Canadiens Hang Allen Out to Dry with Lack of Goal Support

The fact that Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin leads the Habs in scoring early this 2021-22 season, having already matched his two-goal total from all of 2020-21, is a great story. It unfortunately also tells you all you need to about the lack of run support goalie Jake Allen continues to get in goalie Carey Price’s absence.

Canadiens Snake-Bitten in Front of Allen

If that weren’t enough, defenseman Brett Kulak, who knows the power play like a fifth cousin once removed based on his deployment thereon (or lack thereof), is right up there with Drouin, with two points scored. Needless to say, it’s not a recipe for success. Thankfully, the status quo is unlikely to hold by season’s end, at least with regard to the team’s scoring leaders.

In terms of the lack of offensive support Allen is getting, it’s not so easy to predict a change for the better, seeing as this predicament dates back to last season. True, it’s only three games in, with the Canadiens having scored just twice in the two games Allen (0-2-0, 2.68 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) has started. However, last season, 15 of his 17 total losses were games in which the Canadiens scored two goals or less.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen – (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, four of Allen’s 11 wins were games in which they scored two goals or less in regulation. The Habs’ two goals total in games he’s started this season point to them having to be lucky simply to get two in a single outing.

To be fair, Allen did win a 7-3 game against the Vancouver Canucks in 2020-21. However, it along with a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, came during the Habs’ fast 5-0-2 start last season, when they scored 33 goals. The offensive explosion obviously didn’t last, with the Canadiens scoring just 125 in the season’s remaining 49 games. The 2.55 goals per game average would have ranked No. 26 in the league.

Related Link: Canadiens’ Allen Honored as Unsung Hero in Disappointing Habs Season

At least it points to the Habs being equal-opportunity poor scorers, which was reflected in their one-goal performance against the Buffalo Sabres, with backup goalie Samuel Montembeault playing instead. However, the fact remains that, with Allen taking over for an injured Price down the stretch last season, they scored significantly less than on average: 37 goals in Allen’s final 17 appearances for just 2.18 per game. It’s a problem, even if last season it had more to do with the 25 games in 43 nights they were forced to play due to the NHL COVID-19 protocol.

Habs Need Another Petry

On paper, the Canadiens are a team that can score. Granted Mike Hoffman, on whom the Habs were expected rely to be a boon to their current 0%-effective power play, is injured along with several others, but for the most part the forward lines are intact. The Habs have three solid offensively capable lines, with possible exception to Jake Evans centering the third. It makes one think: The Canadiens can’t possibly need Jesperi Kotkaniemi this badly to function properly, can they?

Probably not, all due respect to him, but the mere notion does shed a light on general manager Marc Bergevin’s busy offseason. In contrast, one shouldn’t expect him to make any moves of significance this regular season. The last in-season trade Bergevin made that ultimately improved the offense by leaps and bounds was the Jeff Petry deal in 2015, and it was more of a move to shore up the defense at that point, with Petry having yet to develop into the No. 1-caliber blue-liner he is today.

Jeff Petry Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry – (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It does nevertheless hint at something curious: the need for additional offense on the back-end. For example, consider the tumble the Canadiens took when Andrei Markov left (2.72 G/G in 2016-17 to 2.52 in 2017-18).

It’s a fair avenue to go down in search of additional offense, as most goal-scoring plays start in the defensive zone (from ‘Analyze This: Canadiens’ lack of puck-movers leaves offence in tatters,’ Montreal Gazette, January 11, 2018). Furthermore, Petry is the only offensive threat on defense (unless you count Chris Wideman), meaning it’s clearly a flawed construction.

What’s also distressing is the Petry acquisition was at the trade deadline. The last and arguably only other big in-season move Bergevin made prior to that to improve the team’s offense? The Thomas Vanek trade in 2014, which was also at a trade deadline. So, unless the Habs find themselves in contention for a playoff spot, Bergevin is unlikely to do much of anything impactful this regular season, perhaps his last at the helm of the Habs.

Allen the Early Habs MVP

Obviously, a lot can change over the remaining 79 games of the season and three games represent too small of a sample size to come to a definitive conclusion. Trends don’t form in a week in the hockey world, in other words, but they do over the course of what amounts to Allen’s tenure so far with the Habs.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Jake Allen – (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The Canadiens will obviously end up scoring more than one goal one of these days. That much is certain, but so is the fact that they can also use more offense from the blue line. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, as the Canadiens will have good stretches with the lineup as is, but it’s clear the good won’t outweigh the bad.

With that, the defense is the only logical part of the roster that needs to be visibly improved. Ultimately, upgrading on defense couldn’t hurt, even if only to support Allen to a greater extent, offensively or in general. As arguably the only consistently good player on the Habs so far, God knows he can use it.

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