Canadiens Hot Streak – How Long Can Habs Keep It Up?


It’s safe to say that it’s been quite some time, or maybe it just feels like it’s been a long time, that the Montreal Canadiens have had a good break.

201 goals that don’t include empty nets or shootouts in over 82 games, standing 22nd overall in the league, scoring struggles (especially on the power play), and the “dump and chase” system are just a few of the problems we witnessed with the Habs during the 2014-15 season. It was certainly a frustrating year for the team and for the fans who had to watch Montreal rely on the brick wall that is Carey Price, who for the most part pulled them through the season and the Eastern Conference finals.

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That isn’t to say, however, that there weren’t upsides. The Habs let in 176 goals last season, the least in the league which showed they were capable of being a defensive team. Top players like P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Tomas Plekanec also had great seasons. Other than that, it just wasn’t the best season for Montreal.

In the past 7 games of the 2015-16 season, there’s been quite a few surprises for this team. The 1st surprise is that the Habs have been able to hold a 7-0-0 record. This is a 1st for the Habs, despite the 1961-62 season when they went unbeaten 7-0-1 in 8 games.

The 2nd surprise is that the Habs have scored about 3 goals in those 7 games and have not allowed more than two. This gives them a 23-7 goals differential. Impressive, isn’t it?

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  • Overall, the Habs are becoming a team that’s dominating their opponents without depending on their goaltender for help, and have come from being below-average offensively & defensively into one of the strongest teams in the league so far. The question is, how long can Montreal keep up this hot streak and how long can they stay away from falling back?

    Taking a look back on last season, the Habs were one of, if not the only, worst possession teams in the NHL. One of the issues with the Habs’ scoring woes was that they simply couldn’t shoot enough. They were 25th overall in scoring chances at even strength per minute played, as well as being 24th in shots on goal, and 19th in shot attempts.

    Becoming a solid bottom 10 team in the NHL when it came to creating offense, along with a large percentage of it used on shots that were blocked made the entire game play messy. To sum it up, they were underperformed but that also leads to the other problems they experienced. The main source of the problems? Michel Therrien.

    I’m not going to say that Therrien is a horrible coach or the worst coach in the entire league. In fact, if you look back on his years in the QMJHL, he has a positive report card. What’s even more fascinating, is that some of players in the league who have been coached by Therrien have had nothing but good things to say about him.

    “This is the best team we’ve played against. This is the best checking team we’ve played against. They used their fourth line, who is an experienced group of players, to check our top players, and they did a hell of a job. This is a well-coached, disciplined, play-the-game-the-right-way team. They’re going to be a bear all year for everybody.” – Ken Hitchcock

    However, when we look at the dump and chase problems, the risk-averse system, zone exit strategies, and with what Andrew Berkshire describes as the bottom 60% or so of the roster being “filled with bad decisions based on flawed logic,” no one can deny that either Therrien threw away everything he did right in his early years or truly felt that this method of coaching really did help the Habs throughout last year.

    Another problem (and trust when I say I wish there wasn’t another one) is his trust in new and younger players. Behind the scenes, you see a guy who jokes around with the players and is all smiles. Behind the bench, he picks and chooses who he feels he can trust, like grinders and veterans.

    This has been a huge issue for a while now, as the young guns and new guys have never had enough time to get used to playing with the big boys, which leads me to believe that Therrien’s trust in these young men is at about (at least) 30%.

    Things are changing though. Perhaps it’s Craig Ramsay‘s inspiration for better tactics or maybe it’s because of Marc Bergevin’s acquisition of free-agent depth. It could even be that the guys have had enough and decided after last season that they’d like to see change.

    Oct 20, 2015; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) gives away a puck as he is named first star of the game against St. Louis Blues at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

    What we do know is:

    • The execution has been near flawless in their 7 straight wins.
    • They haven’t allowed a goal in the 1st period, despite trailing behind the Detroit Red Wings for a few minutes last Saturday.
    • The defense is becoming quick with their puck movement.
    • There’s production from all lines with fantastic chemistry.
    • The PP is slowly starting to show promise.
    • Price is becoming less of a safety blanket and more of a regular goalie.

    All in all, this season is looking like it could become one of the best seasons Montreal has seen in the last few years, but can they keep this hot streak going? My opinion is that they can and that this hot streak will be seen throughout the entire season.

    A lot more players are evolving in to key elements on the ice, now that they’re being paired with the right guys. Take David Desharnais for example, who is showing less of a struggle this season and is become more involved offensively. I don’t think any of us expected to see that.

    I also feel that the outcome of the playoffs and last season got into the coaching staff’s heads, which would make sense as to why we’re seeing more player development, better tactics (they are shooting more), and young players being used the right way. How great is Alex Galchenyuk looking as a centre with more ice time?

    While risks may and probably will be taken this year on ice and behind the bench, if the Habs keep up this kind of play, we may see them go far into the Eastern Conference finals. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll even see a cup. Until then, all that us fans can do is sit back and enjoy the wonderful 7-0-0, or perhaps 8-0-0 on Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

    What are your thoughts on Montreal so far this season? Do you think they can keep this positivity all the way through the 2015-16 season? Let us know in the comments below!

    Next: Habs Keeping Fans in Awe, Our 7 Reasons

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