We’re now two games into the Stanley Cup Final and a familiar problem has returned for the Habs. Their top scorers during the regular season have all suddenly stopped scoring and the end result is a 2-0 deficit to the Lightning.
Montreal has typically been a streaky scoring team during the season. When they’re on, they’ve been able to score with the best of them. But when they’re off, they go really cold. They weren’t cold in the middle two rounds but for the first time since the Toronto series, the offence has dried up as the top players just aren’t getting the job done.
Brendan Gallagher’s effort and heart are never going to be called into question. (I’ll be questioning his new contract, I suspect, for the next six years but that doesn’t matter right now.) He has been a reliable scorer for the last several years but once again, when it matters most in the playoffs, he can’t produce. I’m not quite sure why either as there are more ‘greasy’ goals scored in the playoffs than in the regular season and that tends to be his specialty. He has a career shooting percentage of 10.1% during the regular season but has only hit that mark once in the postseason and is at 4.3% this year. I know he’s playing hurt and largely in a checking role but they still need more than two goals in 19 games from him. His hustle can drag the team into the fight. So can a goal.
Tyler Toffoli is tied for the team lead in points which is great but he has been quiet for long stretches in the playoffs. This is one of those as he has been held off the scoresheet in five of the last six games (with two assists in the other one). His linemates in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield have done well enough to carry that line but the veteran needs to take some of the scoring load off the youngsters; it shouldn’t be the youngsters taking pressure off the veteran. Last change for the next two games will hopefully give him some more consistent looks with one being buried soon.
Josh Anderson finished second to Toffoli in goals during the regular season but he has only scored in two games in the playoffs – the opener against the Maple Leafs and his crucial two-goal game against Vegas. Aside from that, he has one assist in the other 17 contests. He has made his physical presence known which is good but they need more than loud smashes against the boards from him. Anderson can get to the net, now he needs to hang around there and let his size cause some havoc. That’s not his normal style (he stays on the wings more than hanging around the crease) but his normal style isn’t yielding much in the way of offence.
I’m hesitant to highlight Jeff Petry and Shea Weber here as both are clearly playing through an injury like Gallagher is (though Weber can still tee it up) but they are both focal points of Montreal’s attack and neither of them have produced much in the playoffs; Weber’s power play goal against Vegas is it for goals from those two. I suspect this is part of the reason that Erik Gustafsson keeps getting in the lineup as with these two hobbled and the other three not being much in the way of offensive threats, they need someone from the back end who might be able to make something happen offensively. But with Weber and Petry largely neutralized, that’s another sore spot for the attack.
Though he hasn’t had a great start to this series, Carey Price has had a strong postseason so far. The youngsters (including Jesperi Kotkaniemi) have played well. The supporting cast has certainly done their job; how many key goals has the fourth line scored in the playoffs? The fact that the Habs have gotten this far without consistent production from most of their top scorers is really quite impressive. What would be more impressive is those players picking up the slack over the next few games to drag the Canadiens back into the series. There’s no time like the present to turn things around.