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It’s early, but the Canadiens are struggling to find the back of the net


in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 16, 2017 in New York City.

Bruce Bennett

The Montreal Canadiens look a lot different at the start of this season than they did at this time last year, and it appears to be taking time for them to gel.

GM Marc Bergevin made several moves over the summer, as Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and Alex Radulov are all gone. Replacing them are Jonathan Drouin, David Schlemko (injured), Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and rookie Victor Mete.

We’re just four games into the season, but the results have been poor so far. The Canadiens have found the back of the net just four times in 2017-18 despite getting a lot of shots on goal (they had over 40 in last night’s loss to Chicago).

They’re off to a 1-3-0 start, and the panic alarm is already starting to go off in Montreal.

“We were dominating, cycling the puck, getting shots from D and lines,” Drouin said after last night’s 3-1 loss to Chicago, per Sportsnet. “As a team and as a player, too, when the puck’s not going in maybe you tighten the stick or you think a little bit too much. But I think tonight that was not the case. Hopefully moving forward it’s not the case, either. I think we’re playing pretty well and the puck’s not going in.”

Four games into a new season and sticks are already being tightened, that’s a problem.

The Habs’ shooting percentage is ridiculously low, which probably won’t continue for much longer. Of the 31 teams in the NHL, Montreal ranks fifth in shots-per-game with 38.8. That means that they’re scoring on just 2.58 percent on their shots on goal. That’ll change soon, but they can’t allow themselves to fall behind the eight ball.

The problem right now, is that Montreal’s top guys aren’t scoring. Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Drouin have combined for one goal in four games. On a team that isn’t extremely deep up front, that can’t happen.

The Atlantic Division is vastly improved. Toronto looks outstanding, Tampa Bay will be better, Ottawa made it to the conference final last year, Buffalo played them tough in the opener, and Florida and Boston are both capable of competing for a playoff spot. So the Canadiens can’t just wait around for their scoring touch to appear, they have to go out and work for it.