HabsTracks – March 13th, 2022

HabsTracks is a review, retracing the week’s hot topics. This week, we’re recapping the two games, and touching on Lehkonen, Pitclick, Pezzetta, Edmundson and some interesting choices by St-Louis. Please feel free to comment and share with your friends.

It has been a rather relaxed week for the Canadiens with only two games on the calendar. They managed to get one point out of potential four, a shootout loss to the Seattle Kraken. With that, the team sits in last place in the NHL with 28 points in 58 games, two points back of the Arizona Coyotes who also played 58 games. The Kraken is next with 42 points in 61 games.

On Wednesday, they had an uninspired performance against the Vancouver Canucks, a 5-3 loss. The Canucks dominated most of the game and Artturi Lehkonen (2G-1A) and Rem Pitlick (1G-2A) made it look closer than it really was. With a goal and three assists, J.T. Miller was the player of the game.

The team spend a few days in Vancouver, where they took advantage of the days off to hold their rookie dinner.

Last night, the Canadiens continued their inconsistent play. While they dominated the shots on goal in the first period, it’s Samuel Montembeault who stood out for the wrong reasons. With his team on the power play, he stopped a shot and gave the puck to Chris Wideman right in front of his net, not realizing that he was covered by Yanni Gourde. The puck found its way in the back of the net.

Just a few seconds later, on the same power play, Montembeault allowed a very weak goal on an innocent wrist shot but thankfully for him, the Canadiens’ won a challenge as the play was offside. He did get stronger as the game progressed however.

The special teams cost the Canadiens this week. The power play went 0 for 10, allowing a short-handed goal. The penalty kill wasn’t any better, allowing three goals in seven opportunities.

Joel Edmundson played his first game of the season last night against the Kraken. Not wanting to overdo it in his first game, the coaching staff limited his ice time, finishing the night with a respectable 16:38. It is interesting to note that he didn’t see the ice while short-handed, usually one of his strengths. Edmundson is not expected in the line-up against the Flyers on Sunday, something that was already planned.

Artturi Lehkonen is continuing his hot season even with the coaching change. He has 13 goals so far this season, including a hot streak of six goals and two assists in his last six games.

Why is the coaching staff not liking Michael Pezzetta? It seems like every time he’s on the ice, he creates something, hits somebody or scores a goal. Averaging 7:46 minutes of ice time per game, Pezzetta is the least utilized player on the team, including the call-ups from Laval this season. Yes, that’s less than Brandon Baddock, Cedric Paquette, Cam Hills, Alex Belzile and Adam Brooks!

Pezzetta is first on the team in Hits/60 minutes at 22.13. He’s also first on the Canadiens in Goals/60 minutes at 1.08 and 5th amongst all Habs’ players with 1.51 Points/60 minutes. He has some work to do to improve defensively but you can only do that by playing. Today is his birthday and he’s just turning 24 years old…

I can’t be the only one wondering why Luke Richardson, who is in charge of the defense, doesn’t send Alexander Romanov on the ice in overtime, right?

Interesting choices by Martin St-Louis in the shootout against the Seattle Kraken. We can all understand going with Caufield, Suzuki, Hoffman or even Pitlick and Byron. But his last two shooters were Joel Armia, who has two goals all season, and… Michael Pezzetta!

Speaking of the shootout, Pitlick, Suzuki, Caufield and Armia completely missed the net. Hard to score if you don’t even force the goaltender to make a save… Hoffman, perhaps the team’s best shooter, decided to deke the goalie instead of shooting.

There is a very good chance that trades will be happening as we will be entering the final week before the March 21st trade deadline. Follow closely our Rumour Mill twitter account and Facebook page, and ensure to read our section on this website dedicated to rumours, for all of the latest rumours from reputable NHL Insiders!

The Canadiens have a busier week this upcoming week and it starts on Sunday as they visit the Flyers in Philadelphia. They will then return to Montreal to host the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, the Dallas Stars on Thursday and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

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The Kassian Hit Exposes Deeper Issues

It was ugly. In fact, it was shameful. The game was, yes, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. That’s not what media and fans are focussing on, and rightfully so. We’re used to seeing lifeless and effortless Montreal Canadiens by now. However, last night against the Edmonton Oilers, we were all given reasons to add another qualificative to describe them: gutless!

At the 15 minute mark of the second period, Canadiens’ goaltender Samuel Montembeault, with his team already down 5-1, was bulldozed by Oilers’ tough guy Zack Kassian. The impact was violent enough to knock the mask off Montembeault. Then, all five Habs’ skaters on the ice acted as if Kassian didn’t do anything wrong. Not a single one of them went after the Oilers’ forward.

Because he was the only one who at least skated to the Oilers’ goon but didn’t drop the gloves, Jeff Petry is getting the blunt of the fans and medias’ ire. Those people completely ignore that there were four other skaters on the ice and none of them even went anywhere close to Kassian. Not even a 6’2″ and 200 lbs young forward trying to earn a regular spot… Ryan Poehling. And don’t give me the excuse that “they didn’t see it“. Your goalie is maskless behind his net, the referee called a penalty with Kassian standing right there. Unless you’re dumber than a door nob, you should be able to put two and two together.

Post-game comments

We knew that the following media availability would be interesting, to say the least. Fortunately, the comments were better than the players’ reaction on the ice.

In case you missed it, Pezzetta went to see Kassian in the 3rd period. According to Toffoli, Pezzetta was impatiently waiting, since the hit on Montembeault, for a chance to be on the ice at the same time as Kassian.

What make matters worse in the case of Jeff Petry is the fact that he wears a letter on his jersey as one of the team’s leaders. But let’s be honest here. This is not a battle that he should have had to fight by himself. It would actually be stupid of him to do so, in spite of what some people are claiming.

There’s something very wrong and very deep in this dressing room. Petry cannot take on Kassian. It would be stupid of him. But clearly, he didn’t trust that the other players on the ice would have his back and he would have been left defending himself against one of the NHL’s heavy-weights. And that, folks, is where the real issue is. That’s what most fans are missing in this event. Dominique Ducharme saw it and he nailed it in his post-game comments.

“I want to see five red jerseys go into the corner. I’d never ask one person to fight, but I want to see five reds in the corner.” ~ Dominique Ducharme

What if it was Carey Price, and not Montembeault, who would have been the victim of Kassian’s cheap shot? What would have happened then?

Fearing for the future

A wolf pack mentality. Players having each other’s back, going to war together. Defending each other. Had this happened in the playoffs last year, I guarantee you that Petry would have been in there. But the other players on the ice, knowing how uneven it was, would have stepped in as well. It’s also a lot easier to do when you have guys like Weber, Edmundson, Perry in the line-up…

So forgive me to be a bit scared when I hear Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes wanting a fast and skilled team. Have fans already forgotten our cute little soft smurf teams of the past? “All we have to do is make them pay by scoring on the power play,” once said then head coach Guy Carbonneau. Tyler Toffoli scored three seconds into the penalty to Kassian. How has that served any purpose last night, Guy? Ironically, Carbo had a guy by the name of Chris Nilan to his right when he was playing for the Habs… you may have heard of him.

Not that there’s anything wrong with skills… as long as they don’t return to the pre-Bergevin years and sacrifice toughness. Otherwise, you’ll see more of what we’ve witnessed last night. If you don’t believe me, just look down the 401 at the Toronto Maple. Or look at what Tampa Bay did after loosing in four straight to a more rugged Columbus team.

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