With the Habs struggling to score while having issues between the pipes at the same time, frustration is at its highest point of the season. The top players aren’t producing but strangely enough, they’re not doing anything that hasn’t already happened before.
Montreal is a streaky team; at the beginning of the year, everyone was on while now, pretty much everyone not named Flynn, Carr, or Byron is scuffling or worse. Obviously (and justifiably) the top skaters are getting the brunt of the heat. But the likes of Pacioretty and Plekanec, among others, have gone into comparable slumps to the ones they’re on now in the past. Unfortunately, it’s just happening at the same time that almost everyone else is in one which has offset a lot of the good from the early going.
Here are a look at some of the culprits up front and their past patterns. All referenced season stats/streaks are as of Monday, December 21.
Max Pacioretty: He has points in just three of ten games this month. Last year from mid-November through the first couple weeks of December, he had points in just three of ten games – while failing to record a single assist in any of those.
Like a lot of goal scorers, when Pacioretty is on, he’s on. But when he’s not, he struggles. At the end of the year though, he’s still hovering around the .80 points per game mark. Despite the current slump, he’s right around that pace again. Optimistically, when he gets out of a slump like this, he goes on a nice little run for a couple of weeks.
Tomas Plekanec: He’s goalless in the last 19 games (but still has a respectable 12 helpers in that span). In late November/December last year, he went through a similar drought in 15 games. He did score a couple of goals but had just four assists in that same time.
Two years ago, he had a stint of one goal in 23 games but still managed to get his 20 goals, a mark he has hit, come close to, or been on pace for (such as the lockout year) pretty much every season. He’s a bit behind that pace now but is still likely to hit around 60 points.
David Desharnais: After a hot start to the season, he has just one assist in his last 13 contests. He didn’t have a drought like that last year but of course everyone remembers the start of 2013-14 where he had just one assist in six weeks. That year, he had the second highest point total of his career.
Alex Galchenyuk: He has just one goal in December, a span of ten games. Earlier this year, he had a run of ten straight without a goal and followed that up with goals in four straight. Going back, he has a couple of stretches like this each season. Yet at the end of each season, he has a new career high in points and despite this slow spot, he’s on pace to do that again.
Where is my point behind all of this? These core players have struggled comparably in the past to their current droughts and bounced back each time. At the end of the day, the frustration shouldn’t be that they’re all having slumps – it happens with regularity – but rather that they’re all timed together.
Despite all the negativity right now, there’s little reason to think that history won’t repeat itself again and that each player will get back to their usual production levels before too long. The way they’re playing most nights, it’s bound to happen sooner than later. And when it does, things may not get back to the way they were in October but they’ll get back into the win column with more regularity than we’ve seen lately.