Another week, another Tuesday night at the Bell Centre and another discouraging home loss by the bleu-blanc-rouge. Nos glorieux were supposed to be bad again this season. They were seen by Montrealers and NHL experts as a team that would be contenders for the chance for drafting generational player, Connor Bedard. Meaning they would be competing for last place again with the likes of the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, and Anaheim Ducks. But to many’s surprise, the Habs have actually been decent this season. Certainly, on most nights, a fun team to watch play.
Going into last night’s tilt their record was 11-10-1 and they were just 2 points out of a playoff spot. Their opponent on this last game for the team in the month of November was the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are one of the weaker teams so far in the Western Conference with an 8-13-4 record and they were coming in on a 3-game losing streak. Should have been a win for the home team, you are thinking, right? Well, wrong. We should have learned from last week’s home game against the Sabres, who themselves were on a 7-game losing streak, in which the Habs were demolished 7-2. Again this week, despite the fact they should have been well rested as they had not played since their Friday afternoon win in Chicago, the home side lost against a team lower than them in the standings and on a losing streak.
The end result was a tough 4-0 loss. It was even worse than it seems on the surface. First, they outshot the Sharks 28-23, second, they could not manage to score on 6 power plays including a 55 second 5-on-3 man advantage and third, Canadiens’ goalie, Jake Allen, again did not have a strong game. Over the first 15 games Allen was amazing. He was the reason on many nights that the Habs were able to earn points as he made big save after big save. Now he is not playing anyway near that calibre. Actually, his backup, Samuel Montembeault, has been outplaying Allen by a wide margin.
What type of night Allen was going to have happened in the first 2 minutes of the game. Alexander Barabanov (sporting an Erik Karlsson hairstyle) pounced on a loose puck behind the Canadiens’ net and quickly came around on a wraparound attempt. Allen managed to get his left pad out to stop that but did not secure his skate against the post so Matt Nieto was able to poke the puck past him at the 1:33 mark. That was the type of opportunity that you would expect an NHL goalie to stop 10 times out of 10. Nope. And it led to another early goal against for the Habs which is a bad habit they have been falling into over the past couple of games. The play of Allen has gone on long enough that it has begun to become concerning. The team needs him to play well if they are thinking they can contend for a wildcard playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
After the 1st ended 1-0 for the Sharks, Montreal thought they had tied the game up on a nice effort by Christian Dvorak (who was one of the strongest forwards for Montreal) but a debatable (to say the least) interference call on Evgenii Dandanov negated the goal. That was really the highlight of the 2nd period of this rather dull affair as it also ended 1-0 for the Sharks.
In the 3rd period, the Sharks blew the game open with 3 goals. Two by Tomas Hertl and one by Logan Couture, who scored via a breakaway off a beautiful pass by Matt Benning. He managed to make Allen look weak by sliding the puck along the ice in the five-hole.
While the Sharks goalie, Kaapo Kahkonen, played well to earn his third career shutout, it wasn’t like he was standing on his head. Yes, the Habs got 28 shots on him but many were from the outside and not of the high-percentage scoring variety. Still, his coach, David Quinn, said after the game that this was his strongest outing of the season. His defense also played a steady game in front of him. They blocked a ton of shots. Or 28, to be precise.
Next up for the Habs will be the first game of a four game road trip which begins in Calgary.