The Montreal Canadiens fatigue is showing. They have recently just come off a period where they played eight games in 13 days. The team’s fatigue gets exposed with each passing game. This is particularly true in the second half of a back-to-back. In the last two weeks, the Canadiens played two back-to-backs, losing both of the latter games in dramatic fashion. While both the losses to the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres seem and are different, there are a lot of similarities.
Montreal Canadiens Fatigue Is Showing
The Second half of the back-to-backs
While the game against the Wild, ended in a 7-1 romp, and the Sabres game ended in a 3-2 overtime loss they are similar in the way of fatigue. In both instances, the Canadiens players looked very tired in the third period. The difference was that it was 4-1 going into the third against the Wild, while they were leading the Sabres.
Another similarity was that Carey Price was expected to keep his team in the game on his own. The first time it didn’t work out well as the Wild scored six unanswered goals on the all-star netminder. Price hasn’t been his old self as of late, and this could very well contribute to his own fatigue. The game against the Sabres could have easily gone that same way if Price had not played the game he did.
Especially in the third period, when the Habs players were down and under after the Sabres tied the game. It was Price who gave his players confidence to come out strong to begin the overtime period. However, the Canadiens just weren’t able to beat Robin Lehner. As a result, the Canadiens looked tired on the play of the game-winning goal.
Price’s Costly Fatigue
In the months of December and January, Carey Price has been posting a sub-par numbers including under .900 save percentage in his last 10 starts. This could very well be occurring due to fatigue. Last season, Price missed all but 12 games with a knee injury. After recovering from his injury, Price played in the World Cup of Hockey. He was given a rest during the preseason but essentially came back to action, and had a big workload with the Habs.
At first, this wasn’t a problem for the former Hart Trophy winner, however, Price’s workload got heavier in December and January. He quickly went into a slump as the team started to play more often. However, it’s not just Price but many others from the World Cup including Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron are in big slumps this season. It seems as if the World Cup of Hockey has put a toll on the game’s best stars.
This season, the NHL has tried a condensed schedule by cramming many games in a shorter period of time. However, each team gets a bye week where they have five days off. With that being said going into NHL action on Wednesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs had five games in hand on the Boston Bruins. This could explain the slumps that some players are going through. With too many back-to-backs and games in general in a condensed time, it’s tiring players out.
With the league implementing the five-day bye week, they are cramming the other games. Does it make sense to tire out players all season long just for a five-day rest?
This could be an explanation for Price’s woes as of late. If that’s the case, it might do the netminder good to get that bye week later in February.
Montoya’s stats are glorified by Price’s slump
While Price has been struggling as of late, Al Montoya has been on a four-game winning streak. Generally, the Canadiens have played Montoya in one of the two games of a back-to-back. During the eight-game stretch, the Habs went 3-4-1 and of those three wins, Montoya has two of them.
However, that isn’t to say Montoya’s numbers are great. During his streak he has a save percentage of .901 in the month of January. While they are better than Price’s numbers lately, Montoya allowed four goals against the Jets and got a convincing win, as the Habs scored seven. It seems like the Habs offense has been more helpful to Montoya during the month of January.
In the three games that Montoya played in the Canadiens scored 14 goals averaging 4.66 goals per game. However, in the eight games that Price has played the team scored only 17 goals for 2.13 goals per game.
Despite Montoya’s stats not being incredible but instead masked by the Habs offense, he should get more starts in order to give Price much needed rest.
The fatigue of the defensive core
While opposing teams have been lighting Price up more than usual, it’s not only on him. The defensive core in front of him also looks affected by fatigue. Shea Weber, being the team’s top defenseman, has been suffering from being overplayed as well. Weber was more of a force to be reckoned with earlier but now looks slow.
Alexei Emelin looks worse as well but that might be more of time catching up to him. Emelin has been Weber’s partner for much of the season, however, both players aren’t puck-moving defensemen. In order for Weber to be at his best, he needs a puck-moving defenseman. There is Nathan Beaulieu that has the intangibles to be that guy, but he just hasn’t put it all together. If he does that could easily take the work off Weber, making him less fatigued in the process.
Jeff Petry seems to have the fatigue catching up to him as well. He has made a few mistakes as of late that led to opposing team’s goals.
It’s clear that the All-Star break will benefit the Canadiens defensive group greatly. However, Weber might not get the rest he needs being at the game. It will also give the 38-year-old Andrei Markov time to get back to the lineup.
The fatigue on the forwards
This past week, the Canadiens offense struggled to produce. Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov led the team in points with three. However, those points came in the same game against the New Jersey Devils. The Canadiens scored a total of six goals during the week. It showed clearly that the offensive players were tired because when a big goal was needed they didn’t pressure enough.
Another example to show how the Canadiens are playing too much is Galchenyuk re-injuring his knee. Following playing five games in eight nights after coming back from injury, Galchenyuk re-aggravated it. If the Canadiens had gotten more rest it is very possible that he would have never injured it again.
After this period of eight games in 13 nights, it’s clear that the Canadiens need some rest.