After winning five games in a row and finding themselves briefly in a playoff spot, the Habs have reverted to form and lost three games last week. In Montreal Canadiens news this week, it may be time to accept mediocrity in Montreal.
Montreal Canadiens News and Notes December 11: Living with Mediocrity
Scores and News
The Canadiens lost 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues. Claude Julien benched the Canadiens leading scorer Brendan Gallagher for over eight minutes after the winger took a penalty and followed it up with a giveaway in the neutral zone that resulted in a goal. While the Habs were able to hang with one of the top teams in the league, this loss augered a weak week at the Bell Center.
The followed this loss, with a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Calgary Flames. The Flames were missing Matthew Tkachuk and had a backup goalie in net. Sean Monahan‘s scored his second goal of the game 1:14 into overtime. David Rittich made 35 saves in the win on Thursday night.
The 6-2 blowout on Saturday night to the Edmonton Oilers made it three losses in a row. Carey Price didn’t show up and the Montreal offence made Edmonton goaltender Laurent Brossoit look like an all-star.
Nikita Scherbak may be close to returning to Montreal. His first stop will be Laval.
Canadiens assigned forward Nikita Scherbak to the AHL's Laval Rocket. Scherbak missed the last 21 games due to a knee injury suffered on October 26.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 10, 2017
The move suggests he has recovered from the knee surgery he suffered at the end of October.
“…the player has spent stretches on the fourth line and had his ice time reduced to less than 14 minutes per game in 14 of the 59 games Julien’s coached since taking over for Michel Therrien last February, you start to understand why some media members—including Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette and Brian Wilde of Recrutes.ca just this past week—and a fair portion of the fans have suggested it’s time for the Canadiens to trade him.”
While Victor Mete has had a largely positive experience as a 19-year-old rookie, Pat Hickey says it is time to send him off to the world juniors and re-evaluate his position when the tournament ends on Jan. 6. He has played 27 games, earned four assists and his plus-minus rating is the best among the Canadiens’ defencemen at plus-5. Hickey states:
“After starting the season as Shea Weber’s partner on the No. 1 defence pairing, he has been a healthy scratch for the past two games. Mete is averaging a shade under 15 minutes, but on half-a-dozen occasions, his ice time has slipped below 10 minutes, which isn’t good for his development or his confidence.”
5 Key Problems
After five years under Bergevin, Francois Lauzon sums up the Canadiens challenges in five key points. they include:
- They still haven’t found a big No. 1 line center;
- They’re still way too small as a team physically;
- When Max Pacioretty doesn’t score who else does? (Thank you, Brendan Gallagher, for having a great year, will you keep it up?);
- The defense seems to have been gutted (Where are you Andrei Markov, and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev?);
- Jonathan Drouin is a great player, but probably should not be playing center (How are those faceoffs going?).
The Audacity of Optimism
Pat Hickey suggests if you are still optimistic about the Montreal Canadiens, you are among a just a select few at this point in the season. The Canadiens are 1-2-1 in the current homestand and they are fading out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. They are only two points behind the Boston Bruins in the fight for third place in the Atlantic Division, but Boston has four games in hand. The only bright spot has been the line from Laval. Pat Hickey states:
“The only player on pace to reach 50 points this season is fourth-liner Daniel Carr, who has seven points in the five games since he was recalled from Laval. There are players who should be embarrassed that Carr, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Byron Froese have set the standard for hard work on this team.”
Learning to Live with Mediocrity
It may be time for fans to start to learn to live with mediocrity in Montreal. There are some silver linings. Cheaper tickets and shorter lines for the bathroom are one thing. Ridiculous profits for the Montreal Canadiens help ensure this mediocrity is likely to continue. As Brendan Kelley points out:
“If you’re a fan, these stellar revenue and profit numbers should not be warming your heart. That’s because your Montreal Canadiens are making bigger and bigger bucks even though the product on the ice is more mediocre than ever. Where’s the motivation to improve the club if you’re making a profit of nearly US$100 million?”
Just two games this week. On Thursday, the Canadiens face the high flying New Jersey Devils at home at the Bell center. Game time is 7:30 PM EST.
The Habs start an extended road trip on Saturday against the struggling Ottawa Senators. Game time is 7:00 PM EST.