Last week, before the season started, I wrote about how the Montreal Canadiens are entering the next stage of their rebuild. The first two games of the season shows another aspect of that.
The Canadiens have gotten out to 2-0 leads in both of their games this season (and almost 3-0 in both games). They have walked away with three points out of those games. Last year, they only scored first in 34 of their 82 games. The year before, it was only 30. The Canadiens getting leads is a sign of improvement and defending them is a learning experience.
Sure, on the surface, going from up 2-0 to trailing 3-2 and then ultimately losing 6-5 in a shootout is not great, but it’s part of the growth that goes with teaching a young team how to win. Same thing with taking a 3-0 lead and ultimately winning 3-2. If those two games have shown one thing, it’s that the Canadiens have struggled defending six-on-five (or four) late in games. While you want to be sure to defend and keep those leads, having them in the first place is already a step in the right direction.
Through all of the last two seasons (2020-21 and 2021-22), the Canadiens only faced an opponent with the goalie pulled in 55:10 (29:32 last season and 25:38 the year before). No team had less time spent against the extra attacker, and the closest team had a full 12 minutes more time than the Canadiens did over that span.
Through two games this season, the Canadiens have spent the most time defending a team with the goalie pulled. They have already spent 4:48 in that situation after two games (all numbers in the previous two paragraphs courtesy NaturalStatTrick.com).
Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis has already said that the team didn’t really focus on the power play as the focus was more five-on-five. This year, they get to refine the finer points of their game and even if they end up blowing leads, the key is that they had them in the first place.