It has become the most damaging moments on the ice for the Canadiens, and it has nothing to do with Perry Pearn being asked to leave due to his inability to coach the special teams, as was cited.
Since Pearn left the coaching staff behind the bench, the Habs saw marginal improvement from their special teams units followed by a rapid decline in their new-found success. As a matter of fact, when you look at the raw numbers for the season, it’s frightening.
Since the season began October 6th, the Canadiens have played 23 games. In those match-ups, they have gone on the power-play a total of ninety times. They have found the back of the net on 12 of those occasions (13.3%). Add the fact that they have given up four goals with the man advantage (a stat shared with Anaheim, Carolina, and New Jersey), and you can understand why fans prefer the five-on-five play from Les Boys. Forty five of their fifty-seven total goals come from regular strength play.
So what’s causing such dreary play from the Habs when they have the man advantage? You needn’t look much further than last nights game against the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the perfect chalkboard storyboard outline to their power-play woes.
The Canadiens were given five opportunities last night to bang some pucks home against a very undisciplined Flyers team, and they couldn’t even manage one. I can’t blame it on the make-up of the units that hit the ice. Both Erik Cole (4:15) and Lars Eller (5:50) saw some substantial time on the power-play, and Yannick Weber also saw some lengthy time on the point. Many disagree with Weber getting so much PPTOI, but he and Cole lead in power-play goals, with 3 apiece this season, and Weber has a blistering shot with a quick release.
So if the players hitting the ice weren’t the issue, it has to lie in the way those players acted on the ice.
Max Pacioretty could be found behind the net several times last night looking to set the play. He has no business in that position. He should be parked out in front of the net where he can utilize his size and make life difficult for anyone tending the blue paint. Desharnais should be the man making the behind the net set-ups. He has the speed and the vision, but instead, his talent was wasted out in the slot.
The blue line presence has been especially poor. On at least one occasion this year, I’ve watched Plekanec slide the puck across to PK Subban when he would have been far better off taking the shot himself. Subban’s windup from the point is like sending an email out to the opposition in advance. His release is far too slow – even if he does have a blistering shot. Quicker release on his slap is something that requires a lot of work. Better yet, he should be coached to take snap shots from the point instead.
When it comes to the powerhouse forwards on the team, there has been little offense. Michael Cammalleri and Max Pacioretty haven’t managed a single goal on the man advantage this year, and Plekanec and Gionta have 2 apiece. These are the players that the franchise should be expecting to hammer the defense when they’re down a man.
Worse than anything however, seems the poor transition from the neutral zone into the offensive zone. There are far too many center ice giveaways (at least 3 last night) that result in short-handed opportunities for the opposition, or poor puck movement that results in the puck never getting across the offensive blue line.
It doesn’t help that one of the teams best transitional puck movers is out of the line-up. Scott Gomez is once again sidelined, with a lower body injury. That means the likes of Cole and Pacioretty are required to carry the puck over the line, instead of the incessant dump and chase they’ve been playing.
Even once they’ve gained the zone, the Habs are consistently beaten to the puck. They aren’t skating and moving their feet. Something that there is absolutely no excuse for.
There is no doubt that the Montreal Canadiens have the skill and talent to thrive on the power-play. There’s no doubt that skill and talent is getting the ice time. But now it’s time to play to those strengths and use those skills, as opposed to just gaggling through those two-minute frames.
If their special teams can start finding the back of the net, their place in the standings will look substantially better. If not, it may be a much shorter season than many of us anticipated.