Connect with us

Canadiens Postgame

Another Very Good ‘Rebuild Loss’ For Canadiens Versus Devils



Montreal Canadiens New Jersey Devils

The Montreal Canadiens were in Newark on Saturday afternoon to face the struggling New Jersey Devils.

A sleepy first period gave way to an entertaining second half of the game, but despite a relatively strong effort by the Habs, they could not secure a win as the Devils emerged with a 4-3 win.

The game followed a trend of late, a trend that should be considered a win-win for Canadiens fans.

They played well but they couldn’t match the opposing team’s talent level, which means the Habs also improved their lottery odds.

Let’s dive into the highlights!

Crawling Out Of The Gate

The first period featured roughly two decent scoring chances from both teams, as players struggled to get going in the matinee matchup. Circadian rhythm aside, the Canadiens did a good job limiting the Devils’ chances by clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing the home team to build momentum before entering the offensive zone.

The staunch defensive work paid off in the second period, as a great passing play between Josh Anderson, Jake Evans, and Brendan Gallagher led to the game’s opening goal.

It was Gallagher’s ninth goal of the season, his first since January 20th.

I know many fans have soured on Gallagher, but despite not providing the same type of offence as he used to, he still manages to make a positive impact when it comes to shots and scoring chances. He’s one of the few players who has managed to get above 50 percent in both shot control and expected goals.

He’s still taking too many bad penalties, and his defensive play on Saturday left something to be desired, but Gallagher is far from the biggest problem in the lineup.

Neutral Zone Play

Once upon a time, the Canadiens owned one of the most dominant lines in the NHL.

When Gallagher, Phillip Danault, and Tomas Tatar were on the ice they produced some of the best underlying numbers in modern hockey history. We’re talking about a line that controlled almost 60 percent of the shots, goals, and high-danger chances.

The secret to their sauce was perfect chemistry.

Danault was in charge of puck retrievals, Tatar set up shop in the neutral zone to guarantee a quick, controlled exit from the defensive zone, and Gallagher was tasked with creating chaos in the offensive zone.

The line epitomized the concept of playing as a team.

This brings us to one of the youngest players in the lineup, Joshua Roy.

The 20-year-old rookie hasn’t set the league on fire from an offensive standpoint, even if he has managed to outscore many of his teammates. But there’s a very good reason why Roy leads all Habs players in expected goals.

Much like Tatar, he’s a wizard in the neutral zone. Not only does he ensure his defensive coverage is up to snuff, but he’s constantly driving the play up the ice with quick passes or nice individual efforts.

Seeing as he’s less than 15 games into his NHL career, it’s fair to say that Roy has taken the first step toward being considered a long-term fixture in the top six.

Top Line Offence

You’d be hard-pressed to say the Canadiens are one of the best teams in transition. They allow a lot of chances off the rush while creating very few of their own.

But they have done a much better job with quick-hit offence in recent games, as evidenced by their improved underlying numbers since the All-Star break.

Johnathan Kovacevic gave us the perfect example of the team’s renewed interest in scoring off the rush when he made a perfect 100-foot pass to Cole Caufield, who fed captain Nick Suzuki for his team-leading 21st goal of the season.

Defensive Responsibilities

Back to Gallagher.

As we already covered, he’s probably having a much better year than most assume, but the negative aspects of his play tend to stand out, giving the perception that he’s having a very difficult year.

The game-tying goal was a direct result of some poor defensive coverage from Gallagher and a Tom Barrasso-like rebound from Jake Allen. Gallagher knows better than to give up on a play. Never giving up on a play is the reason he carved out a very nice career in the NHL without having much draft pedigree.

Montreal Canadiens Run Out Of Steam

You can’t expect a team like the Habs to win every night.

All fans ask for is an honest effort, and despite losing a fifth game in a row, that’s exactly what the Canadiens provided against the Devils.

Unfortunately, the Canadiens simply don’t have the depth to close out games. Such is life in a rebuild.


The Montreal Canadiens are back in action on Tuesday when they’ll host the Arizona Coyotes at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET. It will be a crucial game when it comes to both team’s Draft Lottery odds.

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