Canadiens Must Capitalize on Competition During Western Road Trip

The Montreal Canadiens embark on a western road trip this week and play four games away from the Bell Center. They will play the Seattle Kraken for the first time in franchise history, and then head to California for three games there. Three of the four teams they will be playing have stumbled to start the season, and the Habs must use the momentum of their recent win to ensure they win against those struggling teams.

Canadiens Earn First Win

After losing five straight games, the Canadiens finally won their first game of the season. It was a blowout 6-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Center, the Canadiens were hitting all cylinders, and the team looked confident and resilient. They scored on the power play (PP), and their six goals were enormous considering they only scored four in their first five games.

Winnipeg Jets Montreal Canadiens Game Four
The Montreal Canadiens celebrate an overtime victory as goaltender Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets skates by in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Mathieu Perrault led the way with a hat trick, and newcomers Christian Dvorak and Mike Hoffman lit the lamp as well. Hoffman scored on the PP, which is fitting since he was acquired to help the Canadiens in that department. The Habs also got a goal from the defence when Ben Chiarot blasted a shot from the point for the team’s first goal of the game. Johnathan Drouin remained hot, as he got two assists, and another newcomer, Sami Niku, also had a couple of helpers in his first game of the season.

Canadiens Will Face Struggling Teams on Road Trip

With the first win out of the way, the Canadiens can now focus on using the momentum to help them overtake the porous teams they will face on this four-game road trip. Of the four teams they will face, they will meet only one who has a winning record, and that’s the San Jose Sharks, who walked all over the Habs at the Bell Center last week. Instead of focusing on revenge for the home loss, the Canadiens should ensure they get six points from the three less successful teams, and then if they beat the Sharks, it’s a bonus.

Related: Canadiens Need to Rely on the Basics of Puck Support to Break Slump

The Canadiens will face the Seattle Kraken for the first time in franchise history, and the Habs can’t take them for granted, but the Kraken only have one win to this point in their inaugural season. The Los Angeles Kings are another team that has only one win, and is in a transition period where they are rebuilding, yet they also are a team with outstanding players, and can turn the tide of a game if you are not careful. The Anaheim Ducks are in a rebuild, but have won two of their six games, and are currently tied for a wild card spot in the West. These three are teams that the Habs can, and probably should beat, but they must stay focused and build on the momentum of their first win.

Canadiens Need Some Players to Step Up

The Canadiens did break out with six goals in their last game, but they still need some players on their top six to break out and start piling up the points. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have yet to hit the back of the net; they both have one point on the season, and need to take advantage of this trip to start potting some goals. Both players have not played lousy hockey, but when you don’t get the points or goals, it can be detrimental to a player’s psyche; they need to start earning points sooner than later.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson could use a boost in the points department as well. Anderson, a power forward goal scorer, has yet to touch twine; goal scoring is his bread and butter, and when you don’t have any goals after six games, it doesn’t look good. Gallagher is doing his best job trying to be a leader on and off the ice, and you can see the frustration during the Habs’ poor start. A couple more wins and maybe a goal or two by the veteran can go a long way for him to get his game. Jeff Petry is another player who has struggled out of the gate, whether because he thinks he needs to take over for what Shea Weber did on the ice or is having a rough spell. Either way, he needs to get back to his “Norris trophy talk” play from the first of last season.

A Successful Road Trip Will Put Canadiens Back on Track

If the Canadiens can win at least three of the four games they play on this road trip, it will bring them close to a .500 winning percentage. If they can come back home with a 4-6 record or, even better, a 5-5 record, it puts them back in the thick of the Atlantic Division, and in a good spot for when players like Joel Edmundson and Carey Price return. Except for the Florida Panthers, no one is running away, and a good winning streak is just what the Canadiens need to forget about the poor start.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Canadiens will also have to hope the teams in the division ahead of them struggle to put wins together. That shouldn’t be a concern at this point; the Habs should concentrate on winning their games, and if they can put a good streak together, things will sort themselves out. The team will have a little pick me up as Weber will be joining the team in Seattle. His leadership is sorely missed by the group, and a visit from him should help lift the team’s spirits and help with their momentum.

This is the perfect chance for the Canadiens to gain ground in the Atlantic, the only issue being the Habs usually don’t do well on western road trips to California. We will have to see what happens, but if the team plays as it did against Detroit, then there should be no issues.

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