They are who we thought they were
Ah the famous line of the late Dennis Green. Truth is though, these words are beginning to ring true when it comes to the 2021 Montreal Canadiens.
But let's not pretend like this somehow just started against Ottawa. There were signs. Even when they were winning against teams with mediocre goaltending, there were signs.
Poor, inaccurate passing. Slow transition. An all too predictable power play. A lack of sustained offensive zone time (the Canadiens were scoring mostly off turnovers and massive defensive breakdowns, particularly against the highly vulnerable Vancouver Canucks- arguable the worst defense in the NHL). They were also winning with sub par goaltending (Price). They struggled mightily in the faceoff circle. And the team was leading the league in penalties taken, a brutal reminder from the seasons past.
But they were winning. So little was said, not much was mentioned, not even a peep. Coaches were happy, media and fans were enamored with this team. Criticize the Habs on social media, and you were swarmed by a legion of killer-fans. Cup contenders, possibly the best team in the league they proclaimed proudly. Bergevin GM of the year, an injustice he was not picked to manage Team Canada. Let's extend him and Claude Julien.
But my, my, how things have changed in such a short period of time. Truth is, some players are simply not competing, not battling. There's little fight in them. Could the fact that key players like Phil Danault and Tuna Tatar are pending UFAs, be affecting their play and level of team commitment? Rubbing off on teammates? The former seems to be lacking focus and making selfish decisions, while the latter seems to have lost the feistiness and grit that characterized him the last 2 seasons.
Clearly, other teams have also found the blueprint to slowing the Canadiens down. It starts with restricting their space in the neutral zone. Creating traffic in front of Price and Allen (I thought the Canadiens were supposed to have a punishing, pugnacious group of defensemen? There's more traffic in front of the Hab's net than an LA freeway).
On the power play, even a foreigner just arriving in Canada, would be able to see the predictability of their play design (Set up Weber, Weber, Weber- no one else is allowed to shoot?). Furthermore, Julien has seemed unable to adjust, in-game.
So, is the apocalypse upon us? Hardly. But perhaps they are not an upper echelon team, and simply who we (the skeptics) thought they were.