The Montreal Canadiens found a way to lose Thursday, dropping a 6-4 decision to the New Jersey Devils in what was the lone NHL game on American Thanksgiving. That was the sixth straight loss for the Habs.
The Canadiens cracked off 48 shots on Devils netminder Mackenzie Blackwood, who picked up his eighth win of the season. Brendan Gallagher, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joel Armia, and Artturi Lehkonen had goals for Montreal.
But Thursday marked the fifth time in their last six games that the Canadiens coughed up at least four goals against and the 13th time this season they’ve done that.
Montreal netminder Carey Price allowed four goals on his first 21 shots and showed rare flashes of emotion and frustration. It was hard not to. Price had given up 11 goals on 45 shots prior to Thursday’s start, as detailed in his club’s losses to the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
Both losses stung, but Thursday’s plunged the Canadiens deeper still. In this streak, Montreal has given up 20 goals across three straight home games. That’s something that’s never happened in the entire storied history of this franchise.
Think about that. That’s 110 years of hockey in Montreal. And this is, in many ways, as low as it gets.
There have been calls for head coach Claude Julien’s job and calls for a Price trade and calls for a rebuild or a reboot or anything to shake this team up. Something will happen, sooner rather than later.
In the aftermath of another wrenching, stupid loss, you sometimes have to accentuate the positive to figure out how to solve the negative. But that’s obvious: Montreal can score goals but they can’t defend. They boast one of the best netminders in the National Hockey League, but they can’t defend.
The Canadiens have the most even-strength goals in the NHL and have no trouble piling up pucks. But they blew it against the Rangers Saturday when they had a four-goal lead and they couldn’t talk a four-goal performance Thursday into an actual win, either.
You can pick apart the defensive structure and the way things definitely aren’t going according to Julien’s well-tailored plans. You can look at the play of Price, who honestly should be a lot better than this. You can examine the play of Jeff Petry, who hasn’t played well in his last two outings. Or Victor Mete. Or Shea Weber, pressed into fending off a two-on-one Thursday ahead of Jersey’s first goal.
You can look up and down this roster and find examples of players missing defensive assignments, failing to cover, failing to clog the neutral zone.
And the Canadiens will look. What they’ll turn up remains to be seen, but someone’s got to start buying in – and quick. The Habs face the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday and will draw the Bruins Sunday. The last time Boston and Montreal met…well, you know.
Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes