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Montreal Canadiens

Hoffman can’t save the Habs power-play. Movement will



Montreal Canadiens

There was a moment at Montreal Canadiens practice at the Bell Centre yesterday that stood out.

It shouldn’t. But it did.

Head coach Dominique Ducharme made some alterations in a bid to get the team’s power-play going. And boy, do they need it to. While there have been plenty of reasons why the Montreal Canadiens have started this new NHL season 0-3, the man advantage stands out. That abysmal 5-on-3 in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs should have put the Habs in a position to win their opener. Instead, a colossal no-show against the Sabres and getting Shesterkin-d in the third period of their home opener against the Rangers and the Canadiens are winless.

The Montreal Canadiens are now the only team in the league to have played 180 minutes of hockey and not scored a power-play goal. So with power-play specialist Mike Hoffman set to make his Canadiens debut tonight against the San Jose Sharks, it would have been weird for Ducharme to not have switched things up.

The Montreal Canadiens lined up their expected first wave of their power play like this yesterday:




As the new configuration got some reps in, trying to develop some instant chemistry in the caverns of an eerily quiet Bell Centre, something both significant and insignificant happened. Jonathan Drouin got the puck along the half wall. He drifted towards the blueline and then interchanged with Jeff Petry.

And the wind cried Mary!

Anti-climactic, I know.

If there is a singular thing that has baffled many when the Montreal Canadiens are on the power play, it’s how static they are. In the two-man advantage against the Leafs, the Habs stayed on the perimeter in their set positions. Something that the best power plays in the league just don’t do.

Are there outliers? Of course. Alex Ovechkin hasn’t moved from his spot above the left dot for 15 years and will likely end his career as the best power-play player we’ve ever seen. But it won’t be lesser shooters like Hoffman and Cole Caufield ripping shots from the half-boards that will save the Montreal Canadiens power-play. Perhaps one day, but not right now.

What will give the Habs a chance on the man-advantage is movement. Little things like Drouin and Petry switching positions. Or Tyler Toffoli and Christian Dvorak swapping spots from the net-front presence to the bumper position. The Canadiens need to be unpredictable. Both to themselves and the four men guarding their goaltender. Only then can they pull the opposition out of position to set up those killer cross-seam passes to Caufield or Hoffman for some one-time hammer time.

Take the Edmonton Oilers. With the caveat that being Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl gives you a bit more space out there, neither of those players have set spots on the power play. They are constantly testing the shape of the opponent’s defensive box, lurking and looking for passing lanes. That movement forces their teammates to, in turn, adjust their positioning. Plus, it creates small patches of ice which they’ve vacated that shooters fill to get scoring chances off.

After Drouin and Petry interchanged at practice yesterday, the puck found it’s way to Hoffman and he did what he does best. With a familiar ‘TING’, the man with 67 career power-play goals went bar down, much to the delight of his teammates.

“We’ve got a shooter over here!” yelled someone on the ice.

Yes, the Montreal Canadiens have another shooter on their power play. Maybe the kind of weapon they haven’t had in quite a long time. But it won’t be Mike Hoffman that will save the Habs power-play.

It will be movement.



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