With two wins in their first nine games, the Montreal Canadiens needed a result in Anaheim during the last of their four-game road trip. Again, he’s not a tough opponent, but that didn’t stop the Canadiens from losing in Seattle or Los Angeles.
The road trip concluded with a third loss in four games, falling 4-2. That’s just two wins in the first ten starts of the season.
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The light shining on offense this season is Mike Hoffman. He has four goals in his last five games, while continuing to shoot wonderfully in the corners. He’s a shooter and he’s doing what he’s paid to do. He’s not joined by other snipers like Tyler Toffoli, who scored more than half a goal per game clip last season but has only one so far this year in 10 games.
If Toffoli can find his game a bit and Josh Anderson can also find the net as expected, with Hoffman leading the way, they can surely do better than this two-goal-per-game average this season. Two is simply not a sufficient number to win games. That sounds bleak, but it really doesn’t take much more from expected-scoring players like Nick Suzuki, Jonathan Drouin and Cole Caufield to change this.
The forwards of this club are good. While there isn’t a superstar in this group and there hasn’t been one in the Habs since the turn of the century, collectively this is a good group. They don’t get a lot of support from the bottom, but there should be more Mike Hoffmans this season than there are.
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The beginning of Jeff Petry is impossible to decipher. He must be suffering an injury. Petry plays 24 minutes a night. He should have more than one assist this season. Petry is supposed to be the strength of the team with Shea Weber almost officially retired. He was excellent in the playoffs last year and that was just four months ago. He did not forget how to play hockey.
He misses his defensive partner Joel Edmundson, but that can’t be the whole problem. In the power game, he plays at least a minute at a time, and still not a single assist for all that activity with the extra man. Petry might be the most important player on the team, which is why his fight is the team’s biggest disappointment. If anything positive happens this season, it has to be Petry who leads the way. You must find your game. If he’s dominant when he gets his regular partner back, it could be a transformation for the team. It is the only hope that really remains. There is no other ordeal.
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The Canadiens are sporting their worst penalty since the 1980s. They’re at about 60 percent this season. In modern hockey, this is unheard of. If it continues like this, considering there are around six minors called up per game, the club will be hard-pressed to win two out of 10 the rest of the way. Special teams are a coaching area of hockey, so this doesn’t bode well for the Canadiens staff because the special teams on this team are horrible.
Speaking of coaching, Cole Caufield’s little opportunity is disappointing. It is true that you earn your own opportunities, but this is also a two-way proposal in which one always has to ask oneself what comes first, the opportunity or the profit of the opportunity. Caufield had a team-low 3:01 ice time in the first period. While looking for their first goal of the season still, in the power play, they have it on the wrong side of the ice. With a right shot, you will see more of the net on the left side. Also, being on point often in setup when touring doesn’t seem to take advantage of his sword shot when looking at an NHL goalie from 55 feet. It is undoubtedly true that this fight is his, but not only his. Good coaches know where their players have the best chance of succeeding.
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In fact, a good strategy would be to have your best players in one unit. Spreading your talent is not how this works. You should have your best five out there, and if you want to be dangerous, give the opponent two snipers to think about so they can’t score one. Hoffman and Caufield should be on the same unit with the left-handed shot on the right and the right-handed shot on the left, so their angle at the net is better when feeding the puck.
General manager Marc Bergevin went to the locker room after the game to talk to them about their game. However, it should be noted that these are your players. This is the defense that he creates every season. It’s a blue line that is once again limited in its ability to create offensively and add to the way the ice leans. His body in defense is better when he defends, but that is not going to end the habit of one goal per game. Montreal had seven shots midway through the contest.
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COVID-19 caused many hockey leagues in 2020-2021 not to play a full season. The result was that only two hockey players reached the 100-point plateau. One you know for sure was Connor McDavid. The other one you probably didn’t know was Sean Farrell with 101 points in 53 games in the USHL.
Farrell’s Chicago Steel also won the championship as he also excelled in the playoffs. Yet at just 5-foot-9, everyone said the USHL was an inferior league, and as soon as Farrell faced any real talent in college hockey, this fourth-round draft pick would get his due.
Testing on that theory began this weekend at Harvard. The Crimsons are in the talented ECAC that has produced national champions with teams like the Union, RPI, Colgate, Clarkson and Princeton. The Crimsons rank 15th nationally, albeit after a dominant weekend that will be higher on Monday morning.
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The Crimson destroyed their competition over the weekend and Farrell led the way. Sometimes these little players are faced with being told they don’t have a chance in every league to advance to the NHL. Farrell is still a long way from that, but he continues to pass all the tests he faces with great ease.
In his first two games, Farrell scored three times and added four assists for seven points. That total makes his USHL effort seem pedestrian in comparison.
An NHL future for Farrell shouldn’t be predicted just yet because of that size, but this is already a feel-good story, and perhaps a special story is brewing as well.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens game.
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