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Colour commentary: Habs defence needs to be better

by Nicholas Di Giovanni November 27, 2018
Colour commentary: Habs defence needs to be better

Montreal Canadiens offence is clicking, but they’re still losing

The Montreal Canadiens’s start to the season has been a promising one: they have an 11-7-4 record and sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Not many people, including myself, expected the Habs to be this good this season, so it’s been a pleasant surprise.

One particular stand-out is forward Max Domi. When the Canadiens acquired him in June for Alex Galchenyuk, fans were outraged, mainly because Domi scored nine goals last season with the Arizona Coyotes. Now, he has 26 points in 24 games, and had an 11-game point streak until the Habs’s loss on Nov. 23 against Buffalo.

New acquisition Tomáš Tatar is impressing fans with his work ethic and scoring ability, while Jonathan Drouin is finally becoming the player people expected him to be. 18-year-old rookie sensation Jesperi Kotkaniemi doesn’t look out of place either.

Despite all the promise they have offensively, the biggest worry for the Habs in this young season is their defence. They’ve allowed the fifth-most goals in the NHL, with 81, and no other team in a playoff spot has allowed more than 75. They’re lucky their 74 goals for is one shy of the top-10 in the league, which explains why they’ve been winning games.

The Habs defence is to blame for allowing so many goals—not goalie Carey Price. When looking at the Habs defence, players like David Schlemko, and Jordie Benn just aren’t good enough for today’s fast NHL. Even a young player like Victor Mete, who had the potential to be a first-pairing defenceman, struggles to defend bigger players. At this point, Jeff Petry carries the defence, as he averages 24:57 ice time per game, which is the second-most in the Atlantic Division.

This Habs defence core is really missing captain Shea Weber, who will be returning from an injury as early as Nov. 27. Weber brings a style of play that is both physical and calm—he knows when to pick up the tempo or slow it down. There’s no other defenceman who can do that right now.

Still, even with Weber back, Price will still need a good defenceman on the left side. Too many times this season have the Canadiens allowed a player open on the left side to score. I think the Habs are one good left-handed defenceman away from being a strong team, but for now, they will struggle to hold the fort defensively.

Until the defence can improve, the Habs have to rely on Price to stand on his head and bail his team out. But you can’t expect him to bake a cake without eggs or milk.

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