Inside the Montreal Canadiens’ shaky start
By Neil Becker
You can bet that the Montreal Canadiens are feeling the heat.
Coming off a deep playoff run that captivated the city, fans are now voicing their displeasure.
After captivating the city by making it to the Stanley Cup finals, Montreal started the 2021/2022 season with five straight losses before earing a Saturday night 6-1 win at home against the Detroit Red Wings.
Montreal had a tough off-season which explains this year’s struggle. In July, general manager Marc Bergevin announced that number one defenceman Shea Weber would be sidelined this season due to an assortment of injuries. Weber, who according to Bergevin might never play again, has for years been a major factor on the power play and penalty kill. He also averages over 20 minutes per game. Known for his cannon slap shot,Weber has scored has scored 224 goals along with 589 points and a +79 plus/minus rating in 1,038 games in his career. Meanwhile, in the post-season, which saw Montreal in the finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Weber averaged 25:13 minutes of playing time per game.
A major reason for last spring’s success was the phenomenal goaltending of veteran Carey Price. In last year’s COVID-19 shortened season, he posted a 12–7-5 record with a 2.64 GAA. Unfortunately this past summer he underwent knee surgery and there were questions about whether he would be ready to start this season. Price, who was on track to be ready shocked the hockey world when in early October he announced that he would be taking a leave of absence to deal with personal issues.
Another reason for what could be a non-playoff season is the absence of a veteran leader such as forward Corey Perry. Perry, who won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks might have scored only 9 goals and 21 points last year for Habs, but he did provide valuable leadership for young teammates such as forwards Nick Suzuki, and Cole Caufield.
The Canadians are also feeling the loss of former Habs shutdown forward Phillip Danault who dominates draws and is a strong defensive player.
In starting the season with five straight losses, the Canadiens have had their worst start since 1995 when they began the campaign by going 0-4. Back then after the fourth loss, the organization panicked by firing coach Jacques Demers and general manager Serge Savard. It will be interesting to see how this season will play out.