By Andy Bayer
After winning five in a row and eight of their last nine games, the Habs had a letdown performance Tuesday against the Lightning, their probable playoff opponent. The Lightning took advantage of Montreal’s eight penalties, scoring two power-play goals. Montreal can’t give Tampa Bay’s firepower that power-play time in the playoffs. A positive sign recently has been Carey Price rounding into form after returning from injury. This was his third straight very good game.
The worrying thing is the Habs are going back to relying heavily on Price standing on his head. Montreal was badly outplayed by the weak Florida Panthers and then against the Lightning. Another negative that I’ve been pointing out all season is Michel Therrien usage of his defensemen. P.K. Subban somehow had the fewest even-strength minutes against the Lightning despite being far and away their best possession player. Therrien has given Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver heavy minutes, which is not a winning strategy for the playoffs. This is unsurprising given Therrien’s characteristic comment that Montreal was “too fancy”, i.e. didn’t dump the puck in and out enough. Somehow Therrien thinks that giving the other team the puck every time they get possession will lead to scoring goals.
This is upsetting for Montreal fans to see given this could have been a great year to take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference and make a playoff run. Unfortunately, their coach seems to be holding them back from that potential.