About last night …

It’s their party, and we’ll cry if we want to.

Your Montreal Canadiens are 100 years old – and for two periods in Buffalo, they played that way.

Outscored 4-0, outshot 29-8, dominated in all three zones … against a divisional opponent.

But they scored twice in the third!

So let’s get this party started!

What’s that you say?

Not feeling too celebratory?

Concerned that the NHL’s proudest franchise is sitting 12th, three points ahead of Toronto, which has a game in hand?

C’mon, cheer up!

Buy a vintage sweater, a set of DVDs, a Canadiens’ Monopoly game.

You’ll feel better in no time.

Or not.

J. Ambrose put it well in the Comments section:

Man, tomorrow night’s centennial celebrations are going to be like meeting an ex-girlfriend who looks even hotter than when you broke up with her. And much hotter than your current girlfriend/wife. And your current girlfriend/wife KNOWS it.

I could list the Canadiens’ negatives in this game, but there isn’t enough room … even on the Internet.

The Canadiens began the game with a decent shift by the Plekanec-Cammaleri-AK46 line.

After that – disaster.

Buffalo is supremely well-coached by Lindy Ruff and always plays a smart, disciplined game. I would imagine that in his practices, Ruff runs drills that are more taxing than anything his team experienced in the Canadiens’ end for 40 minutes.

Zone coverage is a joke. The depleted D corps – basically, Roman Hamrlik, Jaro Spacek and four guys who would be Number Six D on good hockey teams – got no help from the forwards. The Sabres maintained possession for long stretches. tossed the puck around like it was on a string and buzzed Jaro Halak, who coughed up some juicy rebounds.

Three coaches on L’Antichambre – Jacques Demers, Michel Therrien and Guy Carbonneau – talked about the Canadiens’ non-existent transition game. Unlike the Sabres, who are in continuous motion, Canadiens forwards stand around waiting for low-percentage passes that are broken up easily.

Where is the Martin system?

Are they not dedicated/disciplined/smart enough to play it?

Or, scary thought, are the Canadiens just not good enough? 

On Wednesday night, I watched the first period of the Vancouver-New Jersey game. The Canucks wre flying, and I could have followed the game if my picture tube failed.

Click-click-click-click. Tape to tape short passes. It’s what good hockey teams do to clear their zone and move the puck up the ice.

Vancouver does it well, and they do it at speed

Canadiens’ puck movement is nervous, imprecise, utterly predictable. And when they manage to gain the O-zone, almost always with a dump-in, they’re unable to sustain puck possession or exert pressure.

Nine shots in 40 minutes? That’s not nearly enough for a team with few natural snipers.

The Canadiens aren’t getting any scoring, nor will they from grinders like Travis Moen, Glen Metropolit, Max Lapierre, Max-Pac, Ryan White and Tom Pyatt.

I can’t fathom Jacques Martin’s thinking in starting Scott Gomez (who finally got a goal, off a sweet SK74 feed) with Pyatt and White.

Look, I love the kids. They work their butts off. You see balls-out effort from them in every game.

But 100 per cent from Ryan White and Tom Pyatt translates to what? 10 goals each, maybe?

Martin put Gomez with Cammalleri and AK46 for the third period. The line had its moments, but how can you judge performance when the Sabres are coasting on a 4-1 lead.

In his postgame remarks, a disappointed Martin repeated his usual mantra: the importance of execution, winning one-on-one battles, hard work, dtermination.

“You have to play with desperation,” the coach said, in French. “Teams are so well balanced. Individuals have to win their battles.”

Martin would not put the blame for the debacle on his goaltender, playing his first game in three weeks, or Dmen. He blamed the forwards for non-support. They made Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht look like Lemaire, Lafleur and Shutt.

Defencemen, including sensational 6’9″ rookie Tyler Myers, jumped into the rush with impunity, creating overmatches in the Canadiens’ zone. Mike Cammalleri’s backchecking was particularly brutal.

But what’s the point of finger-pointing?

Everyone sucked. No fewer than 14 players were minus on the night.

So what does the coach do?

Bag-skate his team on centennial day, hours before the second game in two nights?

In the set-up of my game blog last night, I quoted ESPN hockey columnist John Buccigross:

 

During the 2008 (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 14 of the 16 teams that were in a playoff position went on to play in the postseason, and all eight teams in the Eastern Conference that made the playoffs last season were in the top eight at that point.

I see that as an anomaly, and it won’t happen this season. But it does show how difficult it is to make up ground with the presence of three-point games. Pay less attention to how many points out of the eighth spot your team is right now and pay more attention to how many teams your club has to hop over. That’s what makes it difficult to get out of an early-season hole. It’s like Bubba Watson shooting 74-73 and being tied for 53rd after two rounds of a PGA event. That’s a lot of golfers to jump over in two days.

But cheer up:

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1909

 

 


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