This great quote is from Alexandre Dumas, original author of The Three Musketeers. But for the sake if this article, there will be four musketeers. Four guys who are part of the backbone of their team, two of them known as great leaders and top talents. Four veterans, playing key minutes for the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. They wear no cape and long boots, nor do they wear poofy shirts. Instead, they sport the Sainte-Flanelle. They don’t fight with a sword, as they have hockey sticks to earn a living. Right now though, they’re missing in action. And that spells trouble for a team searching for their heroes.
The Canadiens are slumping. After a great start to this season, with several new additions, the team was flying. They were fighting for top spot in the NHL and were the most productive team offensively. But then, the drought hit. Goals have been hard to come by. The special units are back to their old selves from a season ago. Even after a week-long break, Claude Julien couldn’t come up with a solution. With the team losing three consecutive games – including two against the lowly Ottawa Senators – Marc Bergevin replaced him by Dominique Ducharme. In his first game as head coach, the Habs lost to the Winnipeg Jets 6-3.
What has been evident throughout this slump is the inefficiency of a few veterans. The newcomers are producing. Joel Edmundson leads the NHL in plus/minus at +18. Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson have combined for 21 goals in 19 games so far. Amongst goalies with at least seven games, Jake Allen is 6th in the NHL in goals against average and 4th in saves percentage. Corey Perry has five points in 12 games, while Alexander Romanov also managed five points (in 18 games) as a rookie defenseman.
Weber – Chiarot
Team captain Shea Weber had a decent start to this season, particularly offensively, but Ben Chiarot has yet to find last year’s form. Now that the team is slumping, this veteran pairing has not been their steady, shutdown pair we’ve been accustomed to. Both players look slow and their decision-making seems off. Weber leads the team with 23:26 minutes of ice time per game, while Chiarot is third, a few seconds behind Jeff Petry. They are still facing the opposition’s top lines for the time being. Either they pick up their game or Ducharme will have to think about either separating them or putting the Petry-Edmundson pairing against the top lines.
Much has been said about Phillip Danault, who has reportedly declined a contract offer by the Canadiens in the off-season. Danault doesn’t have a single goal in 19 games so far. With three other centers totalling less than 200 regular season’s games between them, Danault is key to the Habs. His faceoffs percentage has dropped to just over 50%, which used to be one of his strengths. Whether he’s distracted or feeling the pressure of his contract year, he is not the shadow of his old self, even in the defensive zone. It is however encouraging to see that he’s been playing better in his last five games, in which he has three assists.
It seems like it’s an annual discussion, isn’t it? Once again, Carey Price is having a slow start to a season. The difference is that this year is a shorten 56-game season and with Bergevin’s improvements to the team, the pressure is on to make the playoffs. With high salary comes higher pressure to perform and no one makes more money than Price on the Canadiens. With Allen playing as well as he is, we are starting to hear more and more rumblings from disgruntled fans and media members suggesting to ride Allen to get wins.
I am personally not a superstitious person, especially since I’ve retired from the game. But a couple of people posted some of Price’s stats. Some with the three different jerseys, a few with the colour of his equipment. I have yet to see someone keeping stats of his performances with his two different masks, but I’m sure someone is doing it.
Fans, particularly the most superstitious ones, want the Canadiens’ goaltender to burn his red pads and gloves. In 12 games so far this season, Price is 5-4-3 with a 3.13 goals against average and a 0.888 saves percentage. Off the goaltenders having played at least seven games so far this season, he is 35th in goals against average and 42nd in saves percentage. It has to be much, much better than that… and no one knows it more than Price himself.
All four of these guys are key veterans on the Canadiens. If the team is going to have any success, they will have to be a big part of the solution. Veterans are looked upon by young guys and these four guys are excellent people and good hockey players. They can talk the talk and in the past, they’ve walked the walk. Time to get back walking. Go Habs Go!