The Montreal Canadiens were the top team in the Eastern Conference at the beginning of December and are now fighting to just make the playoffs.
Since December 1, Montreal has only won five games in their last 21 games. With an overtime loss during that time Montreal has only gotten nine points, which is the lowest in the NHL. The second worst point totals since December 1, is a tie between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers, both with just 17 points. This alone shows just how bad of a situation Montreal is in, and if something drastic isn’t done soon then there is a good chance they will miss the playoffs.
Montreal is currently in the last wild card spot for the Eastern Conference with 50 points, and there are five teams below them in the standings that are within two points. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers have played fewer games than Montreal. Pittsburgh has played two fewer games, while Philadelphia has played three fewer games. So not even counting the other three teams within reach of Montreal, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will most likely pass Montreal in the standings and push them out of a playoff spot this week.
Many suspect the reason for this drop in the standings to be a result of the injury to Carey Price. Before his injury, Price had posted an impressive 10 wins in 12 games with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. During Price’s absence Mike Condon has taken over the starting role with 12 wins in 27 starts. Condon has a 2.39 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.
Condon’s stats don’t look great, but keep two things in mind when looking at his stats. First, this is Condon’s first season in the NHL and second, Montreal has only scored more than two goals in a game five times since December 1. Condon isn’t a starting goalie on any NHL team, but that doesn’t mean he’s a terrible goalie. The problem lies with Montreal’s lack of offense.
If a team can’t score more than two goals in a game then the only way they can win is by relying on great defense or an outstanding goalie. Montreal has relied heavily on Price and now with him injured the team has become barely mediocre in their play.
If you look at Montreal’s roster you’ll see that the team is quite talented and shouldn’t be as low as they are in the standings. Montreal has two great defensemen with P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, both of whom often contribute to Montreal’s offense. They also have two skilled forwards with Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec who are the team’s leading point getters.
The problems in Montreal seem to all point to head coach Michel Therrien because this team shouldn’t be losing as much as they have recently. From juggling the lines right up to the start of the game to not playing young players that have shown that they can score, even while Montreal has been losing, Therrien is no longer a viable option behind the bench.
Although the team is missing some key pieces, like a top six winger for instance, Montreal is a better team than they’ve played recently. The team knows that and so do the fans. Montreal needs a change to shake them out of their awful play and get them winning again. Trading any of the core group of players would have a negative effect on the team and ultimately make things worse.
So the best thing Montreal can do is to fire Therrien from the job of head coach.