After a closely contested loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens were looking to build off their encouraging effort heading into their matchup against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as they took a 7-2 beating in front of an empty Bell Centre. The Oilers took an early 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back, plastering Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault with six goals against before he was pulled in the 2nd intermission. Here are four takeaways from what was another brutal loss.
Canadiens Goaltending Struggles Continue
The Canadiens have been riddled with injuries this season, and the goaltending position has been no exception. Montembeault has been unfairly thrown into a starting role this year, something he was clearly not prepared for. Overall, he has done what you would expect of your third-string goalie — shown flashes of brilliance and inconsistency simultaneously.
Saturday night against the Oilers, the 25-year-old goaltender struggled mightily, allowing six goals on 16 shots, good for a .625 save percentage. Based on the quantity and quality of scoring chances, Montembeault allowed 4.73 goals above expected (GAx). While Montreal’s defense had a number of breakdowns, his rebound control wasn’t there, and when his team needed a big save, he did not get the job done. On two occasions in the 2nd period, the Canadiens scored, only to have Edmonton come back and pot one soon after. As has been the trend this season, Montembeault struggled on his glove side (to his left) and was yanked after the 2nd period.
Primeau, who has also been pulled multiple times this season, started the 3rd period in relief and allowed one goal on eight shots.
Tyler Toffoli has been a beacon of light for the Canadiens in this very dark season, and he continued that against the Oilers on Saturday, scoring a power-play goal off a feed from Mike Hoffman. While his possession numbers at even strength weren’t ideal on this night, the 29-year-old forward has been quietly producing at a decent clip, notching 11 points in his last 10 games. Considering Montreal is dead last in goals scored per game, Toffoli maintaining this offensive pace has been impressive.
The Ontario native’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors frequently the past few weeks. Newly appointed general manager Kent Hughes has not shown his hand on what the future could hold, but there is a strong possibility the Canadiens may go through a rebuild. With that in mind, Toffoli may be playing for another team come March 21 (NHL trade deadline). Toffoli’s play has done nothing but increase his trade value since late November, and it could not have come at a better time. Whether Montreal trades Toffoli for assets or decides to keep him, he has proven to be a consistent point producer and reliable at both ends of the ice.
Chiarot’s Value Dropping
While Toffoli’s trade value continues to rise, Ben Chiarot‘s value has fallen off a cliff. The 30-year-old defenseman was on the ice for six of the seven Edmonton goals on Saturday. Per Natural Stat Trick, he put up a 41.18 Corsi for percentage (CF%) and 42.06 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) in a team-leading 21:58 of ice time. Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme continues to push his ice time — perhaps attempting to showcase him to other teams — but it has been to Chiarot’s detriment.
According to HockeyStatCards.com, Chiarot has had just three positive impact games in his last 25 games. In other words, in almost every game the Hamilton native has played since Nov. 13, he has hurt his team more than helped. Now, there are intangibles that go beyond underlying statistics. Chiarot brings a veteran presence and invaluable playoff experience contending teams look for at this time of year. To some teams, that may be worth a high draft pick. The Canadiens would be doing well if they can get a first-rounder in return.
Pitlick-Evans-Anderson Line Rolling
When the Habs claimed Rem Pitlick off waivers, they were expecting to get a crafty player with offensive upside. The 24-year-old has brought that to the table and some in his first eight games with the team. Jake Evans and Pitlick have developed noticeable chemistry together. The duo complements each other, with Evans’ ability to drive play up the ice, along with Pitlick’s vision and playmaking prowess. Josh Anderson has added another dimension to the line with his speed and knack for creating time and space with his size.
While the sample size is small, this line seems to be a match made in heaven, and that showed against Edmonton on Saturday. Anderson scored the Habs’ first goal in the 2nd period and the trio gave the Oilers fits all night, putting up a team-leading 61.54 CF% and a 64.05 xGF%. If all three players remain in La Belle Province, it will be interesting to see if this line remains intact for the remainder of this season and into next year.
Montreal won’t have much time to ponder this one as it faces the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday night[Jan. 30]. The puck drop is at 7 pm EST. The Canadiens will be looking to snap a five-game losing skid.
Ryan graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015 and contributes to the Montreal Canadiens section. He has also previously worked for STATS LLC as a Hockey Reporter and the Rant Media Network as a Copy Editor.