On Monday night, a bunch of Montreal Canadiens were on hand to take in some NFL action as the Seattle Seahawks hosted the New Orleans Saints. It was a nice way to kick off a four-game Pacific coast road swing for a squad that was finally smiling after leaving home on the high of a 6-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
Halfway through their game with the Seattle Kraken, though, the 1,000-yard stares were back.
The Canadiens fell to 1-6-0 on the season following a 5-1 loss to the Kraken on Tuesday night. The NHL’s newest team defeated the league’s oldest club to secure its first home-ice victory in its second try. Montreal was by no means abysmal in the game, but as they exit Climate Pledge Arena the Habs are once again left promising their followers they’ll get better in several areas of the game.
Here’s what leapt off the page following this latest Habs loss.
Another Ugly Start
The Canadiens opened the scoring in their first game of the season. In nearly two weeks of hockey since then, they’ve failed to find the net before their opponent again. Joran Eberle needed just 62 seconds to put Seattle in the driver’s seat on Tuesday night, as the Habs surrendered the first goal of the game for the sixth consecutive contest. In seven opening frames this year, Montreal has surrendered nine goals and scored four.
A huge reason they’re behind the eight ball this season is they’re starting basically every game with one foot in the grave.
Where are the goals?
In the first period, Mike Hoffman sent a backhand pass to a wide-open Brendan Gallagher, who couldn’t elevate his one-timer over the outstretched toe of Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer. In the second stanza, Gallagher chugged in with big defenceman Ben Chiarot on a 2-on-0; Chiarot put the puck on Gallagher’s blade and the right winger — gifted a chance to pull his team within two goals with half a game to go — failed to even get a shot on goal.
That about sums up how the Canadiens offence has operated this season.
The list of Habs still in search of their first goal includes — but is not limited to — Gallagher, Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jeff Petry. That’s how a team ends up scoring one or fewer goals in six of seven outings.
After netting power-play markers in their past two games, the Canadiens once again looked disjointed on the man advantage. During a first-period power play, Montreal twice cleared the puck on behalf of the short-handed Kraken when passes from Jonathan Drouin indented for point man Sami Niku were beyond the reach of the defenceman and slid out of the attacking zone.
Outnumbered all the time
After giving up the early goal to Eberle, the Canadiens actually settled in quickly. When Hoffman tied the game just past the halfway point of the first, it appeared as though it might be a good night for the visitors. Montreal was back on the attack a few shifts later when Drouin hit a streaking Niku with a pass inside the Kraken zone. Instead of getting a shot on net from the top of the circle, though, Niku fired into shinpads and the play veered back the other way, resulting in what proved to be the game-winning goal from Brandon Tanev.
From there, the Canadiens’ turnovers only got worse.
Yanni Gourde scored on a 2-on-1 that started when the Canadiens coughed the puck up just inside the Kraken blue and Tanev’s second of the night came after Montreal couldn’t complete a line change and he found himself in all alone on Jake Allen.
The Habs saved the most egregious gaffe for the third, though, as Alexander Romanov tried to whip a backhand pass across the offensive blue-line to partner David Savard. The ill-advised attempt was easily intercepted by Ryan Donato, who went in to deliver the death blow by beating Allen on a breakaway that started 150 feet from the Montreal crease.
The Canadiens weren’t awful in all aspects of this game. When they were bad, though, they were really bad.
Don’t hassle the Hoff
If there’s a bright spot for Montreal it has to be that Hoffman scored for the second consecutive game and has two goals in four outings this year after missing training camp and the first three games of the season with an injury.
We’re used to seeing Hoffman wire home shots from the top of the circle, but his goal against Seattle was a gritty one, as he went to the net and banged home a loose puck after his linemates had created a turnover.
If the Canadiens are going to get anything out of their next three games in California, they’re going to need more hard-on-the-puck plays like that.