The first week of the season for the Habs was not one to remember as their offence was basically non-existent in all three games, resulting in three straight regulation losses to kick off the 2021-22 campaign.
The Week That Was
Oct. 13: Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 – Montreal came out flying in this one with several quality scoring chances before Jonathan Drouin got on the board. Unfortunately, as soon as that happened, very little seemed to go right the rest of the way. Toronto tied it up three minutes later and William Nylander’s tally early in the third stood up as the difference despite a solid outing from Jake Allen.
Oct. 14: Sabres 5, Canadiens 1 – One team showed up for this one, the other didn’t. Buffalo looked aggressive and engaged and Montreal looked like a team that was just putting in time. Some line adjustments from Dominique Ducharme woke them up for a few minutes but once the deficit was cut to 2-1 on Chris Wideman’s first as a Hab, things went downhill in a hurry from there.
Oct. 16: Rangers 2, Canadiens 1 – Surely, playing in front of a full house at home for the first time in more than 19 months would get the team energized? Not really. The first half of the game was fairly uneventful while the Habs were eventually punished for their parade to the penalty box. Drouin tied it up in the third but it was short-lived with Alexis Lafreniere potting the winner just seconds later to cap off the losing week.
Goals: Jonathan Drouin (2)
Assists: Brett Kulak (2)
Points: Drouin/Kulak (2)
+/-: Chris Wideman (+2)
PIMS: Chiarot/Wideman (6)
Shots: Tyler Toffoli (11)
News And Notes
– There is some help coming on the injury front. Sami Niku (concussion) was activated off IR while Mike Hoffman is expected to play this coming week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. Mattias Norlinder has also resumed skating although he’ll be assigned back to Sweden when he’s healthy.
– Carey Price, Paul Byron, and Shea Weber were all transferred to LTIR, giving the Canadiens more than $21.75 million in an LTIR pool for the time being. That will obviously go down when Price and Byron return. If Montreal wants to add to that pool, they could turn to Chicago who is shopping Andrew Shaw’s contract; adding him would boost that pool back over $11 million when Price and Byron are back.
– Head equipment manager Pierre Gervais will be retiring from full-time duty at the end of the season, a career with the team that has spanned parts of 35 years.
Last Game’s Lines:
Armia – Suzuki – Caufield
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Toffoli – Evans – Gallagher
Perreault – Paquette – Lehkonen
Romanov – Petry
Chiarot – Savard
Kulak – Wideman
The Week Ahead
Oct. 19: vs San Jose – Some teams saw a lot of game action early on. Then there’s San Jose who has played just once this season, beating Winnipeg. Their skater group didn’t change a ton over the summer although they have a new goalie duo in Adin Hill and James Reimer after Martin Jones was bought out early in the offseason.
Oct. 21: vs Carolina – A mid-week game against the Hurricanes normally wouldn’t generate a lot of buzz but after the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet this summer, that’s no longer the case. The former Hab has averaged just under 12 minutes in their first two games of the season with minimal power play time. It’s still early but his initial role doesn’t appear to be much different aside from shifting to the wing.
Oct. 23: vs Detroit – On paper, this is the weakest of Montreal’s three opponents although the Red Wings had their number in 2019-20 and the Red Wings have picked up three of four points in the early going this season. Tyler Bertuzzi had four goals against Tampa Bay (in a losing effort) but with the game being in Montreal, he will not be eligible to make the trip having not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
There’s no sugarcoating it – this was an ugly first week for the Habs. The timing is far from ideal given that this is their weaker stretch of the schedule where they need to try to bank some points early on but at the same time, it still has to be noted that the Canadiens are running a lineup out there that is below the floor of the salary cap due to injuries and Price being away from the team. That’s a bit of a handicap no matter who the opponents are (although to be fair, Buffalo’s is even lower with Jack Eichel out). That’s not to try to deflect from their inconsistent effort; effort shouldn’t be an issue regardless of who is and isn’t in the lineup, at least in theory. In reality, this is the shortest turnaround in recent memory from the Cup Final to the start of the season and most teams that make it that far typically have an early-season ‘hangover’, so to speak. That combination isn’t a great one and it has them chasing the pack already as a result. There’s plenty of time left in the year but if they want to be back in the playoffs this season, the urgency to bank some points needs to be there in these next few games.