The numbers appears damning.
The Canadiens have given up 23 goals during regulation time this season and Shea Weber and/or Victor Mete have been on the ice for 14 of those goals. Weber has been on the ice for the last eight goals scored against the Canadiens.
But the team insists there’s no sense of panic as they prepare to close out a four-game homestand with a game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).
“There’s been a lot of goals, but last night the first goal (Tampa Bay) scored, we had forwards who could have got the puck out three or four times and they didn’t. It’s a five-man unit and you can’t blame two guys for five guys not doing their job there.
“Right now, there are times they can better no doubt but, as a five-man unit, they haven’t been good in their own end,” added Julien. “It’s about defending, and Victor has his troubles at times finishing and closing and turning pucks over. When Victor is on his game and skating and moving the puck, Shea is better at defending. It’s a work in progress.”
Mete is in his third season in the NHL, but he’s a relative youngster at 21. He spent some time with Weber as a rookie before Weber was sidelined by a foot injury and they were reunited as the team’s top defence pair when Weber returned last December.
“So far, I think we’ve been playing pretty good,” said Mete. “We played a solid game against St. Louis. The last game, we were good, too, but we’ve just had a couple of (bad) minutes. Once we can establish a 60-minute game, we’ll be okay.”
The Canadiens might have been able to claim a 57-minute game against Tampa Bay, but an extended shift led to a goal at 19:53 of the first period and the Lightning scored twice in the first 2:01 of the second period.
“I know we’ve been on for a lot of goals but if you look at that last game, we got caught on a line change on the third goal and on the first one we just got caught on the ice for two minutes. We just have to keep going and not get frustrated, keep our focus.”
The Canadiens have a 2-2-2 record and they are 1-2-1 in games against Atlantic Division rivals. Even when they win, the Canadiens give up too many goals, which has to be painful for Julien, who stresses accountability on defence. Montreal needed a shootout to beat Toronto 6-5 and gave up three goals during that 60-minute effort against St. Louis, which ended in a 6-3 win.
The Canadiens are tied for 28th in team defence, allowing 3.83 goals a game. Part of the problem has been a dreadful penalty-killing unit, which has allowed seven goals on 18 opposition power plays. The PK ranks 29th in the NHL with a dismal success rate of 61.1 per cent.