The Habs still have proof to show against the elite goalkeepers
Of course, the Canadian has changed his face considerably. And obviously, it was only a loss, the first of the season in regulation time. But Saturday’s 2-0 setback brought back a strange, very specific memory from last season.
We won’t blame anyone for forgetting it. More than 14 months have passed, and a pandemic has claimed more than 2,200,000 lives on the planet. Everyone had other things to do. But at a certain time, in November 2019, not only was the Canadian a dominant team, but in addition he had made a specialty: beating auxiliary goalies.
After a victory in Washington, our colleague Guillaume Lefrançois underlined in Press that it was already the 9e times in 19 games that the team faced a replacement.
The club’s record at this time: 11-5-3, one of the best in the NHL. Nothing then foreshadowed the disaster that awaited the club during the next fifty games. However, this disaster betrayed another trend, namely a chronic inability to beat dominant goalies.
Press listed the 15 NHL goaltenders who recorded the best save rate in 2019-2020 (minimum of 25 games played). Of these, 10 have faced the Habs at least once: Tuukka Rask, Elvis Merzlikins, Pavel Francouz, Connor Hellebuyck, Antti Raanta, Ben Bishop, Jaroslav Halak, Jacob Markström, Mikko Koskinen and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Against these 10 goalies, the Montrealers have known all the miseries in the world, presenting a record (4-13-1 and percentage of points of 25%) radically lower than against the other goalkeepers of the circuit (27-18-8 and 58 , 5%).
Against the Canadian, the goalkeepers in question became candidates for the Vézina trophy. They opposed the Habs a stoppage rate of .935, a value well above their cumulative performance against all the teams on the circuit: .921.
It is a bit like this trend that we felt hints on Saturday. For the first time this season, the Canadian faced a high quality goalkeeper.
Jacob Markström of the Calgary Flames didn’t shame his bosses. He repelled 37 shots from the premises, despite the outrageous dominance of the Canadian in terms of scoring chances 5 to 5 (36-19) and chances called high danger (17-4, according to the site NaturalStatTrick).
We have to find a way to score no matter who is in front of the net. [Markström] made some good saves, and we didn’t capitalize.
Brendan Gallagher, following Saturday’s loss to the Calgary Flames
The Canadiens right-winger, who had scored in three of the previous four games, noted that too often, on shots fired by defenders, the Habs forwards were dismissed by the Flames rear, leaving the field open to Markström to see the puck and stop it easily.
“We’re going to work on that, we could do better,” said Gallagher.
Indeed. Because this first test against an elite goalkeeper ended in failure.
In addition, if the Montreal attack was given to their heart in its first seven games of this season, it is partly because it faced goalkeepers who struggled.
Against the Canadian, Frederik Andersen, Mikko Koskinen (2 times), Braden Holtby (2 times), Thatcher Demko and David Rittich gave up 32 times on 232 shots, for a combined save rate of .862. It is not weak: it is absolutely bad.
In a division with just seven teams, the Canadiens won’t be meeting many different goalies this season. From 6 to 12, depending on the choice of the opposing teams – in Edmonton, in particular, it suddenly does not seem unthinkable that Koskinen is automatically for the 56 games of his family …
Of the group, besides Carey Price, only two goalkeepers belong to the elite of the circuit: Jacob Markström and Connor Hellebuyck. The first finished fourth for the Vézina trophy in 2019-2020, won by the second.
As both have been in the Western Conference since the start of their careers, they haven’t faced the Canadiens often – seven and six times, respectively.
However, the Montreal attack will have to quickly decipher them as it did with lower quality goalkeepers. Otherwise the assessment of the devastating attack of the first matches will have to be marked with an asterisk.
No suspension for Dubé
Two hits to the head, zero suspension. After Tyler Myers, shut out by the NHL after a bodyheck that caused a concussion to Joel Armia, it is the turn of Dillon Dubé, of the Flames, to get away without a slap on the wrist. In the second period on Saturday, Dubé hit Jesperi Kotkaniemi hard behind the Canadiens’ net. The Finn, who was looking in the opposite direction, received his opponent’s shoulder to the head and was shaken. However, he did not suffer a concussion. Dubé was not punished on the streak, and various media reported that the player safety department had ruled that the blow could not have been avoided due to the sudden change of direction of the Habs player.
Anderson: official results Monday
The Canadiens will confirm this Monday morning whether or not Josh Anderson will be able to return to play in the evening against the Vancouver Canucks. Anderson was pulled from the game on Saturday after showing flu-like symptoms. In the context we know, the team did not want to take any risk, fearing an outbreak of COVID-19. However, a first test passed on Saturday turned out to be negative. Anderson was to spend a second Sunday, the results of which were expected in the evening. Quoting the “entourage of the attacker”, The Journal of Montreal wrote on Sunday that this second test was negative. A spokesperson for the team said more would be known on Monday morning.