The good news is the Canadiens don’t play Detroit eight times in a season.
The bad news is it doesn’t seem to matter whom they play (it’s the mighty Boston Bruins tomorrow night). The team is still looking for its first win in December. Canadiens have lost three in a row, five of their last six, eight of their last 12.
Playing in front of their usual 21,273 enthusiastic fans, the Canadiens managed a not-so-grand total of 16 shots on goal – four in the third period – while losing 4-1 last night.
The home team’s highlight reel was a Christopher Higgins goal and a flying tackle by Mathieu Dandenault.
Detroit toyed with them. The Red Wings were first to the puck all night long and kept it for long stretches with crisp passes and heady offensive plays. For their part, the Canadiens kept trying to pass the puck through forests of white jerseys, with the predictable result that the Wings would intercept and wheel up ice.
François Gagnon of La Presse writes that while the NHL doesn’t track time of possession, he’d estimate Detroit held the puck for 40 minutes last night. Sounds about right. Maybe 45.
The Ottawa Senators have looked pretty good against Canadiens this season. But off what we saw last night, Detroit is two goals better than Ottawa.
Is Dominik Hasek still the Dominator? Who knows? He didn’t have to be last night.
The Canadiens went 0-for-5 on the power play. They lost 60 per cent of the faceoffs.
They sucked … and they were booed off the ice. Fans didn’t wait for the final sirent to get on Michael Ryder: the snakebit 30-goal scorer was booed every time he touched the puck.
What can Guy Carbonneau do to shake up his floundering hockey team?
Juggle the lines?
Ummm, tried that.
Tried that, too.
Call up some Bulldogs?
If they were ready for The Show, Maxim Lapierre, Sergei Kostitsyn and Ryan O’Byrne would be here already.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte sat behind Canadiens’ bench last night. Didn’t seem to affect Pavel Datsyuk, who comes from a formerly communist and godless country. Didn’t work against Detroit’s Swedes, either. Or that ageless Greek-American.
Carbo’s bag of tricks is almost empty. Last night, he went to one of the most desperate weapons in a coach’s arsenal. Carbonneau called out two of his players.
We’ll see how Andrei Markov and Carey Price react to being publicly criticized by their coach.
Price will shrug it off. Markov? I’m not so sure … but I am certain he’s playing hurt, and the team’s failure to acknowledge that is making Canadiens’ best player look bad.
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Need some good news?
Max Pacioretty, who was the Canadiens’ second first-round draft choice (22nd overall), is having a great freshman season at Michigan and made the U.S. national junior team. We’ll see him on TSN playing at the world championships over the holidays.
And when Pacioretty joins the Canadiens, Chris Chelios will be two or three years older.
Ryan McDonagh did not make the U.S. team. The Americans are deep on defence, and McDonagh is only 18. Of greater concern is David Fischer. The Canadiens’ first-round choice in 2006 is struggling at the University of Minnesota and was left off the U.S. team. Fischer is starting to look like a first-round bust.
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How has Detroit stayed so good for so long?
Henrik Zetterberg, arguably the best two-way player in the NHL, was the 210th amateur drafted in 1999. Zetterberg was one of many gems uncovered by the Wings’ brilliant Director of European Scouting, Hakan Anderson.
Other Detroit steals: Tomas Holmstrom, drafted 257th overall in 1994, Pavel Datsyuk, 171st overall in ’98, Tomas Kopecky, 38th overall in 2000, Jiri Hudler, 58th overall in ’02, Valtteri Filppula, 95th overall in ’02, and Johan Franzen, 97th overall in ’04.
And here’s the scary part: Detroit is $4 million under the salary cap, which means geeral manager Ken Holland can go shopping for the last piece(s) of his Stanley Cup puzzle in February.