The Montreal Canadiens scoring has been suffering since their feisty winger Brendan Gallagher went down with an injury on November 22. In the six games since, they have earned a less-than-standard 3-2-1 record and following their 5-1 electrifying scoring output against the New York Rangers on November 25, the Canadiens have scored two open-play goals in each of the past five games.
The 19-6-3 Canadiens just suffered their worst week of the season with a single win, against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets and two dropped games in regulation, by a score of 3-2, to the strong Washington Capitals and the mediocre Carolina Hurricanes. With seven road games, the toughest stretch of their schedule is coming up starting December 19 in Dallas and concluding with the Winter Classic in Boston on January 1, the Canadiens scoring needs to be fixed prior to their strenuous trip.
Canadiens Scoring Woes Persist, Therrien Returns to Old Ways
Many pundits are screaming out the injury of Carey Price as the reason to their recent “slump”- which is a slump by the team’s standards but would be considered a success in Edmonton. But many do not realize the impact the absence of Gallagher has had on the team. Prior to his injury, Gallagher scored 9 goals and 10 assists, his line with Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec was clicking and as usual, he was disturbing the opponent’s goalie.
Lines were consistent in Montreal- a rarity for Michel Therrien- and all seemed good for the team. However, Gallagher is now joined by Torrey Mitchell, Devante Smith-Pelly and Alex Semin in the medic’s room and Therrien is back to his old ways of shuffling lines like how a casino dealer shuffles his cards when a card reader is at the table.
David Desharnais, who previously had a strong connection on the third line with Thomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, is now playing on the top line with Pacioretty and Weise. Alex Galchenyuk centers Lars Eller and Sven Andrighetto on the second line- the only trio that seems to be producing consistently- while the veteran Plekanec is sandwiched between Fleischmann and Paul Byron on the third line.
Gallagher was the glue that kept the first line together and producing. Pacioretty, Plekanec and Gallagher combined for 29 of the team’s 93 goals, which is 31.2% of the output, a fair percentage considering all four lines were scoring. However, since Gallagher’s injury, including the game in the Big Apple, Pacioretty and Plekanec have scored a total of two of the team’s 15 goals, a lowly 13.3%.
Therrien has seen Gallagher’s injury as an excuse to separate Pacioretty from Plekanec and combine them with the 23- goal Fleischmann-Desharnais-Weise line. Makes sense, right? Not one bit.
The current second line has produced six of the team’s ten goals in the past five games, including two shootout goals by Galchenyuk and Andrighetto against the New Jersey Devils. Byron, Pacioretty, Brian Flynn and Daniel Carr have produced the four other goals.
With only one goal from the first line, there is a major problem with the Montreal Canadiens scoring. They have depth with all these injuries occurring, as the fourth liners and rookies have shown, but when the leaders cannot find the back of the net, there is an issue.
Any of the bottom-six forwards can skate with Pacioretty and Plekanec on the top line. Byron and Flynn have demonstrated their quick feet and good shots while Carr and another recent call-up Christian Thomas still have yet to prove their skills but have showed positive signs.
Does Therrien promote one of the fast fourth liners and put the former third line back together? Or does he try new combinations until the right one is found?
A divisional week is awaiting the Canadiens with games against Boston, in Detroit and at home against the Senators. They played a similar schedule at the beginning of the season and went 3-0-0 with Mike Condon earning the win in Ottawa. The Canadiens fair well against divisional opponents, especially Boston, and the Canadiens scoring slump can receive a remedy and a confidence booster with good performances against these teams. Like a magical treasure box waiting to burst open, the Canadiens scoring is ready to explode.