Rebuilding Canadiens Suffer Minor Setback in Coyotes Win

For a good period of time, just about everything went right for the Montreal Canadiens in their 6-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 20. That’s the point, though.

Rebuilding Canadiens Now a Respectable 3-2

Anyone who had been hoping for an 0-82 season ahead of the Connor Bedard NHL Entry Draft was probably left sorely disappointed, especially seeing as the Canadiens are now a respectable 3-2 on the season. However, they can still find solace in how a) things likely won’t go their way to that degree ever again and b) the Canadiens still somewhat let the Coyotes back into the game after leading 5-0 at one point, dominating every which at the very start of the game.

Connor Bedard, Regina Pats
Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard – (Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller)

A few facts:

  • The Canadiens got off to a rare quick start, opening the scoring in the first two minutes.
  • The Habs proceeded to pot two more in the next 5:19.
  • Both Brendan Gallagher and first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky got their respective monkeys off their backs with their first markers.
  • The Coyotes only got their first shot on goal with less than eight minutes left in the first period.

However, facts work both ways:

  • The Canadiens let the Coyotes close the gap, as the opposition ended the game with a slight 27-30 shot disadvantage.
  • Before scoring three in the first period against the Coyotes, the Canadiens hadn’t scored in the first period in four previous games this season.
  • Even with the six-goal outburst, the Habs rank No. 21 in the league with 14 through five games. So, even though they are nearly at three per game right now, heading into the Coyotes game, they were at just two.
  • They scored as much as they did against the Coyotes’ backup, Connor Ingram, who, despite being 25, has limited NHL experience to the tune of four regular-season games (.867 save percentage… and admittedly four playoff games; .913).

Victory over Coyotes Just One Win

Needless to say, while it was a great overall performance, no one should rest their hats on it and suddenly deem the Canadiens a playoff team, especially seeing as the Coyotes are in full tank/rebuild mode too. And, while the Canadiens have also beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, the Coyotes have the Leafs as well. All that too say, no one should read into this one victory too much.

Related: 5 Signs Canadiens Are in Fact Still Rebuilding in 2022-23

It’s just one game after all, similar to the one the Canadiens played on Oct. 23, 2021 against the Detroit Red Wings, which the Habs won in decisive fashion 6-1. The Canadiens then proceeded to lose nine of their next 13 games en route to a league-worst 22-49-11 record and an NHL Draft Lottery win.

That should still be the goal in 2022-23, as it’s a long season with a lot of hockey left to be played. Simply put, the Canadiens are not a playoff-caliber team based on their inexperienced defense, which admittedly has the makings for an impressive one in just a few years, and an inherent lack of starting goaltending, according to general manager Kent Hughes himself.

None of that magically changes just because the Canadiens have wins against the Penguins or Maple Leafs, who are seen as struggling despite having the same 3-2 record as the Canadiens. It certainly doesn’t change because the Canadiens dominated a Coyotes team ripe for the picking.

Takeaways from Coyotes Win

If the primary takeaway from this single game against the Coyotes is that the Habs are in a different league, it doesn’t matter. Firstly, considering the arena in which the Coyotes play and its meager capacity that evokes thoughts of junior, anyone not knowing any different would have assumed that heading in anyway.

Secondly, the Canadiens don’t need to finish last again for a shot at Bedard. If they end up with the third pick, they’re still guaranteed either Matvei Michkov or Adam Fantilli, two supposed elite talents in their own right. And, based on the fact that both the Chicago Blackhawks and Coyotes are in an unofficial competition to see who can ice the worst team this season, the Canadiens, who are fairly stacked up front, were always going to be underdogs to become a third track on the tankathon.

Adam Fantilli Chicago Steel
Ex-Chicago Steel forward Adam Fantilli – (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Ultimately, a win over the Coyotes is nothing to celebrate. From one perspective, it admittedly doesn’t do the Habs any favours in their rebuild, but, from another, it’s just one game without any legitimate playoff implications. The Canadiens still have a lot to prove if they’re to be taken seriously as a potential playoff team, but things won’t likely get that far, based on the team’s makeup. All anyone can say definitively is this Canadiens teams is playing better than last year’s, which is an admittedly low bar to reach.

It is progress though. Had there not been any at all relative to at this point last season, the Canadiens would be in far deeper trouble organizationally speaking than anyone could have foreseen. As it stands, a dominant victory over the Coyotes in a rebuilding season is the NHL equivalent of spilled milk.

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