The Montreal Canadiens are going through a difficult stretch. Not only did they lose their last three games, but they’ve also struggled to maintain any semblance of defensive structure or sustained offence.
Consequently, head coach Martin St-Louis decided to modify his lines on Wednesday morning in an attempt to shake things up. It’s a logical approach given the recent performances of his team, especially the two lifeless losses to the Ottawa Senators. The Senators are sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference and yet they managed to dominate St-Louis’ troops at the Bell Centre and the Canadian Tire Centre.
Forward Josh Anderson was promoted to the top line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, a combination that has produced rather underwhelming results in the past.
Juraj Slafkovsky was demoted to the second line to play with Sean Monahan and Joel Armia. The third line featured Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Jake Evans, and Brendan Gallagher. Whereas the fourth line saw Tanner Pearson, Jesse Ylonen, and Michael Pezzetta together.
As it stands, the Canadiens are lacking a centre, which is why Ylonen was slotted down the middle of the ice. Top forward prospect Joshua Roy was taking reps with two defencemen, which indicates he’s the odd man out.
Joshua Roy prend les répétitions avec deux défenseurs, donc semble en surplus.
— Anthony Martineau (@Antho_Martineau) January 24, 2024
We’re Talking About Practice
No one can argue against the idea of forming new lines. The Habs are stuck in a rut, and it’s the coach’s job to find new ways to succeed. The addition to Anderson on the top line, however, is questionable.
While playing with Suzuki and Caufield last season, Anderson struggled. In fact, the entire line struggled. They only managed to control 39 percent of the shots and 29 percent of the expected goals. In other words, it wasn’t just a bad combination, it was awful.
When Slafkovsky plays on the top line they manage to control roughly 50 percent of the shots and 50 percent of the expected goals. Those aren’t elite results, but they’re still much more encouraging than anything we’ve seen from other wingers on the top line.
As for the decision to relegate Roy to the extra attacker, you could argue it lacks a little foresight. No other Canadiens player has made a greater impact on the ice this season when it comes to the team’s expected goals. Roy ranks first on the team with an impressive 58.5 percent.
As a reminder, the Montreal Canadiens are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to their expected goals, hovering at 46 percent this season.
Again, these are just practice lines, which means we’ll have to wait for Thursday’s game against Patrick Roy and the New York Islanders to confirm the lineup decisions.
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) January 18, 2024