After a terrible start to the season, fans hope the Montreal Canadiens are starting to turn it all around. The Habs have won five game games in a row, possess a 13-12-2 record, which is good enough for third place in Atlantic Division, and in a playoff spot. Brendan Gallagher is leading the team in goals and moxie.
Montreal Canadiens Notes and News December 4: Turning it Around
In a week where the Canadiens needed to win three of four games against divisional rivals, they won all four. They looked good from top to bottom.
Scores and News
The Habs started their week of wonder with a 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. They followed this win up with a 2-1 win versus the Ottawa Senators. What is notable about these games is that they were close and defensively tight wins. These are the sorts of games fans were told to expect. Carey Price, since his return, has gone 5-0-0 and stopped 150 of 156 shots. His 1.20 GAA. .962 SA% is a far cry from his poor start.
The Canadiens faced the Detriot Red Wings on Thursday in Detriot and again at the Bell Center on Saturday night. The won 6-3 in the first contest and 10-1 in the second. These were important given the fact that Detroit is a divisional rival. With numerous goals from numerous players, the Canadiens scoring woes took a break. The wins placed the Habs in a playoff spot. They were not, however, consistent with a defence-first approach to hockey.
The long wait to see David Schlemko on the Montreal Canadiens blue line came to an end when he debuted against divisional rival the Ottawa Senators. Schlemko has been sidelined since training camp. Following hand surgery in New York to remove a bone fragment. The Habs defence looks like it is starting to gel.
As predicted, Brendan Gallagher is having a bounce-back season. Gallagher currently atop the club in points with 13 goals. He has four goals and one assist in the last five games. He has surpassed his output from last season already in the goal-scoring department. A big reason? He’s shooting at 14.8% compared to last years paltry 5.3%. Gallagher’s career shooting percentage hovers around 9.5%.
Get in the Carr
After playing two NHL games while Jonathan Drouin was out with injury, Daniel Carr played well, scoring a goal and three assists in the two games, playing on the fourth line. He was sent back to Laval where he leads the Rocket with 12 goals and seven assists in the AHL this season. This may mean Drouin could be ready to come back. He was called up a day later.
— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) December 4, 2017
The Canadiens made a minor league trade last week, acquiring forward Adam Cracknell from the New York Rangers in exchange for Peter Holland. Cracknell will report to the Laval Rocket but has hopes to return to the NHL and play for Montreal.
As Eric Engels notes, successive wins over the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators and two against the Wings have restored hope in Montreal. They have defied the low expectations befitting a team: “… that no one thought could score, one that looked porous on the defensive side of the puck through all of October, and one that looked like it was on a fast track for a top spot in the 2018 draft lottery race.”
In an impeccably timed piece, Connor Lapalme laid out the case against a rebuild in Montreal. While the Canadiens are in no way a complete team, they have significant holes that hold the team back. He argues the risks of a rebuild are too great. If the Canadiens fall back in the standings, he concedes some difficult decisions need to be made. Connor concludes, that the reality is that rebuilding can set a team back for a long time.
Omar White argues despite the success for the Canadiens of late, a playoff berth is far from certain. He states, that the chances of Montreal being able to overtake Tampa Bay or Toronto are slim. If the Habs are one of the eight teams in the East to make the playoffs, it’s most likely going to be from where they are now. Boston is the team to watch.
Boston is one point behind the Habs with 28. The threat is that they have four games in hand against Montreal which could be a real pain as the season continues. Additionally, it makes any game against the Bruins a must win. “No team is a greater threat to the Montreal Canadiens playoff chances than the Boston Bruins though. I guess it works out perfectly that way, doesn’t it? Divisional rival, historical rival, playoff rival, you name it.”
Predictions and Previews
The good week means the Canadiens have increased their odds of making the playoffs from 0.5 to 14.4%. This suggests a fundamental issue of trying to calculate any odds based on a small sample size. A few good games can alter the predicted playoff picture drastically.
Games this Week
The Canadiens face the excellent St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, December 5. Game time is 7:30 EST.
On Thursday, December 7, the Habs face the up and down Calgary Flames at home at the Bell Center. Game time is 7:30 EST.
The Canadiens end the week on Saturday with a game against the struggling Edmonton Oilers. Game time is 7:00 EST.