Shakeups and shakedowns were the name of the game over the past two days during on-ice practice, and in the Habs dressing room, and it comes as no surprise.
Many questions lingered in the air after the Canadiens posted their third straight loss, and an ugly one at that, at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There was very little the Canadiens have done right since the opening 15 minutes against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. We can talk line-ups all day long and wouldn’t be spared enough minutes to complete the conversation. We can talk about the demise of the powerplay since the return of PK Subban. We can even talk about individual players seeming to have lost their touch, or groups that have lost their chemistry.
One topic of conversation that I rarely read about is one that is paramount to this team getting back on the right side of the Win/Loss columns.
The Face-off circle.
It all begins at the face-off dot, and when you are giving the puck away more often than maintaining it, you definitively lower your chances of taking home victories. As of today, the Montreal Canadiens face-off percentage is at 45.6%, which is 27th in the league. The people that aren’t getting it done? David Desharnais sits near the team average, and believe it or not, the same can be said about Tomas Plekanec. The worst offender of the bunch is Erik Cole (22.2%).
The system that Michel Therrien has implemented for this team relies – or should I say demands – that les Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge gain a much higher percentage of puck possession off the dot so they can do what they do best. Move the puck, cycle down low, and own the offensive zone; while they can ease the pressure on the defenders when winning the defensive zone and have control entering the neutral zone.
It’s time to look for someone with some serious talent within the coaching realm, and have this issue rectified. Letting it continue to slide will have long term detrimental effects on how far they can go in this season.
Tonight, the biggest visual change going into tonight’s puck drop, is the promotion of Brandan Prust moving up to the top line alongside Desharnais and Cole, in the hopes to spark something with the faltering pair. Pacioretty moves down to play alongside Brendan Gallagher and Alex Gelchenyuk (who celebrates his 19th Birthday today). This should significantly see TOI increases for the two young talents who are averaging eleven to twelve minutes a night.
At the end of the day, we’re watching two teams desperate to get back on track. While Montreal has at least pulled out a shoot out loss in the past three games versus some very tough opponents, the hunger may very well be stronger for a Tampa team that has lost to the Rangers (twice), Philadelphia, and the Conference leading New Jersey Devils.
We should know straight off the first face-off who’s the hungrier of the two.