Seems every time the Canadiens flirt with a team rarity, they lose. Whether it’s winning 16 straight games when scoring the first goal, keeping their opponents to two or fewer goals for ten games, or winning 7 straight road games. Maybe it’s time to put the record book away and stop mentioning these things.
But it is not a superstitious force that made the Habs lose against the Senators but themselves. An unprepared, nonchalant team that took their opponents lightly. Nonchalant, not tired. They might have played their second game in as many nights but prior to that, had only played one game in seven days.
Making his first start of 2015, Dustin Tokarski’s night started in turbulence. The five-man unit in front of him was penetrable and allowed the crease to become a public square. To make things worse, Tokarski returned big rebounds back to the crease for more. He had faced 20 shots by the end of the first period. Someone should tell him that because he plays twice a month, he doesn’t have to pack a month’s worth of saves in those two games. One hundred feet away, Craig Anderson did all he could to squash the rumor mill sending him out of Ottawa, and made his claim that he his as important to his club as Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan.
Lars Eller and Jiri Sekac played the best game among the forwards. Jiri Sekac, in 11:51 of ice-time, earned 2 of the better scoring chances for the Habs.
You Won’t Lose Points For Shuffling, This Ain’t Solitaire
In the second period, the line of Galchenyuk – Eller – Sekac was put on the ice. This line needs to be tried again. The Habs’ offense is struggling and part of the reason why is the lack of depth on the wings.
With 27 goals scored in the last ten games, and almost 30% of them coming from Max Pacioretty. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Putting Galchenyuk at centre hasn’t been conclusive enough to justify keeping him there especially while the offense is struggling . His faceoff % is even with 69 faceoff wins and 69 losses and would’ve been worse if it wasn’t for linemate Brendan Gallagher taking so many draws. His production has declined in recent games. Galchenyuk has 6 points in his last ten games, his last goal was scored December 20th. Galchenyuk is comfortable at the left wing. He doesn’t get bullied in the corners and his an accurate passer that can dish it back to the slot. At centre, Galchenyuk feels the need to stickhandle the puck, trying too hard to create a play. He has learned the hard way against the Senators that you can’t always finesse your way out, when Bobby Ryan caught him with his head down and sent him flying. Not making him the puck carrier would limit those temptations and limits those hits. His quick release makes him a threat from the faceoff circle. Like the first goal of his hat trick against the Carolina Hurricanes, when Markov actually acted as centreman.
Returning him on the wing would give the attack a boost. Jiri Sekac had some of the best chances against the Sens, hitting the post once and shooting wide of the net, missing a sprawled Craig Anderson. Absent from all special teams, Sekac only played 11:51 against Ottawa. Although he did have his moments, Jiri Sekac hasn’t seen as much time on the top six as other wingers like Dale Weise and P.A. Parenteau. Sekac hasn’t scored in the new year but has had some quality chances. Maybe more ice time and playing with a talent like Galchenyuk could create some sparks. All three players are strong on the puck and can create space for themselves and are strong enough shooters to score from multiple angles on the ice.
The key to break a scoring slump is shots on net. Michel Therrien has already bundled the team’s best three goal scorers in Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher. Following suite with Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Jiri Sekac could be the best way to keep the momentum going. At 20 years old, Alex Galchenyuk has his whole career to play at centre. Putting him on the left wing, the position he has played the most in his pro career, won’t stunt his growth has a player.
Batter Captain High Liner
The Canadiens will try to forget their inconsequential strategy against the Ottawa Senators by beating the top team in the Metropolitan division, the New York Islanders. the Habs might benefit from an advantage greater than home-ice. The Islanders are facing division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both clubs have their sights set on the division lead and have been exchanging it since the start of the season. High scoring games, the Isles scored the most with ten goals to Pittsburgh’s eight and have won two of the three games between them. Facing them the day at home, the day after a game of that significance, give the rested Canadiens a clear advantage.
Like most teams on top of their division, they can’t be taken lightly. With superstar talent upfront, the Islanders are second in the league with 53 goals on the road. Their powerplay is a respectable 14th in the league with 18.5%. The good news for the Habs is that the Isles’ defense is porous on a good day. They have allowed 46 goals on the road and their penalty kill is a dismal 76.7%. Logic would dictate that Jaroslav Halak would be in front of the net in game against Pittsburgh, leaving Chad Johnson to face the Habs. In 11 starts, Johnson has six wins, five losses, a .869 save % , and a 3.40 goals against average.
He Shoots, He Misses
If the Montreal Canadiens can’t put the biscuit in the basket in those conditions, something will have to be done. The Habs are 22nd in the league with a 2.62 goals per game average. That average swells up at home with 62 goals in 20 home games, a 3.1 average. If they can’t get the offense rolling in a game like this, management will have to take a good look at its forward corps and make some changes that will bring some much needed fire power.