Shall we get the second-guessing out of the way?
Al Montoya was comical on the Blues goal that opened the scoring. The Canadiens’ backup goaltender lost his balance and was helpless to do anything to stop an Alex Pietrangelo point shot that was tipped in by Patrick Berglund.
Nor was Montoya particularly sharp on the David Perron goal that made it 2-1.
The Canadiens fought back from both deficits.
They played a good game, outshooting the visitors 30-22 and holding a huge edge, 66-37 in shot attempts.
The Canadiens won 39 of 56 faceoffs.
They had 32 hits to 33 for a much bigger St. Louis team.
They were in the game.
We’ll never know if Carey Price would have stopped the shots that eluded Montoya.
But the way it stands, Price – who has been decidedly unPriceian for weeks now – will have to be at the top of his game Sunday night in Boston.
If Price is not the goaltender we saw at the beginning of the season, the Canadiens could be riding a two-game losing streak into their five-game break.
Saturday’s feel-good hockey story was Craig Anderson’s 3-0 shutout of the Islanders.
The feel-bad story for Montreal fans is the win lifted the Senators to within six points of what used to be the Canadiens’ near-insurmountable Atlantic Division lead.
Ottawa has four games in hand – five after the Canadiens’ visit to Boston. And while the Canadiens are idle next week, the Senators play Buffalo at home and the Devils in New Jersey.
When the Canadiens return to action against Winnipeg at the Bell Centre next Saturday, they could be nursing a two-point division lead.
That would be what Sir Alex Ferguson, former manager of Manchester United, calls “squeaky bum time” … and there will be plenty of nervous perspiration to go around, particularly among Montreal’s easily jangled fans.
But let’s not get TOO far ahead of ourselves with hypothetical scenarios.
The Canadiens always play well against the Bs. If Price is on his game, the Sunday match is winnable.
As was the Saturday game.
“We definitely deserved better, Michel Therrien said, in French, to open his postgame press conference (telecast by RDS). “I liked our effort. I liked our intensity.”
But that’s the ominous aspect of the Canadiens’ slump.
The team shows up in nearly every game.
But it’s starting to look like they just might not have the horses to match their early-season surge.
Against St. Louis, the Canadiens were a one-line team. Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov created headaches for the Blues defence and for goaltender Jake Allen every time they were on the ice.
Danault went 14-7 on faceoffs, Pacioretty had 10 shot attempts – only two of which were on Allen – and Radulov was Radulov, making something happen on every shift.
But as Therrien conceded during his press conference, the Canadiens need more than one line.
Alex Galchenyuk won six of nine faceoffs and generated some chances in the offensive zone. But with all due respect to Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen, Galchenyuk has to play with Top Six wingers … and neither of those hardwiring guys fits into that category.
The fourth line had a few good shifts.
Tomas Plekanec was 10-5 on draws, but the $6 Million Man couldn’t score in … well, you fill in the off-colour metaphor.
On to Boston for a biggie.
• • •
Comment on the Liveblog from ProHabs:
Galchenyuk was a point a game player as a first line center. He gets hurt and now he is not even one of the 6 attackers on the ice to try and get the tying goal. What happened to not losing your spot due to an injury.
No other coach in the league would do this. Mark Scheifele did not come back from his injury and end up on the 3rd line. Neither did Jonathan Toews nor Tyler Seguin nor Connor McDavid when they got hurt last year. Unbelievable. Therrien is ruining Galchenyuk.
So now that injuries are not an excuse, what is the matter with this team? Psychology is a factor. When the goalie is stopping nearly every shot, the offense has the confidence to go the extra mile and may be less worried about being out of position for a rush the other way. Chemistry is another factor–with the exception of the first line, there is an obvious problem with chemistry on the second and third lines. Defensive positioning is another factor, and this one is on the coaches–and in and of itself a strong reason in favour of making some changes on the coaching staff. And finally, goaltending is a major factor. Montoya, on balance, has not been any better than Condon was, and Price has been significantly worse than in recent years–at least in the past 2-3 months. How to cure these ills? Perhaps too many to cure at once. But perhaps if one is cured, some of the other problem areas might begin to improve.
And a tough take from expat_habsfan:
This team has been a pretender since the season started. They have a few good players but too many guys that are barely above AHL caliber to be a serious contender.
Yes, I agree MT is a one dimensional coach in a league that has become multi-dimensional and he needs to go. However, the caliber of the team is strictly MB’s responsibility and other than Radulov, he’s done nothing to improve the team beyond making a tit-for-tat trade with the Preds, acquiring cast-offs, and building a stable of 4th and 5th pairing d-men.
The team’s play is indicative of a illness that will plague this franchise until Molson cleans house. As sad as this sounds this team is DOA until the entire organization realizes that it is being propped up by a history they have literally no attachment with and they need to start making their own.