For a team that’s been around 106 years, it’s incredible how much history the Canadiens have made this season.
In October, the Canadiens shocked the hockey world by becoming the first edition in its history to start a season 9-0. They improved to 19-4-1 before a monumental collapse — going from tops in the NHL to being out of a playoff spot by collecting a league-low six wins from Dec. 1 to Feb. 1.
But the Canadiens hadn’t suffered an embarrassment quite like the one they were dealt in Ottawa Saturday night, losing 5-0 to a Senators team that’s been marginally better than the Canadiens this season. It was how it happened that made it so.
For the first time in their existence, the Canadiens allowed three shorthanded goals in a game. They were oh-so-close to allowing a fourth, which Sens forward Mika Zibanejad scored just 20 seconds after Montreal’s fourth power play expired.
Who would ever want their names attached to a statistic like that one? Certainly not Montreal’s top-scoring forwards — Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk — who finished the night a combined minus-8 as a result of being on the ice for each of Ottawa’s shorthanded goals and one more scored at even strength.
Granted, it was Lars Eller who gave away the puck on what turned out to be Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s sixth shorthanded goal of the season (seemingly the 50th one he’s scored against the Canadiens in his lifetime). Canadiens defencemen Andrei Markov and Darren Dietz were culprits on shorties for Curtis Lazar and Alex Chiasson, but the message was sent to Pacioretty and Galchenyuk on the fourth power play when coach Michel Therrien elevated fourth liners Lucas Lessio, Mike McCarron and Mike Brown up to the first unit in their place.
For two years seasons, the Canadiens power play has been an abomination.
They were 25th-best last season (16 per cent) before going 2-36 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. GM Marc Bergevin brought in a noted power play specialist in Craig Ramsay and Therrien took the operation out of assistant Dan Lacroix’s hands to put it into assistant J.J. Daigneault’s.
The result is 39 goals on 232 attempts this season (16.8 per cent, 24th overall).
Stepping back for a second, the injuries have certainly factored into Montreal’s lack of success. Defenceman P.K. Subban has missed the last four games, defenceman Jeff Petry has been out since early February, defenceman Nathan Beaulieu missed the last three weeks before returning last game, and forward Brendan Gallagher missed 17 games from Nov. 22-Dec.31 before missing Montreal’s last five.
How can this power play, with weapons like Subban, Galchenyuk, Pacioretty and Markov — who’s made a career out of producing with the man-advantage — be this bad for this long? It’s inexplicable.
But giving up three shorthanded goals in a game?
“Lack of execution and concentration,” said Therrien.
Historically bad is allowing one player (Pageau) to score three shorthanded goals against your team in four games, when six NHL teams have scored less than three all year.