The buildup was the return of Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the Bell Centre in a Carolina Hurricanes uniform. He had his best game of the season scoring his first goal on a third period tip in.
And while Kotkaniemi’s return was the good story for the media, the only story the Montreal Canadiens cared about was finding a way to win their first of the season after four losses. But it was not to be either.
Montreal had yet another loss, dropping it 4-1. They are now zero points earned out of 10 this season.
This section has been fairly close to empty this season.
In this one, there really was only the one shining moment when the zero-for-17 run on the power play was finally broken. Nick Suzuki got his first point of the year setting up Tyler Toffoli in front of the net for his first goal of the year. The Canadiens played with some life after that, but could not muster another goal. Montreal has only four goals in five games.
They had more chances in this one than prior games. Brendan Gallagher had a great look from two feet out. Christian Dvorak had a terrific chance from two feet out. Jonathan Drouin had a breakaway. But they got one goal. That’s the bottom line.
From an improvement point of view, if you are trying to fill this supposedly positive section with something positive: the Habs had five shots for the first half of the game and 23 shots for the second half of the game. Maybe, just maybe, that is something to build on.
This season is impossible to understand so far. There is considerable talent on this club. They are not last year’s team it is true, but they are not this horrible. Most experts did feel that it would be a transition season for the Canadiens after losing some key men, but the depth of this malaise is unfathomable. Halfway through the contest, the Canadiens had five shots.
They have gone games this season already without even a single good moment offensively. There are too many talented forwards for that to happen. An American Hockey League team could play at the Bell Centre this season and do better than five shots for half a game.
The Canadiens have Brendan Gallagher. The Canadiens have Tyler Toffoli. The Canadiens have Jeff Petry. The Canadiens have Josh Anderson. The Canadiens have Jonathan Drouin. All of these players have had success at the NHL level. They didn’t all forget how to impact games at the NHL level. They all know how to make plays at the NHL level.
As grim as the start of this season has been, this will not continue like this. It can not. They went over 108 minutes without a single goal.
So why is this so bad?
It is up to the coach to figure out how to create more offence through this lineup, but it won’t be easy, because from the back end there is a big problem noted here many times.
While David Savard, Ben Chiarot, Alexander Romanov, Brett Kulak, Jeff Petry are all NHL defenders, together they do not make a good defensive corps. Overall, they are mismatched, they can’t head man the puck effectively and they can’t combine to create offence.
Overall, they are mostly skilled at defending by collapsing and absorbing. That means a lot of hockey in front of Jake Allen.
So while there is much that is on the coach, the construction of this defence that can defend only is on the General Manager Marc Bergevin. More on that below.
General Manager Marc Bergevin met the media on Wednesday afternoon for an unscheduled impromptu visit. Two important bulletins came out of the news conference.
There is much consternation from some that Bergevin won’t be back next season because his contract runs out at the end of the campaign. Bergevin says that he definitely wants to return to the club. It seems as if this is a simple manner of a contract negotiation where both sides are dug in while they can be dug in. When the season is close to ending and Bergevin needs to look for work next season, the negotiations will get more serious and one would assume will be resolved.
The confidence that they will be resolved with him staying in Montreal centre on the simple fact that there really isn’t a qualified French name who can replace Bergevin. Geoff Molson has always said that he wants a francophone in that GM spot.
There may be francophone names out there like Patrick Roy, but not names that are better than Bergevin.
Personally, my belief is he will never value the modern-day defenceman and won’t ever be able to build a championship calibre team because his blue line choices will always resemble David Savard and never Keith Yandle.
Without a puck-moving defender in today’s NHL game, you can’t succeed. The new blue liner can play both ends of the ice, and absolutely must also keep the puck in the attacking zone as well as handling the duties near his own goalie. The NHL ice now is five players everywhere doing everything.
The other matter of great importance was learning that Shea Weber will not be back this season, and he may have played the last hockey of his career. Bergevin indicated it was a long shot that Weber would ever return. However, he did indicate that he has a plan for Weber in the future. ‘
One would assume this will be in some sort of coaching capacity. It certainly wouldn’t be public relations, though he could also excel at scaring media members with a frightening Roy Keane style of scowl. That certainly was effective on me over the years.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after each Canadiens game.