The Montreal Canadiens lost their first game in regulation last night against the Minnesota Wild, which was at least a few games later into the season than most expected for that to happen. Still, this is cold comfort to a fan base that has had nothing but bad news in recent days, and were treated to a bumbling performance that ended in a 5-2 defeat.
Nothing was more bumbling on the night than the Habs’ power play, which remains one of the worst in the entire NHL.
There was plenty of blame to go around on special teams in general, being that the Wild scored every one of their goals at strengths other than five-on-five. But the power play, or sheer lack thereof, was what set the tone for an embarrassing night at the Bell Centre. Not only did they fail to score, they managed to allow two goals against in the first period alone, and on the same opportunity, no less.
The path to fixing the power play is probably much longer than simply stopping these neutral zone passes, but it starts there. While this is a strategy more successful teams will use at times, it is maddeningly the only thing the Canadiens ever do when they fail to hold the zone after the opening draw in the offensive zone. It never works, and yet they repeat it ad nauseam, as if unwilling to accept the idea that it might not
Their inability to hold the zone is another concerning matter, but even the best teams will see their opposition clear the zone at times. There has to be a cohesive strategy to regaining the zone when that happens, and it can’t involve them leaving most of their skaters flat-footed at the offensive blue line, just waiting for the other team to pounce on an odd-man rush.
It isn’t imperative for them to fix the power play this season, but it has been a problem for the last three years, and with no sign of improvement. At the very least, the hope is that the coaching staff is able to recognize what isn’t working, and make some adjustments. Nobody is asking for them to become the Oilers with the man-advantage, but at least put out a watchable product that doesn’t leave their fans cringing when they see the referee raise his arm to signal a penalty.
As it stands, the cringing is well-warranted given that they’ve allowed more goals than they’ve scored this year. If that holds up, regardless of percentages or anything else, it could go down as one of the worst power plays of all time.
Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll be back following Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals.