaster for a team slowly trying to build up there confidence and trying to string a long series of wins together. Bad starts like this have to be a thing of the past, but with the Habs goaltending shakier than it’s been in years, it’s been difficult, if not impossible. Disasters like that first period are going to stop the Habs from winning almost anything this year except a draft lottery spot. Sooner or later something has to give here.
2. Brendan Gallagher’s Comeback Tour
To say that the last two seasons for Brendan Gallagher have been awful would be an understatement. Twice breaking his hand, so severely that he had to learn to grip his hockey stick in a different manner in order to shoot a puck. He added another goal tonight, and continues to round into the form he was in before the injuries forced him to miss the better part of two seasons.
Not only is he operating out of his usual office, Gallagher has scored a number for nice, if not highlight reel goals so far this year. Tonight he had another gorgeous finish on a great play and feed from Charles Hudon to slowly cut into the Wild lead. Then he added another late in the third period, surprising Devan Dubnyk with a shot from below the goal line to cut the lead down to two.
Plenty has been made about adding Drouin to the lineup, but a healthy Brendan Gallagher is an offensive force for the Canadiens, and will be needed to right this season dangerously close to coming off the rails.
3. Karl Alzner is major drag right now
Outside of maybe Brendan Gallagher, no player was very good tonight in Minnesota, so this applies to a number of people. But Karl Alzner was not great by any stretch, and even with a positive possession number by the end there are several glaring flaws in his game.
The primary one being Alzner continually is out of position trying to cover someone, or block a shot that he doesn’t need to and it leads to goals against. Against the Wild it lead to the goal that fully put the game out of reach, as Alzner drifted into the slot and covered a player that Tomas Plekanec had marked. What resulted was Jared Spurgeon being left wide open to put the final nail in the Canadiens coffin tonight.
The other being that Alzner often tries to act as a second goaltender, and has ended up deflecting more pucks past his own goalie than he has stopping them so far. With his contract the Canadiens need Alzner to stop trying to be Superman, because he doesn’t have the skills for it. The defence has struggled this year, even if he isn’t at fault entirely Alzner has to start earning his contract or it’s going to become a major sunk cost by the end of his five years.
4. It’s time to give Jacob de la Rose another shot
When Nikita Scherbak went down with a knee injury against the Los Angeles Kings, Torrey Mitchell was the player inserted into his lineup spot. Mitchell has had his uses in the previous few seasons, and isn’t actively hurting the team. Right now however the team needs some more skill on the fourth line, because with the young forward going down they haven’t been setting the world on fire. At this point Jacob de la Rose is not a gamebreaking forward. He isn’t going to pull a Paul Byron and score 20 goals magically. He does however, have chemistry playing alongside Michael McCarron from their time together in the AHL, and if Claude Julien wants defensive responsibility, then the young Swede can provide that. It’s not the answer to all the teams problems, but they’re keeping a young asset in limbo right now, and for the sake of development the team has to get him on the ice sooner rather than later.
5. Panic moves are not going to fix anything
“Call up Charlie Lindgren”
“Strip Pacioretty of the C”
“Trade Galchenyuk for anyone”
The worst move Marc Bergevin can do right now is panic and make a rash move for short term relief. Carey Price has been bad to start this year no denying it, but, in case people think calling up the top goaltending prospect to spell him is a good idea, it’s not.
Lindgren has a .885 SV% for the Laval Rocket so far this year, and much like Price has not looked like his usual self in net. His struggles aren’t going to suddenly right themselves against superior competition and benching Price isn’t going to help him mentally overcome his problems right now either.
Stripping the team captain of his C isn’t going to do anything, letters don’t magically allow you to score goals, so stop suggesting it like doing it is going to result in instant wins. That’s not how it works.
And as for trading Galchenyuk, unless you’re getting a legitimate top six centre or top pairing defender in a deal, you’re coming out on the losing end. Trading for character or another winger in a crowded lineup isn’t what Montreal needs. Take a step back and assess Galchenyuk’s play, and if you’re Claude Julien, maybe consider moving him back up in the order and see if he continues his strong play. He got some shifts near the end of the game with Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen and that may be something we see next game.