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Tired Canadiens Headed Toward Yet Another Difficult Month

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montreal canadiens head coach martin st-louis

The Montreal Canadiens. had a very difficult December.

“We’re a tired group,” said head coach Martin St-Louis. “Could be physically, could be mentally. This was a hard month. December was really hard for us with the travel and the schedule we played. Also, the injuries we got. And even with the time off at Christmas, we had to travel all the way from Dallas, and go back to Tampa.

“Some of the guys’ travel was not smooth. So it really wasn’t a break. It was a grind.”

Alternatively, fans of the 2023 Draft could easily argue December was a perfect month, with the Canadiens earning just 10 of a possible 30 points.

It was an impressive nosedive that led to improved Draft odds, which is an exciting proposition given phenom Connor Bedard is currently setting records at the 2023 World Junior Championship, and doing so with style.

But the Canadiens are far from the only team that has its sights set on drafting a franchise-altering talent this summer, facing stiff competition from other tank-orientated teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks.

Thankfully, the Canadiens have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to outmaneuvering their fellow tank commanders.

They possess the most difficult strength of schedule of all NHL teams, including a very tough January.

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The Habs will play 14 games this month, including 10 games at the Bell Centre, where they’ve produced a 7-9-0 record this season, which is a far cry from anything resembling home-ice advantage.

They’ll face Nashville Predators (x2), New York Rangers (x2), St-Louis Blues, Seattle Kraken, New York Islanders, Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators (x2).

And while the East currently offers the Canadiens a little reprieve due to several of the teams presently outside the playoff picture in the standings, the vast majority of their Western matchups will be played against teams that are either solidly in a playoff position or fighting for a spot just outside the wildcard positions.

But even the ‘easy’ Eastern Conference matchups should present a challenge for the Habs.

For example, the last time the Canadiens faced the Senators they only lost by a score of 3-2, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue the scoreline was not flattering for the road team.

The Canadiens managed to control fewer than 40 percent of the high-danger chances against the Senators, who, at the time, were eighth overall in the Atlantic division.

And while there are low odds the Canadiens manage a win against contending teams such as the Rangers, Bruins, and Leafs, they’re also set to be outmatched by teams like the Red Wings and the Florida Panthers, who possess much better underlying numbers despite not being in the playoff picture.

This season, the Canadiens have controlled a sliver over 41 percent of the high-danger chances. Every single team they’re going to face in January has produced better numbers.

For example, the Predators, one of the easiest matchups for the Canadiens this month statistically speaking, have controlled over 49 percent of the quality chances. The Bruins clock in at over 55 percent, with the Leafs and Panthers closely behind, hovering near the 55 percent mark.

Having an opportunity to spend more time with their families will surely help mitigate some of the stress currently endured by Canadiens players, but as it stands, the Canadiens are set to embark on what could be another very difficult month.


All Statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick.

Strength of schedule and Draft odds via Tankathon.

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habbernack

Every team goes through a grinding part of the schedule. I think they’re out of shape. They can’t keep an up tempo style game for 60 minutes. Spend all their time defending.

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