by Andrew Saadalla, Guest Columnist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens blew yet another chance to solidify their lead in the Atlantic Division last Thursday night by being completely outmatched by the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre. Laying an uninspiring goose egg (in front of attendees that pay top dollar, no less) has simply become unacceptable for the Montreal fan base.

Captain Max Pacioretty hit the nail on the head while fielding journalists’ questions. He simply doesn’t know what “… excuse (he) can dig up…” anymore, because excuses have run their course one too many times.

No amount of clichés can justify why the Habs keep coming up short in nearly every single game they’ve played over the course of the last two months. As the regular season schedule dwindles, it’s time to accept that the Habs might miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

While anything can happen between now and the postseason, the odds are quickly starting to dissipate. In order to squeeze into the postseason, the Habs will have to win 11 of their next 20 games. This equates to approximately 55 per cent of their remaining games. Again, it’s still possible that they’ll pull it together, and goaltender Carey Price would undoubtedly have to lead the way, but certain trends and tendencies might not convince even the biggest optimists.

  • The Habs have lost five consecutive home games.
  • In their last 15 regulation (and one overtime) periods on home ice, they have managed to score only five goals.
  • The team has averaged 2.27 goals for and 2.80 goals-against over a 15-game stretch at home, having been shutout twice while boasting a 4-8-3 record.
  • Since November 12th of 2016, their record is 20-20-7.
  • Tomas Plekanec has nine goals in his last 89 games.
  • Paul Byron has not scored or added any assists in the 11 games played in February.
  • Artturi Lehkonen has not scored a goal since January 21st, and has been held off the score sheet for the following 14 games.
  • Alex Galchenyuk has two goal and five points over that same stretch.
  • Torrey Mitchell has not scored since December 8th, and has five assists in the ensuing 35 games played.
  • Brian Flynn has not scored since January 14th, and has no points in the following 15 games.
  • Fan favourite, Alexander Radulov has two goals and one assist in the 11 games since the start of February.
  • Jeff Petry has two assists since the start of the month, and his last goal dates back to December 23rd.
  • In the 19 games since coming back from his injury on January 14th, Andrew Shaw has four goals and seven points.

Here’s another interesting tidbit for you- only four teams have a single player on their roster with 15 goals or more: The Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and, you guessed it, Montreal Canadiens.

Despite a coaching change, it appears that Claude Julien simply does not have the tools, nor the assets to bring his team to the next level. Still, the head coach undoubtedly used Saturday’s overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs to truly evaluate who should stay and who should go. Julien will get another opportunity to do so tonight against the New Jersey Devils and once again tomorrow night against Columbus Blue Jackets.

One would have to think that he will sit down with general manager Marc Bergevin in order to assess the glaring needs of this team, which range from added scoring in the team’s top-six forward group to at least one mobile, puck-moving left-handed defenseman to partner up with Shea Weber. With that in mind, I would not be surprised if Bergevin decides to uphold the status quo on March first’s trade deadline and do the heavy lifting this summer.

 

The Carey Price Conondrum

Last year on January 27th, I authored an article explaining why I think Price should be traded. I alluded to his exceptionally high market value as a means to help this team undergo a proper rebuilding phase similarly to what the Maple Leafs have so successfully done thus far.

Nowadays, I hear murmurs of fans wanting to trade Price, while analysts and other members of the mainstream media are encouraging Bergevin to at least gauge what he can fetch in return for Price. Let’s face the facts, his value is perhaps lower than it has ever been, and I truly believe that he will finish the remaining year on his contract before walking away to free agency.

I said so last year, I repeated it here for the All Habs Hockey Magazine recently, and I will reiterate it one more time. Price is a proven winner who has no interest in remaining patient with an organization that has not given him a chance to lift the elusive Stanley Cup trophy that happens to be the only one missing from his case.

After all, what’s the point in trading for scoring help if it’s clear that the 2016-2017 edition of the Canadiens are far from being Stanley Cup contenders?

Perhaps it’s time for fans to place a proverbial “X” on this season. Stranger things have happened, and there is still a legitimate chance that the Canadiens can squeeze into the playoffs. That said, with the Atlantic Division tightening up around them and rivals catching up to them at blinding speeds, there’s no telling where they will end up. One thing is for certain, if the players continue to put on gong show performances and somehow manage to get into the playoffs, don’t be surprised if they’re ousted by the first round by superior opponents.

Edited by Donna Sim