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Canadiens Highlights

Fights, Injuries, & Penalties Leave Bitter Taste in Canadiens Mouth

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Montreal Canadiens blues

The Montreal Canadiens hosted the St.Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon, the second leg of their back-to-back matinee games at the Bell Centre.

The Blues had also played the previous night, which meant that they also travelled, giving an advantage to the Canadiens when it came to energy levels.

But a complete lack of discipline, poor decision-making from almost everyone in the lineup, and a terrible showing from goaltender Jake Allen quickly sunk the team’s hopes for a win.

The top line scored another goal, which was encouraging, but the Blues emerged with a well-deserved 7-2 win. On top of losing the game itself, the Habs also lost two players to injury. More on that later.

Let’s check out those highlights.

Slow Start

It’s not shocking when the opposing team scores first versus the Habs. Martin St-Louis’ team tends to have very slow starts.

That was the case on Sunday, as Alexy Toropchenko burned defenceman Jayden Struble and avoided Jake Allen’s poke check to give the Blues a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the first period.

Despite starting his NHL career on the right foot, it must be said that Struble has had a very hard time keeping up with the speed of the game in the last month or so. His defensive numbers went from well above average to well below average, compounded by his recent lack of discipline.

That’s not to say it’s time to panic. A young defenceman with very little experience is bound to go through peaks and valleys.

But it’s a good reminder that it takes a few seasons to get used to the speed in the NHL. And it also requires a year or two, if not more, to get used to the toll a season will take on an athlete’s body.

Allen Bounces

Those who follow my Montreal Canadiens coverage are well aware that I go to bat for every goaltender. Maybe it’s because I was a goaltender in my younger days, but I strongly believe a player like Allen deserves more credit.

He’s actually saved more goals above expected per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time this season than Samuel Montembeault.

And that’s why I went on a rant before the game, asking people to give Allen a little more credit.

However, there’s something to be said about his positioning, which often leaves something to be desired. Playing a game every few weeks is never easy, and there’s certainly rust at play, but Allen had a very hard time getting set on Sunday afternoon, and it definitely played a big part in how the Blues jumped to a 2-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

Big Wheel Keep On Turning

It wasn’t all bad news in the first period.

The top line once again managed to score, with Juraj Slafkovsky feeding Nick Suzuki a perfect pass to cut the lead to 2-1. We often discuss the importance of confidence when it comes to executing plays. In Slafkovsky’s case, the confidence has not always been evident.

But it is now. He’s passing with confidence, he’s shooting with confidence, and he’s heading to high-danger scoring areas. It’s exactly what you want to see from the youngest player in the lineup.

Slafkovsky’s presence on the top line has done nothing but good things for himself, his linemates, and the team.

The assist was Slafkovsky’s sixth point in five games, while the goal meant that Suzuki had scored 11 points in his last six games.

Unfortunate Result

The Habs lost yet another player when Jordan Harris lost his balance and was hit by Samuel Blais. Blais saw numbers the entire time, and consequently, was kicked out of the game, but the fact that Harris was off balance clearly made things worse. His head bounced violently off the ice after the hit, and he had a very hard time getting up.

Again, we don’t want to play internet doctor, but he was showing signs of a concussion.

Special Team Issues

The Blues scored on a late powerplay when Struble was caught hooking Toropchenko, making it a 3-1 lead for St.Louis.

We already discussed Struble’s recent uptick in penalties, but it would be unfair to suggest he’s the only player who lacks discipline in the lineup. The vast majority of Habs players have shown a complete disregard for avoiding penalties this season.

That being said, it always looks a little worse when the opposing team scores while you’re in the box.

Once again, Allen’s lack of positioning played a part. Yes, he made the first save, but since he wasn’t set, it led to a huge rebound. I almost always defend this type of play, especially on the penalty kill.

The rule in the NHL is that the goalie gets the first save and his defencemen are responsible for clearing the puck. But that was a Tom Barrasso-esque rebound by Allen.

More Of The Same

Struble had one of his most difficult games of the season, as evidenced by the giveaway that led to the fourth Blues goal. We don’t want to be too harsh given his lack of NHL experience, but it may be time for him to watch a game from the press box.

The fifth Blues goal was a familiar script. The Canadiens took a bad penalty and Allen refused to set himself before the shot. Allen hasn’t played in about two weeks, and he only had four starts in January, but it’s impossible to ignore how brutal his positioning was against St.Louis.

Too Little, Too Late

David Savard did manage to cut the lead to just three goals when he banked his shot off forward Joel Armia, but it was yet another example of the Montreal Canadiens pushing back when the game was already out of reach.

Of course, that’s to be expected when you consider the Canadiens are a team in the middle of a rebuild.

Neighbours made it 6-2 shortly thereafter.

The goal happened after the Canadiens took yet another penalty and once again failed to put any pressure on the opposing forwards while shorthanded.

Allen may have had a bad game, as did Struble, but if we’re being perfectly honest, it was a complete disaster for almost everyone in the lineup.

To make matters worse, the Habs lost their second player when Kaiden Guhle had to leave the game after a somewhat innocuous hit in the third period.

The Habs almost scored a third goal, but the referees judged a fight between Johnathan Kovacevic and Neighbours started before the shot was taken. It was a close call, and I think the referees were wrong, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.

Full marks to Kovacevic for responding to Neighbours, who did a great job getting under the Canadiens’ skin all game long.

The Montreal Canadiens will be back in action on Tuesday when they face the Anaheim Ducks visit the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET.


All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick.

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peter

I don’t know which was worse Allen’s goaltending or Bryan Mudryk illiterate play by play on TSN, it’s close but Mudryk wins.

Mike

Sportsnet+ has a terrible video & audio sync problem for the Habs games, especially when TSN is carrying blackout games. I’ve mentioned this to Arpon Basu in his column comments on the Athletics previously to get the word out to Rogers.

Tyrone

Allen looked like he was trying to make sure no one wanted him at the deadline.

Good thing the game ended when it did. Between the Harris & Guhle injuries, a Struble misconduct and a Kovacevic major for fighting we only had Matheson and Savard left on the bench to play defence for the final couple of minutes of the game.

morrisk

Well, this game alone was probably the single most important one of the season so far as things relate to what everyone wants – The Tank.

  1. Another loss.
  2. Two injuries, and both look to be out at least a week.
  3. Poor showing by the goalie supposedly being shopped at the TDL – so either he’s loosing value or is becoming untradable. If he isn’t traded, then he remains on the team and takes a few games away from the better goalie Monty.
  4. Struble looks bad right now, and bad play = losses.

At least Slaf is performing…

What’s next? I can easily see a loss to the hapless Ducks.