The Montreal Canadiens Are Playing a Dangerous Game

Game 5 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators proved to be nothing but ugly for the Habs. The frustration was evident as the Sens kept denying the Habs the ability to establish a cycle game in the offensive zone while goalie Craig Anderson continued to be a wall in net. Carey Price had a rare off night allowing five goals on 25 shots and when Price doesn’t play well, the team in front of him usually doesn’t either. Ottawa has made this a series by making a 3-0 deficit into 3-2 and the Habs are playing a dangerous game in letting their foot off the gas.

(Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

The Montreal Canadiens have a lot of work to do

Credit the Sens who have made adjustments to shut down the Habs offensively and replacing Andrew Hammond with Craig Anderson was a smart move on their part. But Habs coach Michel Therrien has not made adjustments to counteract the Sens’ attack with the exception of shuffling lines the past two games to no result. The team has one goal the past two games and the top six especially needs to step it up.

Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher are relied upon to generate offense and they just haven’t been able to get anything going. The bottom six hasn’t been impressive either but Lars Eller has played well but he doesn’t get the ice time or line support that he deserves. It has become obvious that Jacob De la Rose is struggling and it is too much for him right now. Usually the Habs are patient with their prospects so it is unusual to see them force feed De la Rose as they are.

Adjustments needed ASAP

PA Parenteau missed the second game with a minor injury but has been a healthy scratch since. With the forwards struggling to score, there is no better time for Parenteau to come back into the lineup. He is not a huge scorer but he has been much better post trade deadline and he has good puck possession skills that could make a difference.

The defense has struggled at times with bad defensive coverage and some brutal giveaways. Nathan Beaulieu will miss the rest of the series but Greg Pateryn has been decent as his replacement. But the team could perhaps benefit from a more veteran presence such as Sergei Gonchar who has more offensive flair than Pateryn or even Mike Weaver, who was very effective for the Habs in last year’s playoff run.

If Montreal wants to make a run this year, the power play has to be fixed immediately. The Habs rely too heavily on PK Subban and Andrei Markov for offense on the power play and teams recognize that. The only one who will stand in front of the net is Gallagher and while he is pesky, his small stature allows for taller goalies to see around him.

Playing with danger

The Habs have lacked the urgency and desperation of the Sens and by failing to increase the intensity and make adjustments, the Habs are playing with fire if they are hoping Price will steal them that final game to win the series. If the Habs hang on to win the series, they still have issues to sort out if they have Stanley Cup aspirations. By all accounts, they are a better team than the Sens. But now it is time to show it.