You can’t win games if you don’t score goals. It’s an easy concept to understand but it can become challenging to convert those words into actions. The Canadiens have been struggling with this simple idea, relying on their goalies to pull out a win without much production from their offense.
The Canadiens are slumping through the month of November, posting only one regulation win against the Islanders and a shootout victory over the Blue Jackets. They currently sit in the 22nd spot in the league in goals per game with 2.43. However, they also have the third best goals against per game with 2.05.
The only reason the Habs aren’t plummeting down the standings right now is their goaltenders. Goalies are there to provide their team with a chance to win a game and Carey Price and Peter Budaj have been doing more than just that for their teammates. In the four games Budaj has covered for Price, he holds a 1.48 GAA and Carey has a 2.05 GAA through 17 games.
The critics will follow Carey no matter how well the team is doing but many of them may have been silenced as Price has let in only two goals on 79 shots in his past two games. Though the first-star honors and personal stats are always rewarding, they mean little when the team can’t earn those important two points in the standings.
Defenseman Josh Gorges deserves a lot of credit too as he ranks third in the league in blocked shots with 54. The team also leads the league in blocked shots with 404. Finding success in the defensive end is a contributor to a team’s success, but “when you’re playing defense, you’re not playing offense,” pointed out Max Pacioretty.
Most of the Canadiens’ offensive production can be credited to some of the youngest players on the team. Although it’s great that less experienced players are able to carry a big load for the team, the system will eventually fail if the veterans are seriously struggling to get on the score sheet.
The EGG line of Eller, Gallagher, and Galchenyuk has been responsible for most of the offense. The three, who average an age of 21, have combined to score 19 of Montreal’s 51 goals. They have been separated lately as Michel Therrien tries out new line combinations in an attempt to spark something from his offense.
“A lot of teams have made adjustments,” said Therrien after mixing up his lines at practice on Monday. “Last season, we made adjustments, and this year, a lot of teams are doing the same thing that we did last season.”
That practice showed Gallagher playing on a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, while Daniel Briere centered Travis Moen and Michael Bournival and Galchenyuk played with Eller and Brandon Prust as the team worked on five-on-five play.
A great concern for the Habs and their offense is the sub-par season David Desharnais has been having.
Desharnais signed a four-year, $14-million deal with the Canadiens last March. GM Marc Bergevin saw potential in the 5-foot-7 center when he scored 60 points in a 2011-2012 season that saw the Canadiens end up last in the Eastern Conference. Bergevin is now facing a lot of criticism for signing a player after one good season rather than waiting to see if this player can be a consistent force.
In 19 games this season, “Davey” has only one assist, a minus-2, and a low 21 shots on goal. In Montreal, that is not good enough, especially when you’re getting paid over $3 million per year to score goals.
Before this slump, Desharnais was part of a heroic line along with Pacioretty and Eric Cole, taking responsibility for most of the Canadiens’ goals. Heroic until Eric Cole stopped scoring and was traded last season and Pacioretty started trying too much to help Desharnais get out of this rut.
It remains unclear what will happen with Desharnais; his contract is too unappealing for a trade and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has his own plan for David. It’s easy to look at statistics and point the finger to one player but the rest of the Habs’ offense hasn’t been all that impressive either.
Pacioretty only has four points in twelve games and veterans like Daniel Briere (11 games), Brian Gionta (20 games), and Rene Bourque (21 game) only have five, nine, and six points, respectively.
A player from the EGG line has scored in six of the ten games the Canadiens have won this season and usually if that line isn’t successful, the rest of team struggles to back them up. Although that line has now been broken up in an attempt to fire up the offense, the young stars are still heavily depended on.
Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild will be a test to Therrien’s system. The team will have a full lineup for the first time since the season-opener and will look to bounce back after being shut out by the Rangers.