The Montreal need to take any positive they can so far in this young 2021-22 season. As wins are few and far between, consistency and effort has been lacking in each and every game. Yes, even in their wins. In San Jose, a place where Montreal hasn’t been able to win since 1999, Jake Allen played the hero with a 45-saves performance, shutting out the Sharks. The Habs rewarded him with three goals, then added one in an empty net, to secure the much needed 4-0 win.
As a strong believer in positive attitude, I still struggle to get my hopes up for this team as the Sharks were clearly the better team. But in hockey, you lose games that you deserved to win and you win some that you had no business winning. The issue is that in eight games so far, the Canadiens showed very little to make the most positive people hopeful. Their defense has more holes than a street sign used as practice target in a small town’s backroad. It’s a constant challenge to get the puck out of their zone, even more so with a tape to tape pass to a forward. If the goalie doesn’t stand on his head, they stand no chance at winning.
What the Habs need is a genuine, top-4 right-handed defenseman, one who can play against the opposition’s top lines. Those are few and far between and they don’t come cheap. But as there isn’t such a defenseman right now in the organisation, the Canadiens should definitely bite the bullet at the risk of overpaying to get one. The closest might be Josh Brook, but it will likely be Logan Mailloux. It is clear that Jeff Petry cannot take Shea Weber’s tough minutes and he is more comfortable on the second pairing.
Good and bad
The most positive story so far in this early season has to be the play of Jonathan Drouin. With another assist in San Jose, Drouin now has six points in eight games so far this season, leading the team. He’s more creative and he has a smile on his face.
Another positive is the production of newcomer Mike Hoffman. With his goal against the Sharks, he extended his goals’ scoring streak to three consecutive games since coming back from injury. He now has three goals in five games thus far this season.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’re going back to defense. Every single defenseman utilized by Dominique Ducharme this season has at least one point. All except one: Jeff Petry. The 33 year-old logs the most minutes amongst defensemen against the toughest opposition now that Weber is not there, and he’s struggling mightily. Coming off four consecutive seasons with at least 40 points, he had 42 points in 55 games last season, 10th most amongst defensemen in the entire NHL. That’s a pace for 63 points over an 82-games season! He has zero, zip, nada so far this season.
On the not so positive side, I’m starting to think that Cole Caufield would benefit greatly of some time in Laval with the Rocket to regain his confidence. I would call up a player that fully deserved to stay in Montreal in Michael Pezzetta. Then bump Armia up to the top-9 and play Pezzetta on the fourth line. Let the kid gain some confidence. The Canadiens simply cannot afford to make a mistake with Caufield and his development. Never has a player played too long in the AHL before making the jump, but many have come to the NHL too soon.
The Canadiens continue their California trip with a stop in Los Angeles to say hi to Phillip Danault on Saturday, before going to Anaheim on Sunday prior to returning home. Note that both games this weekend are at 1:00 PM Pacific time, or 4:00 PM Eastern.