After eight games played; the Montreal Canadiens have just three points from a possible 16. This is the team’s worst start since the points format changed after the 2004/05 lockout. Naturally there’s a lot of talk about how much trouble the team is in, but is this a blip? Or are the Canadiens actually in serious trouble? The team has scored just 13 goals and has a goal difference of -20. The least and worst in the league, at time of writing. Let’s compare the team’s paltry three points with previous seasons. To keep things simple, we’ll go back to the lockout.
The profile view of the Rocky Mountains above shows that the Habs are anything but consistent over their opening games, although of late, have been better. So why the dip? Of the Hab’s eight games played so far, six have been played on the road against quality opposition, and the Buffalo Sabres. The game in Buffalo, the first of the season, was the Canadiens’ sole win and that went to a shoot-out. The rest of the road trip included visits to the Sharks, the Caps and the Ducks, those three teams combined for 17 goals.
Where have the goals gone? The New York Rangers are the only team to have shut out the Habs, so goals are being scored. But last season’s leading goal scorer Max Pacioretty only has one, and Alexander Radulov is now in Dallas. Of the 26 NHLers in double digits for points, none play in Montreal. In fact the team’s leading point-scorer is former Tampa Bay scamp Jonathan Drouin, with five points. Letting Radulov go to free agency seemed like an odd choice at the time and while Drouin definitely has potential, he’s no like-for-like replacement.
The situation in goal seems dire. Carey Price, who usually plays like you ramped up the difficulty on NHL 18 to realistic, has only managed a .881 save percentage. That’s 54th worst in the league (out of 63). Al Montoya hasn’t even made it that far. Sad, sad times.
Of course it’s not fair to land this issue at the skates of Price and Montoya though, the bluelines have been weak. David Schlemko is hurt and will be out for a few weeks, but Shea Weber and Karl Alzner are healthy. Marc Bergevin‘s failure to retain Andrei Markov has clearly hit the team hard too.
So how much trouble are the Habs actually in? Under a microscope, which in Montreal is always how the team is viewed, the situation seems dire. But actually it isn’t. Of course questions are being asked in Quebec, and Bergevin may not see out the season, but head coach Claude Julien will. The team is rebuilding on the fly and this often leads to spells of poor performances. Eight games is a decent slice of the season, it’s nearly 10% but there are still 74 games left for the team to turn it around.
Let’s also take a moment to re-calibrate exactly what ‘trouble’ looks like. Because the Habs aren’t exactly one of the NHL’s elite teams. Sure they’re better than others, but the Canadiens haven’t reached the Stanley Cup final since they last won the competition in 1993. Take away the rose-tinted glasses and expectations driven by successes won before most of the roster were born, and you’re left with an alright team going through a bumpy part of Rebuild Road.
The Habs will get better, and the new additions will learn to sync with the old guard, and Carey Price is still the best goalie in the world. Because the4thlinepodcast.com is a truly interactive experience, I ran a poll:
The start to the season for the #Habs has been woeful, but this is:
— The 4th Line Podcast (@4thLinePodcast) October 22, 2017
Who doesn’t like a poll? What do you think of the Canadiens’ current situation? Comment below or join in the conversation on twitter!