This season has been rather circus-like for your Montreal Canadiens. As a result, the media in Montreal is a tabloid haven and most fans are not sure whether to wear bags on their head or argue that the team is just a player away from contending.
In the past 20 or so games, we have seen it all. There has been more drama than a soap opera. Do we dare review? Let’s take a look at the season so far, breaking down the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Habs started the season with a hard-fought victory against the Buffalo Sabres winning 3-2 with the shootout winner provided by newly acquired Jonathan Drouin. The Canadiens didn’t play well but the win quieted some fans after a lacklustre camp and some horrible exhibition games.
Rookies Victor Mete and Charles Hudon made the team out of camp and after a month were both told they would be staying in Montreal.
Mete started the season playing alongside Shea Weber but now has been pushed back to the third-pairing and even to the press box. With his much-reduced icetime it’s reasonable to expect that Mete will be returned to junior hockey.
Hudon had a very strong camp and a good start to the season. His play has been promising, showing flashes of offense at times but has just two goals in 23 games. Hudon has looked good on the third line with Tomas Plekanec.
Charlie Lindgren played great for the Canadiens after taking over due to injuries to Carey Price and Al Montoya putting in a solid effort in every start. He shut out the Blackhawks in his first game of the season. Until recently Lindgren had not allowed more than two goals in a game. In every start he gave his team a chance to win.
Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and Andrew Shaw have all shown that they can provide much needed offense for a team struggling to score. Consistency has been an issue and finding the right chemistry for the trios.
In my opinion, on paper, the Montreal defensive corps should be an upgrade from last year. This has not been the case. Besides Weber, the Canadiens defense, as a group, has been pretty bad. They seem to be regularly out of position and leaving plenty of space for opposition forwards to play in front of their net.
There is something seriously wrong with this squad. I haven’t determined whether the blame lies with J.J. Daignault or Claude Julien’s system, or both. Either way, this is an area that requires dramatic improvement going forward.
The lack of transparency during the injury to Price was another area of failure. I understand that management wants to protect their goalie by not revealing his injury but it went from ‘nothing serious’ to him being placed on injured reserve.
Where does one start with this category?
Let’s start with the Montreal media and how they have run wild with false narratives about this team. Some have recommended trading everyone in full rebuild mode. Some floated the possibility that Price wasn’t injured at all but was trying to force a trade. Even Carey’s wife felt compelled to state that she doesn’t want to leave Montreal nor is she pursuing a divorce to quell rumours.
Given the start to the season and the passion of the fans, I can understand fans and media being upset. But even during the short winning streak, the media feasted on the negative and nothing else. This will only get worse as the season progresses unless the Habs really turn it around and win the conference.
The low point of the season, so far, came in two games against the Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs. In a word, it was ugly.
Against the Arizona Coyotes, the Canadiens took a two-goal lead and then took their foot right off the gas and got out of the car. Nicholas Deslauriers got into in ill-timed fight that changed the entire game. This allowed the worst team in the league to come back and beat the Habs 5-4.
You might think after an embarrassing loss to the worst team in the league, Montreal’s next game against a long-time rival would be full of energy and effort. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. After a mediocre first period, the team forgot how to play hockey. Toronto lambasted the Habs 6-0.
So is this up and down season and playoff hopes over? Not yet, but it’s getting closer. Carey Price had a triumphant return against Buffalo on Saturday. Let’s hope that the team can now give him much more support, offensively and defensively, than they have done for the first quarter of the season.