BROSSARD, Que. — Despite his team’s recent string of defeats, Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien insists it isn’t a lack of effort that is sinking his squad.
The day after an 8-1 home loss to the Boston Bruins, the Habs fifth straight defeat, Julien led the team through an intense practice in hopes of making necessary corrections.
“We aren’t perfect, as you can see,” Julien told reporters at the team’s practice facility. “It’s frustrating, and it’s also frustrating for the fans. We realize that. But it’s never because of a lack of effort.”
He said the team’s heart is in the right place.
“It wants to work well, but sometimes it doesn’t work in the right way.”
The Canadiens were also in a five-game losing streak with the same 11-8-5 record after 24 games last season.
But the context was a little different, as goalie Carey Price was having a rough start to the season and captain Shea Weber was still recovering from knee surgery.
And the Habs’ last two defeats have been particularly embarrassing. On Saturday, they blew a four-goal lead en route to a 6-5 loss to the New York Rangers, and on Tuesday they were humiliated in front of their fans against their archrivals from Boston.
“It’s not good after losing 8-1,” defenceman Ben Chiarot said. “We play in a city that takes a lot of pride in its team. I think we take that very seriously in here. Any time you lose to a division rival, it hurts, and you think about it for a long time after the game.”
Issues Behind Losing
Following the loss to the Bruins, veterans Price and Weber said that the only solution was to continue working hard in practice.
Julien wants to see his team commit fewer mistakes, whether it’s with or without the puck. In practice Wednesday he focused on one-on-one battles and the transition game.
“We are giving up a lot of goals because we are not smothering the plays,” Julien said. “We have to be a bit more aggressive on the puck carrier. We can agree that our defensive play is not good enough.”
The penalty kill continued to cause the Canadiens grief as Boston scored two power-play goals in the first period. Their 71.6 per cent efficiency on the penalty kill ranks them last in the NHL.
“It’s the attention to details,” Chiarot said. “Penalty killing is about being in your structure, giving up the shots from where you want them to come from — from distance — and letting our goalie see them. Being in position, having your stick in the right spot. Being disciplined with that.”
The Canadiens will have a chance to snap out of their slump Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the team against which they began their slide on Nov. 16. The Devils have hardly been better in recent weeks, winning just one of their last four games.
Habs defenceman Victor Mete said the team has to rally together.
“Once one guy gets off track, it kind of snowball effects,” he said. “If we can play as hard as we practised today, I think we can come out with the win tomorrow.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.
Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press