Sports In the Habs' Room: 'We control our own destiny,' Jeff Petry says
Canadiens put Victor Mete on waivers, acquire Jon Merrill from Wings
The good news for the Canadiens is that their odds of making the playoffs remain at 95.9 per cent, according to sportsclubstats.com. The bad news is that they have lost their last three games — including a 5-0 shutout by the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night — and are 1-4-0 in their last five games while being outscored 20-10 during that span. The Canadiens remain in fourth place in the all-Canadian North Division with a 17-12-9 record, six points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames (17-21-3) while also holding three games in hand. The top four teams make the playoffs and the Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-0 Saturday night.
Canadiens fans can be forgiven if they’re now thinking the first 10 games this season might have only been a dream.
The Canadiens started the season with a 7-1-2 record while outscoring the opposition 44-27.
Since then, the Canadiens have a 13-16-7 record and have been outscored 108-90. They now have a minus-1 goal differential for the season.
The Canadiens had a 9-5-4 record with Claude Julien as head coach and are now 11-12-5 under interim head coach Dominique Ducharme following Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the Flames in Calgary. This team has been getting worse instead of better as the season goes on.
About Last Night: Habs keep Flames in playoff hunt with 4-1 loss
The Montreal Canadiens woke up Wednesday comfortably ahead of the Calgary Flames for fourth in the North Division standings, up six points with three games in hand. By the end of the night, their lead had shrunk to four thanks to a listless 4-1 loss against the Flames at the Bell Centre. Suddenly, the fifth-place Flames are in the rear-view mirror. Of course, the Habs still have those all-important games in hand, but as has been said by every fan and pundit since they returned from their COVID-imposed break, those games in hand are meaningless if they don’t win them.
While Canadiens fans might have been dreaming about a 25th Stanley Cup 10 games into the season, missing the playoffs now looks like a real possibility. After two wins in two nights over the Canadiens, the Flames are only four points behind in the chase for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division with Montreal holding one game in hand.
The final game of this three-game series Monday night in Calgary ( 6:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) will be huge.
“It’s that time of the year,” said Tyler Toffoli, who scored his team-leading 24th goal of the season with Nick Suzuki getting the other Canadiens goal. “I think everybody knew that it was going to come down to certain teams fighting for (playoff) positions. It’s not just us fighting for positions, it’s teams fighting for first and second and third (place). So we got to find a way. We got to regroup. Monday’s a big match.”
About Last Night: Habs keep Flames in playoff race with 4-2 loss
It wouldn’t be optimal, but the Montreal Canadiens could lose their remaining games against the Calgary Flames and still make the playoffs. The Flames, on the other hand, entered Friday down eight points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division, so they had no choice but to make up ground. They did just that, with a suffocating 4-2 victory that brought them to within six points of the Habs in the standings. Netminder Jake Allen made 27 saves in the loss. © Provided by The Gazette Flames' Dillon Dube (29) and Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry battle for the puck during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Friday, April 23, 2021.
The Flames have a 6-2-0 record this season against the Canadiens and have been able to frustrate them with coach Darryl Sutter’s system that focuses on dumping the puck into the offensive zone with a heavy forecheck and then clogging things up elsewhere on the ice. The Flames blocked 15 shots, while the Canadiens only blocked four. The final shots were 34-32 for Calgary.
“They just play hard,” Toffoli said. “They kind of keep things simple. They chip pucks in and go chase it and make you play in your own zone. That’s what they’ve been doing. We did a good job in the first period tonight, coming out and being clean. But after that they clogged it up and we had a tough time.”
The Flames’ system makes it very difficult on opposing defencemen. Canadiens defencemen Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill both finished minus-3. Merrill only played 9:43.
“I think what we did in the first was what we wanted to do, what we talked about, what we needed to execute and we had success,” Petry said about the Canadiens coming out of the first period tied 1-1. “We spent more time in their zone, less in ours. And then as the game went on we slipped away from that. So we need to find a way to do it consistently because the way we played in the first period — putting pucks behind their (defence) — it makes for a long night because when teams do that to us it’s not easy going back knowing that every puck that comes across the red (line) if there’s no play you’re turning your back, going back for a play knowing you’re going to get hit. I think the more you do that throughout the game it’s going to wear down the other team and then plays are going to open up. It’s something we have to have the right mindset that we’re going to do it.”
While you were sleeping: Dolly Parton didn't warn us about Flames holding a candle to the Habs
Flames move within four points of Canadiens with a 5-2 victory Johnny Gaudreau scored twice for Calgary, while Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie and Rasmus Andersson (empty-netter) added singles as the Flames improved their record to 21-23-3 and moved within four points of the Canadiens (20-17-9) with Montreal holding one game in hand. Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli (power play) scored for the Canadiens. The Flames have a 6-2-0 record in eight games against the Canadiens this season and are 6-1-0 in the last seven matchups while limiting Montreal to nine goals.
The Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin missed his second straight game with a non-COVID related illness and Paul Byron was also out with a lower-body injury. Tomas Tatar suffered a lower-body injury during the game and is listed as day-to-day, as is Byron. With Carey Price missing his third straight game because of a concussion, Cayden Primeau got his first start of the season in goal after being called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
What started out looking like a dream season for the Canadiens will become a nightmare if they end up missing the playoffs.
“We win the next game, it’s six points (ahead of Calgary) and then we go from there,” Petry said. “We control our own destiny. Our fate’s in our hands. We play and we execute and get the wins … it’s in our hands.”
But it’s definitely starting to slip away.
By the numbers: Canadiens' Caufield displays tantalizing vision, shot .
If you could script a player’s first career NHL goal, you would have to go with an overtime winner, right? What if the rookie does it for a team that has struggled mightily in OT all year? And what if the rookie does the same thing the very next game? That’s not the script to a Disney movie, it’s the start of Cole Caufield’s Canadiens career , capping off a year during which he won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top player in NCAA hockey, and tore through the American Hockey League for two games before joining the Habs.