Thursday , October 21 2021

What Puck: As many people predicted, the Canadiens' defense was about a crash of speed



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Canadiens goaltender Carey Price made a rescue against the New Jersey Devils on November 21, 2018, in Newark, N.J.

Julio Cortez / AP

Canadiens general manager, Marc Bergevin, wants to have a cake and eat it too.

He wanted – many of us would say "need" – to rebuild a very damaged team, but he did not want to pay the price of rebuilding the original. So what he's trying to do is draw mini-rebuild, what he likes to call "reset," and still make it a playoff where, because he likes to brag, anything can happen.

But that is not a carefully thought out plan. The wheels did not get out of the bus on Wednesday in Newark, where the really smelly Canadiens were flooded by a far stronger New Jersey Devil team with a shameful 5-2 loss. The game proved without a doubt that there were strange noises coming from the bus engine and if the driver did not immediately do something, it would stop at the side of the road.

To quote Saint Carey – let's finish the chase. You cannot reconstruct the team and do damage in the playoffs. As a GM, you have to make some difficult choices, and that's not Bergevin's strong words.

It was a blast, as I have said on various occasions since the beginning of the Habs season so entertaining. The team was positively rocking in October, supported by the shocking power of its attack, the attack anchored by Max Domi's MVP team.

Canadiens defenseman Noah Juulsen followed Carey Price's net action against the Calgary Flames in Montreal on October 23, 2018.

John Mahoney /

Montreal Gazette

Even the defense performed better than we expected during that first month, but the blue line corps has fallen to Earth for the past two weeks. On Wednesday, head coach Habs Claude Julien said: "Well, our back end has a difficult night." It was an understatement and in fact he should have said: "Back end we have a few difficult weeks."

With the exception of Jeff Petry, who has been heroic, there hasn't been anything to be praised behind for some time and it's so bad that even the return of Shea Weber, who is expected to be on Tuesday against Carolina Storm at the Bell Center, will ship D this soon. If you have a short memory, this porous defense is the creation of our pal, Bergevin. The GM defenseman who turned into a day laborer has made one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL and everyone knows that at the beginning of last year.

I kept wondering if one of the worst decisions Bergevin made was when he decided not to give the Hall of Fame Larry Robinson a job interview and instead left and hurriedly (and irrationally) hired his childhood friend Jean-Jacques Daigneault. Of course, Big Bird can help this blue line for the past six years. The current defense coach, Luke Richardson, may be better at his job than Daigneault, but let's admit there is little evidence of Richardson's training skills on ice today. Or maybe this D gang can't be trained?

To the second Achilles heel of the Bergevin Bear-eat-cake-and-eat-eat-plan – Carey Price. Because he returned from a pause to solve the "upstairs" problem, Price often looked great. But only in the world of Alice in Wonderland, Canadiens hockey will train, commentator and fans be poetic about a goalkeeper who only leaves five goals in two straight matches.

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I just underline how bad the defense is in front of him, but if you are supposed to be the best goalkeeper in hockey then you cannot have some of the worst numbers in the league. Prices approach the bottom of the NHL at goal-against average (3.17) and in save percentage (.895). This is not a slump, this is a new price. He came from the worst season of his career and this is a new reality.

But here, in the accursed Habs Nation, to criticize saviors will be labeled heresy. The real problem is not Price. The real problem is Bergevin's stubborn belief in building everything around the keeper while forgetting that he needs more than one formidable defender, NHL, who is ready in front of him. Even worse, you are definitely not mortgaging your entire financial future to build around an inconsistent goalkeeper.

The problem was almost tragic because the crazy $ 84 million contract put crazy pressure on Price. Because he is the highest paid goaltender in hockey and one of the highest paid NHL players, Price feels he must bring the team.

That is the worst thing you can do for a player who, according to his own admission, works to solve the problem between his ears.

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