Okay, everybody, we know the Habs are having a terrible time scoring. We know if they push hard, they can take advantage of Fleury and put up more than one goal a game. So why aren't they doing it? A big part of it is defence.
In an ideal world, at least one in which Jacques the Knife is king, the defenceman picks up the puck in his end, smartly passes it up to the nearest open forward who's already in motion, breaking up ice with his linemates. They cross the blueline skating hard, the puck carrier either passes off and heads to the net for a screen or a rebound or he cuts in and shoots while his linemates go to the net.
In the Habs real world, in which Jacques the Knife has to keep cementing his hair in place to quell the urge to tear it out by the roots, a guy like O'Byrne or Gill (God love his size XXXL shot-blocking shin pads, but he's not a great puck handler) will grab the puck in the corner, see the forechecker heading for him and hurriedly scoop it around the boards where it may or may not be picked up by Josh Gorges. If Gorges gets it, he'll chip it to centre, where it may or may not end up on the stick of a Canadien. If a Hab gets it, there may be o-zone penetration and possibly a shot on goal. If Gorges doesn't get it in his own zone, it ends up tied up on the boards while the wingers fight for possession. When it comes out, if the Habs have possession, they'll carry it to centre and dump it because it's time for a shift change. This happens about nineteen hundred times a game, and it means Gomez' line or Plekanec's ends up spending a great deal of ice time simply struggling to gain possession of the puck.
See the difference when Markov or Subban have the puck? Easy, smart outlet passes to moving forwards that lead to scoring chances happen much more often. The Habs make a lot of giveaways, and a great many of those come from the defencemen who are prone to just throwing the puck out of trouble without much thought about what happens to it afterwards. Unfortunately for the forwards, it's tough to build a cohesive attack when the primary mindset of the guys who are supposed to start the rush is "get rid of it!" They're doing a good job of getting the puck out of trouble, but that doesn't lead to much in the way of strategic offence.
The defencemen are an integral part of the offence, and this is where guys like Markov and Spacek are most missed. They're able to play in their own end, but they also think about where the puck needs to go once they get control of it. Gill, O'Byrne and Hamrlik manage to do it sometimes, but not often enough. That's why it's hard to get dangerous rushes started in the Habs end. Most of the Canadiens' chances come from winning o-zone faceoffs and holding the puck in for a shot or two.
There are a lot of other issues with the scoring too, first among them that nobody but Gionta seems to spend much time in the opposition goal crease. The Habs also don't win enough faceoffs and spend too much time trying to gain possession after losing the draw. Short shifts mean there's little time to accomplish much before the players are off again. And focussing on hermetically sealing their own zone ensures the team has to skate a LOT and wears down late in the third.
There's definitely a give and take here. You want the Habs to play tight D, but you want them to be able to transition to offence quickly as well. Unfortunately, the people playing on the Montreal blueline don't all have that skill, and the ones that do are mostly injured. Thus, one goal per game is becoming the norm.
In Game Six, in which it's do or die time (once again) for the Canadiens, the forwards will have to work harder to compensate for the things the D can't do. More Habs need to go to the net and bug Fleury and more of them need to make smart passes on the rush once the D does get it up and out of the Canadiens zone. The defencemen have enough to do to protect Halak from getting murdered. The forwards can't expect them to do it all, and need to improve their execution once they finally do get the puck.
This may all be moot tomorrow night if Spacek plays and somehow manages to find his timing after not skating at game speed for three weeks. He's able to make a good forward pass when he's on. His presence will help. Get some good passes from the defence and the offence will move along too. We'll see if it makes a difference tomorrow.