The NHL’s oldest franchise added a new page to the history books on Tuesday night. The Montreal Canadiens played their first-ever game against the Seattle Kraken, the league’s shiny new expansion team. Though the occasion felt new, the Canadiens and the City of Seattle have a hockey history that dates back to 1917.
That year, the Seattle Metropolitans won the Pacific Coast Hockey Association Championship, setting up a Stanley Cup Final series against Edward “Newsy” Lalonde and the Canadiens (then of the National Hockey Association -NHA). The best-of-five series took place entirely at the Seattle Ice Arena, a 4000-seat building located in the downtown sector. The Canadiens won Game 1 but lost the series 3-1 in a one-sided affair. The Metropolitans outscored their NHA opponents 23-11.
Two years later, the Canadiens tried to exact revenge on the Metropolitans in the 1919 Stanley Cup Final. After five games, the two teams had technically played to a stalemate. League rules mandated that only one overtime was allowed per game, so Game 4 finished in a tie. The Canadiens won Game 5 and pushed the series to a deciding Game 6. However, the game was never played. The Great Influenza epidemic struck both teams, including Montreal defenseman Joe Hall, who suffered severely (from ‘The Cost of Rushing Back to Sports: A Star’s Life,’ The New York Times, 5/25/20). The series was officially cancelled without a declared winner. Four days later, Hall tragically succumbed to the virus.
Just over a century later, the Canadiens again failed to defeat a Seattle-based team, losing 5-1 to extend their winless streak. Here are the three key takeaways from their loss to the Kraken.
Canadiens Get Burned on the Rush
The key reason the Canadiens lost this game was their inability to stifle the Kraken’s rush. Four of Seattle’s five goals were scored off their quick transition after the Canadiens turned the puck over at or near the offensive blue line. On Jordan Eberle’s goal 62 seconds into the first period, Habs defenseman Ben Chiarot flipped a pass high into the air that missed Jonathan Drouin at the offensive blue line. The Kraken quickly transitioned the puck up ice with all three Canadiens forwards caught up ice. Seattle scored seconds later.
An even worse offensive turnover came on the Kraken’s third goal, scored by Yanni Gourde. Brett Kulak delivered a long pass to Christian Dvorak just inside the offensive zone. However, Dvorak couldn’t corral the pass and quickly turned the puck over (see video below).
On this goal, the Canadiens had three players (not including Dvorak) idling at the Kraken blue line. One pass later, and Seattle breaks into the offensive zone on a two-on-one and scores. The final two Kraken goals were scored on breakaways directly after a Montreal turnover. The Canadiens need to work on their decisions with the puck if they want any success on their western road swing. But other areas also need improvement.
Canadiens’ Power Play is Still Disjointed
The lack of execution and cohesion on the power play is a major reason for the Canadiens’ 1-6 record. They showed some signs of improvement on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings but were again ineffective on Tuesday night. Far too often this season, the power play has been one and done; unable to create or sustain any momentum. In seven games, they rank 31st on the power play at an abysmal 8.0 percent efficiency, including against Seattle, where they went 0-2 and failed to test Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
They struggled in their zone entries and with unforced errors on passes in the offensive zone. Twice during a power play, the Canadiens cleared the zone themselves after poor passes to the point, killing any pressure or momentum gained. The game was still close at that point, but the power play was disjointed. In close games, that can’t happen with such frequency.
Jake Allen Received Little Help
The final takeaway from Tuesday’s game is simple: Jake Allen was hung out to dry. It’s a recurring trend with the Canadiens early this season. They gave up two breakaway goals and two goals off odd-man rushes. Their goaltender can only do so much in these situations. Sure, a team can hope for a save or two in critical moments, but that was not the case against the Kraken. If the Canadiens can limit their turnovers and odd-man rushes against, Allen will make the saves. He’s proven it in the past.
The Canadiens again failed to win a hockey game in Seattle. The loss brings back old memories and highlights the need for massive improvements in several areas of the game. Until the Habs fix these problems, they will continue to lose. That is a fact. They need to improve quickly or else the promise of this season will also be history.
Hello there, folks! My name is Stephen Michaud. Like so many in Canada, I grew up playing the game of hockey from a young age. My passion for playing spawned a yearning for following the NHL and other leagues around the world. Here at The Hockey Writers I have been tasked with covering the Montreal Canadiens, which I hope to do in a detailed and honest fashion.