About last night …

This is Montreal, where one loss – even a shootout L – brings the Stanley Cup bandwagon to a screeching halt, with fans falling off the back, clambering over the sides and demandig that the lines be shuffled and half the team traded.

Let’s just chill out people.

There’s no need to panic.

Unless the Canadiens lose in Toronto tonight.

The Eastern Conference race is tightening up. The Canadiens have played fewer games than anyone else in the East, but the schedule is about to become more intense: 12 games in 22 days; seven of them on the road, including visits to Boston, Carolina, Detroit and Washington.

I don’t see any gimme’s, other than maybe the Islanders at the Bell Centre on the 24th … and those would be the same Islanders who led the Canadiens 4-1 eight minutes into the third period on Long Island.

November will tell us what this team is made of.

So far, not so good.

What did we learn last night?

• The Canadiens do not have two Number 1 goaltenders. Yes, Jaroslav Halk hadn’t played in 13 days. But he wasn’t very good. Those rebounds? Brutal. The shootout? Putrid.

• The layoff didn’t hurt anyone else. 19 shots in the first period.

• As Carbonneau said after the game, all those second period penalties played havoc with his personnel.  The lines got disrupted because everyone except BGL, Gui!, Alex Tanguay and AK46 is used on the PK.

• Sergei Kostitsyn has come to life. That goal was a beaut. You sometimes think he should be playing with his brother.

• Barring injury, we won’t see much of Mathieu Dandenault and Steve Bégin this season. The fourth line was Canadiens’ best. They had seven shots in the first period. Laraque played nine minutes and was a force down low. It’s impossible to take the puck off him.

• The power play needs more fine-tuning. There were more shots from the point last night, but too many of them were blocked. There has to be more net-crashing and goaltender-annoying.

• Canadiens’ penalty-kill was excellent. Maybe it’s because the get so much work.

• Decent night on faceoffs. Koivu was 11-5, but that penalty off the draw was just a killer. Canadiens led 2-1, they were on the PP and within less than a minute of 4-on-4, they’re down 3-2.

• Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Christopher Higgins can’t finish. And he’s playing with two of the best passers on the team. Michel Bergeron,on L’antichambre, sad Guillaume Latendresse has better hands than Higgins and should be on the Koivu line. 

I can’t see Guy Carbonneau making that move, at least not yet. But if they dial up a stinker at the ACC …

• Alex Kovalev led the team with five shots on goal and 500 miles of skating arond with the biscuit in the  offensive zone while his talented linemates tried to position themselves for passes that came at the least opportune times.

• Mike Komisarek had four hits and two blocked shots. He’s a terrific defensive D-man whose instincts are offence are practically non-existent.

• Andrei Markov played 28:32. During the Canadiens late-game PP, he looked tired and made uncharacteristic mistakes.

• My man Josh Gorges was steady as a rock. And Francis Bouillon,his partner had five hits.

• We’d better hope Roman Hamrlik doesn’t wake up today with a bum shoulder.

Canadiens vs. Leafs on Saturday night.

It doesn’t get any better than this … unless they lose.

 


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