In what seems like a miserable trend lately, the Montréal Canadiens carried a lead late into the third period, conceded the tying goal with less than a minute remaining, and ultimately lost the game in a shootout.
The Vancouver Canucks had no business winning that game, and once again, the players that head coach Dominique Ducharme sent out for the shootout let the Habs down.
The number zero looms large for the Canadiens in extra time this season. They’ve played seven games into overtime and the shootout and have lost every single time. In this latest OT loss, the Canucks controlled play from the start of the extra frame to the end. Brian Wilde of Global News describes the Habs’ overtime play as “abysmal” and noted how they seemed afraid to collect and move the puck up ice (from Brian Wilde “Call of the Wilde: Montréal Canadiens Lose Again in Overtime.” Global News. 09/03/2021). Carey Price was largely the only reason the bleu-blanc-rouge survived even the OT, making an amazing sprawling glove save on the Canucks’ Brock Boeser.
In the shootout, Ducharme made the wrong decision on each shooter. Out of the players selected, only Nick Suzuki has even scored a shootout goal this year. Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar have yet to score, with Drouin 0-for-3 overall.
Changing the Formula
Obviously, someone should be able to notice that trotting out the same few players in each shootout isn’t working. Apparently, it starts and ends with Suzuki, Drouin, Byron, and Tatar. Ducharme and the rest of the staff need to change the formula, especially given that Drouin has had a shootout attempt in each of the three games and has missed each one.
Ducharme needs to ensure that the next Habs’ practice focuses mainly on extra time play. He needs to ensure that he chooses different players for the shootout. Leading scorers Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson have received little opportunity in the one-on-ones of the shootout, with Toffoli getting one measly attempt and Anderson getting none. Toffoli and Anderson have a combined 25 goals, so it’s seemingly not a numbers question.
Along with the seemingly obvious choices of Toffoli and Anderson, the Canadiens have plenty of other skaters to send out for the shootout, some of whom they haven’t even tried yet. Joel Armia, who has at least two breakaway goals for the Habs this year, hasn’t been called upon yet; Philip Danault, arguably the best forward on the squad, also hasn’t been given a shootout opportunity. Even Jeff Petry, the Canadiens’ leading point-getter, could do with an attempt. Something, anything to deviate from the predictable lineup of three shooters.
The Montréal Canadiens have the firepower to win in extra time – especially in the shootout. The fact that they have yet to do so means the coaching staff hasn’t been making the right lineup decisions when the time comes. Maybe this latest setback will finally be what causes them to re-evaluate their OT and shootout play.
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.