Once again, the Canadiens spent a lot of time working on their power during practice Tuesday in Brossard, but this time head coach Claude Julien was in charge.
Associate coach Kirk Muller — with help from assistant Dominique Ducharme — has been in charge of the power play since the beginning of the season and it has been simply brutal. Heading into Wednesday’s game at the Bell Centre against the Arizona Coyotes (7:30 p.m., SN1, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), the Canadiens rank last in the NHL on the power play, with a 12.6 per cent success rate — or, more accurately, an 87.4 per cent failure rate.
The first power-play unit on Tuesday had Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin on the points with Joel Armia, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tomas Tatar up front, while the second unit had Mike Reilly and Jeff Petry with Charles Hudon, Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher.
“During the season, as a head coach you delegate and you also have to trust,” Julien said after practice. “And the people that are in charge, one of them, obviously, in charge or taking the lead there is Kirk and then Dominique is helping him, just like I help Luke (Richardson) with the penalty-kill this year. So we kind of share stuff. But I’m still the guy that has to overlook, I’m still the guy that has to take the responsibility. But if you don’t trust the people around you, then you’ve got the wrong people. That doesn’t mean you can’t jump in, but you’ve got to let them do their work.
“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve tried to work on different things and tried to fix it,” Julien added. “At the same time, there’s a responsibility that belongs to the players as well. When you see your best players turning pucks over in areas where they’re forcing plays, I don’t think the coaching staff told them to do that. So some of the responsibility has to come on them. In other words, we’re all going to take responsibility, the players, coaches, and we try and fix it.
“Today was one of those days where I got a little bit more involved and made sure that everything is clear and then it goes back to the guys that are in charge of it. But you know what, I have to take a big chunk of the responsibility because … it’s on me. Kirk, for example, who was here last year was the guy who brought the power play to No. 12, 13 (in the NHL) for most of the year. So he did a good job. He didn’t become a bad power-play coach over the course of the summer. So we’ve just got to work with what we’ve got. They’re different players and different responsibilities and we’ve got to find a way to make it work.”
The Canadiens have only 20 power-play goals in 50 games and Tatar leads the team with four. Last season, the Canadiens tied for 12th on the power play, with a 21.2 per cent success rate, finishing with 52 power-play goals.
Only three of Domi’s 16 goals this season have come on the power play.
“Just talking about it is beating a dead horse, right?” Domi said after Tuesday’s practice. “We know what we have to do. It’s just keep it simple, shoot pucks and just trust the system and that’s how we’re going to have to play.
“It’s just not get too creative, not think too much, not worry about the other team too much. Just focus on ourselves and make the simple pass that’s there, take the simple shot that’s there and eventually it’s going to go in and then we’ll just ride the wave.”
Easier said than done.