Last week wasn’t really that bad of a week if you’re looking at the big picture. There was a shut out win against an impotent Vancouver team, an absolute savaging at the hands of a playoff bubble team followed by a bounce back win at home against a high scoring Flyers squad.
The 10-0 Columbus anomaly aside, winning two thirds of your games puts you in line for 54 or 55 wins. You take it and you’re happy with it.
But here we are with a week’s worth of games, going back to the Leafs game last Saturday, and you have the best team in the league thoroughly outplayed in all four of those games. Carey Price was the only reason six out of eight points were secured.
An over reliance on Price is nothing new, but you don’t have to go that far back to see what happens when he’s not around. One of the very best teams in the NHL can become one of the worst.
Against the Leafs, Montreal was outshot 38-31. Then Vancouver doubled up the shot count 42-21 while Columbus put 40 shot on net to Montreal’s 30. Philadelphia outshot Montreal 38-17 Saturday night.
This is troubling. Nearly an average of 40 shots a game is not how you go about winning games. At 10-1-1 clearly there is more good than bad but the team’s play over the last week has uncovered old issues.
Montreal is not a team that plays from behind, which is problematic because they are slow starters. Last season, once Price was out, the Canadiens were notorious for allowing the first goal. Whether it was Mike Condon, Ben Scrivens, or Dustin Tokarski, none of those netminders were able to provide adequate cover while the Canadiens slowly built themselves into the game.
Of the 58 games played following Price’s injury during the 2015-2016 season, 38 of those were losses. In those 38 losses, Montreal allowed the first goal 29 times.
Naturally, having one of the best goalies in the world allows you luxury of starting slow but this team is showing that Price is the major piece of the puzzle and unlocking victories the team probably have no business winning.
Logic dictates that if an amateur writing for a fan website can figure out a plan of attack to beat the Habs, 29 other teams in the NHL likely have the same book out on them, with sexier stats and irritating advanced analytics.
It’s much easier said than done than “yeah, just score a quick one on Price and make them chase the game – we’ll hit them on the counter all night.”
While difficult to pick apart a team that just had the best start in franchise history, there are worrying signs that old problems have not been corrected. History tells us old problems always bubble up to the surface, and it’s usually not pretty.