Montreal Canadiens


Inconsistency only consistent thing about Canadiens


The 2017-18 edition of the Montreal Canadiens has been underwhelming at best. The only thing that’s been consistent about them is their lack of consistency.

On some nights, they look like a team that should have no problem making the playoffs. Other times, they look like a squad that should be picking in the top five of next summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Through 31 games, they own a 13-14-4 record, but how they got there is the most interesting part.

Let’s forget the fact that five of those wins have come against the Sabres (three times) and Red Wings (twice). Hey, in the NHL, a win is a win. But the Canadiens have rarely not been on some kind of positive or negative streak this season.

After opening the season with an overtime win in Buffalo, Montreal went on to lose seven games in a row. They ended that skid at home against Florida, followed that up with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings and then went on to win five of their next contests.

That hot run came to an end with a 3-0 loss at home to the Minnesota Wild. In fairness to the Canadiens, they didn’t have Carey Price, Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin in that game. But after beating Buffalo in their next game, they went on to lose five in a row to Columbus, Arizona, Toronto (they were obliterated 6-0 in that one), Dallas, and Nashville before snapping the skid against (you guessed it) the Sabres.

The game against Buffalo was the night Carey Price returned to the lineup. Price’s return sparked the Canadiens and they went on to win their next four games over Columbus, Ottawa and they beat Detroit twice, including a 10-1 drubbing at the Bell Centre.

After the blowout win over the Wings, a lot of people thought they had turned the corner. Instead, they followed up the win over Detroit with home losses to St. Louis, Calgary and Edmonton. Saturday’s loss to the Oilers was beyond embarrassing, as they were totally dominated in front of their fans.

“Well, if I knew, I certainly would’ve done something about (the Canadiens’ streaky play),” head coach Claude Julien said after the loss to the Oilers. “It is frustrating. We had a good stretch there, but this week has been a tough week for us. At the end of the day, you have to be better than you were tonight.”

There’s a number of reasons for Montreal’s lack of consistency. They’ve dealt with injuries to key players like Drouin, Price, Weber, David Schlemko and Artturi Lehkonen, but every team goes through that.

Their goaltending was brutal early on, and that certainly didn’t help during their tough start to the year. Also, the fact that 5-on-5 scoring doesn’t come easy to them is another reason why they don’t produce with any regularity. They’re also lacking some mobility on defense, which isn’t exactly ideal for today’s NHL.

And, of course, the fact that their two streakiest scorers have been “off” more than they’ve been “on” has really hurt them. Both Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk haven’t scored nearly enough. Pacioretty has eight goals in 31 games, while Galchenyuk has seven goals in 31 contests. Both have scored 30-plus goals in recent reasons.

The one thing going for the Canadiens is that the third spot in the Atlantic Division is up for grabs. Yes, the Bruins currently have four games in hand on Montreal and a two-point lead in the standings, but those old rivals will be going head-to-head three times in just over a week during the month of January.

As ugly as the season has been at times, the Habs still in it.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Milestones, shutouts and NHL firsts

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Players of the Night:

Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings: 

Gaborik scored twice and helped propel a four-goal third period for the Kings, who came back from a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes to win 5-2 against the visiting Minnesota Wild. Gaborik’s second goal of the night was his 400th of his NHL career. It came against the team he achieved his highest scoring prowess with.

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings: 

Nyquist scored twice and added a helper as the Red Wings toppled the Western Conference-best Winnipeg Jets at Little Caesars Arena. Nyquist’s first-period marker held up as the game-winner in a big game for the Red Wings, who responded after getting shellacked 10-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks:

Markstrom made 30 saves in a 3-0 win for the Canucks against the Carolina Hurricanes. His shutout was the first of his NHL career.

Highlights of the Night:

Boo Nieves, the owner of one of the coolest nicknames in the league, scored his first NHL goal on a slick wrist shot in the first period of a 4-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

John Gibson committed this theft tonight. The victim failed to press charges:

Shea Weber did his best Clayton Kershaw impression to score against the St. Louis Blues:

Factoids of the Night:

Gaborik had a pretty good night:

And Nikita Kucherov put himself in some pretty elite company, both in Tampa Bay Lightning history, as well as NHL history in general:



Devils 4, Blue Jackets 1

Rangers 4, Penguins 3

Blues 4, Canadiens 3

Red Wings 5, Jets 1

Lightning 6, Islanders 2

Predators 5, Stars 2

Sabres 4, Avalanche 2

Canucks 3, Hurricanes 0

Golden Knights 4, Ducks 3 (SO)

Kings 5, Wild 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Free-falling Red Wings get trampled again

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On Friday, the Detroit Red Wings wanted to let their play do the talking. What happened on Saturday night probably isn’t what they intended to say.

