Canadiens Weekly: Power Play Improvements, Offense Finds Life, & More

The Montreal Canadiens finally won their first game of the season, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. After losing five in a row, the Habs needed a win, and they did it in a leisurely fashion, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 6-1. The team began the week with two straight losses but ended it on a high note, ready to move forward as they start a western road trip. Here are three takeaways from last week.

Canadiens Power Play Scores, but Penalty Kill Still Needs Work

The Canadiens went 0-17 on the power play (PP) before scoring in the second period of their game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Tyler Toffoli scored the goal, which brought the team to within one goal. However, victory wasn’t meant to be, as the Canadiens lost their fifth straight game 4-1. The Habs scored another PP goal in their win against the Red Wings, making it two games in a row with a PP marker and going two for their last six PP chances.

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)

Now that the Canadiens have found some success with the PP, they still need to figure out their penalty kill (PK). So far this season, the Habs have allowed at least one PP goal against per game and have scored nine goals on 21 chances for 57.1 percent, ranking the Canadiens 29th in the league. They need to find a way to keep the pucks out of the net while killing penalties — every game they lost, a PP goal against made a vast difference in the game for both score and momentum. With the PP starting to come around, all they need to do is fix the PK, and the wins will be easier.

Canadiens Offence Finally Comes Alive

After going five straight games scoring less than one goal, the Canadiens finally broke the door wide open and scored six goals against the Red Wings. The Canadiens made moves in the offseason to improve their offence and their PP with the acquisition of Mike Hoffman. And with the hope of Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki improving on last year’s success, the Canadiens were hoping for a more offensive team. The season didn’t start that way at all, and four goals in five games was unheard of, but the Canadiens did that, at least until they played the Red Wings.

Related: Canadiens’ Lack of Leadership to Blame for Slow Start

The Habs finally broke out of their scoring slump, and the hero wasn’t one of the top scorers for the team but a bottom-six guy. Matthieu Perrault scored a hat trick and helped the Canadiens win their first game; Hoffman scored on the PP, and Suzuki and Caufield finally got points. If this game indicates what this team can do, then the Canadiens’ offence should be fine going forward. Caufield looked like he had a lot more confidence in his play, and as the points start coming, the goals will too. With the PK the way is and the defence not being as good as last season, the Canadiens need their offence to be clicking to win the majority of their games, especially with Carey Price out for an undetermined amount of time.

Canadiens Young Guns Will Be Alright

The entire team has slumped in the first five games of the season, and the young guns Caufield, Suzuki and Alexander Romanov are no exception. Going into the game against Detroit, the three combined had one point between them, and at times, their confidence looked like it was waning. Romanov was getting bounced around the three defensive pairings looking for the right fit, and he may finally have found it with Denis Savard on the second pairing. Romanov seemed to be more comfortable with Savard and had more freedom to play his game style; if this pairing works long term, Romanov’s play should improve.

Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Head coach Dom Ducharme split up Suzuki and Caufield in game five to spread out the scoring. Suzuki centered the second line against Detroit to take some pressure off him and not play against the other team’s top line. Although he didn’t get any points, he elevated his level of play, and he looked more comfortable in a 200-foot game. Ducharme relegated Caufield to the third line with PP time. He was on the wing with Perrault for game six, and he was a big reason that line provided most of the offence that game. Caufield was all over the ice, creating scoring chances and missing the net on a few of his shots. If his confidence was low, it didn’t show in that game, and he picked up an assist for his efforts. If the young guns show this much confidence and step in the games going forward, the points and goals will come, and we will all look back at this slump and wonder why we worried.

The Canadiens begin a western road trip this week where they will face some teams that are also struggling, like the Seattle Kraken, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. If the Canadiens can take three of these four western games, they should be alright.

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