While it ended on a down note, the Habs still had a successful road trip through the Western Conference after picking up a pair of victories in three games.
The Week That Was
Oct. 30: Canadiens 4, Coyotes 1 – While allowing late goals is a killer for many teams (something the Habs know all too well already), scoring early ones can also have that effect on an opponent. Montreal scored quickly in each period which really allowed them to set the tone and get Arizona chasing the play quickly. In the end, those early outbursts proved to be the difference. Former Coyote Nick Cousins scored in his first game against his former team.
Oct. 31: Canadiens 5, Golden Knights 4 (OT) – Keith Kinkaid got his third start of the season and while he made some crucial stops along the way, he also allowed a couple of clunkers that he’d like to have back. Fortunately for him, the Habs pulled off a late two-goal comeback in the third before Max Domi put it away early in the extra frame.
Nov. 2: Stars 4, Canadiens 1 – Montreal was the better team in the first five minutes and the last five. However, hockey is still a 60-minute game and for the other 50 minutes, they were sorely outplayed. Artturi Lehkonen’s late goal snapped an eight-game pointless streak.
Goals: Drouin/Gallagher (7)
Assists: Domi/Tatar/Weber (7)
Points: Drouin/Gallagher (12)
+/-: Victor Mete (+7)
PIMS: Tomas Tatar (16)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (53)
News And Notes
– Jesperi Kotkaniemi has missed the last two games with a groin issue and has been placed on IR. As a result, Ryan Poehling has been recalled from Laval.
– If it feels like the Habs have played a lot of Western teams lately, they have. Of their last ten opponents, eight have been from the West meaning that the Canadiens have already knocked off more than 25% of their out-of-conference schedule over the span of basically three weeks.
– Brendan Gallagher went past the 500 shot attempt mark for the first time in his career last season which is a crazy number when you consider that he averaged nearly 6.5 shot attempts per game to get there. He’s actually exceeding that rate in the early going this season, checking in at 6.57 attempts per night.
Last Game’s Lines:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Domi – Armia
Lehkonen – Suzuki – Byron
Cousins – Thompson – Weal
Mete – Weber
Chiarot – Petry
Reilly – Fleury
The Week Ahead
Nov. 5: vs Boston – The Bruins have virtually been unstoppable in the early going of the season. They lead the league in points percentage (.846) and have lost just once in regulation through their first 13 games. Their top line has combined for 27 goals (more than two per game) so the Phillip Danault line will have its work cut out for them to keep them in check.
Nov. 7: at Philadelphia – Things were seemingly looking up for the Flyers heading into the season. They had a number one goalie in Carter Hart and added a few key veterans. However, Hart is playing like, well, how most Philly goalies have performed in recent years which has forced them into a timeshare with Brian Elliott and them back to being a bubble team.
Nov. 9: vs Los Angeles – The Kings hoped that a coaching change would help them turn things around after a rough 2018-19 season. That hasn’t happened as they’re once again battling to stay out of dead last in the conference. Jonathan Quick’s numbers so far this season have been abysmal while they don’t have a single player with five goals yet.
We’re now past the first month of the season and the early results are basically what most reasonable people would have expected. They’re a bubble team. When the Habs have their ‘A’ game, they can compete with pretty much anyone. When they have their ‘B’ game, they can eke out a few points here and there. When they have their ‘C’ game, they can’t beat anybody. At this point, they’ve done a reasonable job not having many of those ‘C’ efforts and yes, I know that’s odd to write after they just had one of them in Dallas.
If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, I’d say that the goaltending is due to improve as the year goes on. That should help offset the eventual step back in goals. Of course, this takes them from a bubble team to still being a bubble team which makes GM Marc Bergevin’s job a little trickier.
In all likelihood, he’ll stick with what he’s done in recent years. The Habs don’t appear to be a team where they’re one player away from true contention (even if it is a quality left defender) so he’s not going to push his chips to the table. He’s also unlikely to sell if Montreal plays like this over the next few months. In other words, I’m not expecting to see much in the way of changes to this roster aside from a low-risk incremental move or two. Not many like the term bubble team but when it comes to the Canadiens, get used to it as it’s not going away anytime soon.