It’s an ugly time to be a Red Wings fan, surely.

Not convinced that a six-game losing streak was bad enough back in October, the Red Wings dropped their seventh straight in the most brutal of fashions on Saturday night in Montreal while testing new waters.

The Canadiens scored a touchdown and added a field goal in a 10-1 drubbing of a Red Wings team that looked completely lost and disinterested at Bell Centre.

Their total goals allowed during their current debacle? 36

How many have they scored themselves? 14

In the words of Inspector Gadget: “Wowzers.”

Indeed. It’s been a lacklustre and lackadaisical run for the Red Wings.

Saturday’s game was the kind of game that leads to heads rolling, and surely some changes need to take place in Detroit. Likely in the form of a full-fledged rebuild, perhaps one under a new management from the top down.

According to QuantHockey, the Red Wings are the only team above an average age of 29 years old, and thus the oldest team in the NHL. 

That number isn’t changing with some of their declining veterans still commanding big minutes. They have one goal scorer in double digits and only one player with 20-plus points. If you subscribe to plus-minus, Detroit has just three players above zero. If possession metrics are your thing, the Red Wings are sub-50 percent and have the seventh lowest expected goals percentage.

If the Red Wings were looking for any letup in their upcoming schedule, they won’t find it. Despite the respite of playing their next five at Little Caesars Arena, they’ll have to face the top two teams in the Western Conference in the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues, along with the surging Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs during that span.

That means it could get worse before it gets better in Mo-Town.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Price is right in return from injury

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Do you think the Montreal Canadiens missed Carey Price?

Price, who returned to the crease on Saturday after missing 11 games with a lower-body injury, shut out the Buffalo Sabres in a 3-0 win.

Price looked like his usual, stopping all 36 shots that came his way, but the Canadiens were playing the struggling Sabres, who have lost eight of their past 10 and sit in the basement of the Eastern Conference with a 6-14-4 record.

Price’s solid effort helped the Canadiens stop a five-game losing skid. The Canadiens, despite their early-season blunders, are five points back of a wild-card spot in the East.

Truth be told, Price hadn’t been very good before he got injured. He came into the night sporting a forgettable 3-7-0 record with an equally poor .877 save percentage (that save percentage took a healthy bump to .890 on Saturday.)

With one of the worst team save percentages in the NHL, having Price return to form would likely do wonders in Montreal. He’s facing a large amount of pressure, as PHT’s James O’Brien points out, and needs to lead the charge if the Canadiens want to have any hope of turning their season around.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Dallas Stars head coach fed up with injury rigmarole

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Now here’s a trend we could all get behind.

Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock told members of the media on Tuesday that he wants to “stop the dance” when it comes to revealing information about his injured players.

Via Marc Antoine Godin of The Athletic:

“I think we collectively hate playing the game. What I mean by that is we say ‘upper body,’ then you go on the phone, and then you look up things or you go to the doctors, find out what part of the upper body. We try to make your work easier, quite frankly, and so we just don’t like going through the dance.

“It’s just easy to tell you what it is and let’s move forward. It’s just the whole game. It’s an injury, and within two hours after we tell you it’s ‘upper body,’ you know exactly what it is, so why not just tell you? And the players don’t go out and say, ‘He has a broken left pinky and we’re going to go after the pinky.’ Nobody thinks like that. Our feeling is just tell them what the injury is and move it forward and just stop the dance.”

Perhaps Hitchcock, who has been coaching in the NHL since 1995, is just tired of the same old rigmarole he’s dealt with for the past 20-plus years. Reporters everywhere are too.

It’s also likely that most fans would also appreciate a higher level of transparency from the team they spend hundreds on for tickets each night.

Right, Montreal?

Given the mayhem that has ensued for the Canadiens over the status of Carey Price’s lower body, perhaps more teams will alleviate future headaches before they set in by adopting this route.

What is certain is that hockey scribes everywhere just became the biggest Hitchcock fans.

For now, if you’re looking for some of the Stars’ state secrets, they can be had on their official Twitter account:

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck