With one game under his belt behind the Montreal Canadiens bench, interim head coach Dominique Ducharme can see the cracks in the armor.
There are little errors he has to address since taking the reins from Claude Julien, who was fired from his post on Wednesday, but the biggest issue is confidence.
“We’re a little fragile right now,” Ducharme said, following a 6-3 loss to the host Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
The Canadiens get another shot at the Jets on Saturday before heading home for a three-game homestand — which includes a doubleheader against the Jets.
The bruising suffered in Winnipeg extended the Canadiens’ losing skid to four games. They held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before the Jets exploded for five unanswered goals.
“I liked what we did in the first half of the game and I didn’t like the other half,” Ducharme said.
Little mistakes led to scoring chances and goals, and that can break a team’s spirit. It isn’t something that can’t be fixed, though.
“We have to find a way to control the things that we have the ability to control,” Ducharme said. “We didn’t do good work in that aspect of the game.”
The Canadiens let the Jets’ pressure get to them, admitted forward Jonathan Drouin, who logged an assist on one of Joel Armia’s two goals. Tomas Tatar also scored for the Habs.
“You look at that second period, they started stressing us out,” Drouin said. “We were giving them too much space in the neutral zone for them to skate and make plays and they kind of took us apart. They have skilled players. You look at that top six, it’s probably one of the best top sixes in the League.”
Goaltender Carey Price appears to be shouldering a lot of the blame. The 2014-15 Vezina and Hart Trophy winner started the season undefeated in regulation time in four games.
His record is now 5-4-3 with a .888 save percentage, largely unimpressive numbers.
“I think maybe I’m overthinking things,” he said, short and to the point with his words. “That’s all I’ve got for you.”
Kyle Connor scored twice for the Jets, and Mark Scheifele scored in a sixth consecutive game. Nate Thompson got the game-winner at 6:37 of the third period for his first goal in his seventh game with the Jets. The former Canadiens center signed with the Jets as a free agent in October.
The Jets also got goals from Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Five Jets players finished with multi-point nights.
“A game-winning goal, I’ll take that any day,” said Thompson, who noted the Jets held Montreal to 21 shots.
“I really thought we were good in all three zones. They had some chances, but I think they just had first shots — they didn’t have second or third chances. I thought we were connected all night and it showed.”
The secret sauce for the Jets, who logged their third straight win, is puck control, Connor said.
“If we have the puck, it’s tough for them to score, and I think that’s kind of our mentality,” the 24-year-old left winger said. “I think our offensive-zone game is pretty elite in this division and through the NHL. We’re a pretty good, talented team up front and I think it’s tough to generate chances if we’re in your zone for 20-30 seconds.”
–Field Level Media