It makes me nervous when the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens is thinking the same way as I about his team.
At 4 p.m. on trade deadline day, Marc Bergevin was talking about why he hadn’t made any major moves.
The GM’s goal, when the truncated NHL season began, was making the playoffs.
And although they haven’t clinched a postseason spot, Bergevin’s team will be playing hockey in May.
I view my team as a team that put themselves in a good position to make the playoffs,” Bergevin said.
The GM didn’t say so, but anything else is gravy. He’s playing with house money.
Bergevin talked about building “a good team for years to come” – a plan that made him reluctant to part with young prospects and/or draft choices.
Six hours later, the Canadiens were licking their wounds – figuratively and literally – after a 5-3 spanking in Philadelphia.
And back in Montreal, the Winnipeg Jets, who play the Canadiens at the Bell Centre Thursday night, were watching the game and licking their chops.
Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane probably paid particular attention to the ease with which Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds moved their big bodies into Carey Price’s kitchen. The Flyers net-crashers were unencumbered by any Canadiens defenceman – least of all by Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. Nor did newcomer David Drewiske impress me as someone who’s going to do much crease-clearing.
(Props to Josh Gorges: He wasn’t on for any Philadelphia goals. But his D partner has had better nights … up to and including the mistake that led to Voracek’s empoty-netter.)
The Jets also may have noted the performance of Lars Eller, who was on for every Philadelphia goal except Jakub Voracek’s empty-netter. Eller was minus-4 and went 1-6 in the faceoff circle.
Eller was attempting to fill in for Tomas Plekanec, who left the game early in the second period. Plekanec sustained a groin injury and is listed as day-to-day.
He wasn’t the game’s only casualty. Max Pacioretty took a shot off his left ankle. No word on whether he’ll be able to play against Winnipeg.
In his postgame remarks, Michel Therrien said the Canadiens “didn’t match the intensity level” of the Flyers. The coach said six shots in 40 minutes – the Canadiens had four in the second period, two in the third – weren’t enough to win many hockey games.
Certainly not this one.
Trailing 3-2 after 55 minutes, their shot advantage notwithstanding, the Flyers kept up the pressure until the Canadiens inevitably wilted. Carey Price had kept them in the game up to that point, making several brilliant stops and being victimized by a few bad bounces.
The Flyers played with more desperation. They are 11th in the Eastern Conference. And if the Flyers were scoreboard watching, they would have noted a big win by the Rangers, who are one of the teams Philadelphia will have to catch in order to make the playoffs.
A win by the Canadiens would have put them three points behind faltering Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference lead. And they have two games in hand on the Penguins.
The loss left the Canadiens one point ahead of Boston, with the Bruins holding a game in hand.
While the Canadiens attempt to get back on the winning track against Winnipeg – probably without Plekanec and Pacioretty – the Bruins will be playing the Devils in Boston. Then the Bruins are at the Bell Centre Saturday night.
It’s a tough week, and the schedule may be taking a toll. On L’Antichambre, Michel Bergeron suggested fatigue was a factor in Philadelphia.
“They’re a small team,” the diminutive former Nordiques/Rangers coach added. “Small teams get tired.”
Tired and slow. On the same telecast, Gaston Therrien said in order to win games, the Canadiens have to be faster than their opponents. They were not faster than the Flyers, rarely getting to loose pucks ahead of a Philadelphia defence depleted by the loss of Andrej Meszaros, Braydon Coburn and, of course, Chris Pronger.
Playing on the day his team traded for Steve Mason, Ilya Bryzgalov looked beatable. But the Canadiens couldn’t muster any sustained pressure to test him.
One positive note: the Canadiens’ penalty-killers were a perfect 3-for-3 against a Flyers power play that is, statistically, the league’s best. But with three chances, the Canadiens’ PP was impotent as well.
Did the two stupid staged fights affect the outcome?
The pugilists got the Philadelphia crowd going. But I didn’t see a definitive momentum swing.
The Flyers won because they were hungrier. They wanted the game more, and the Flyers’ in-your-face style – exemplified by Hartnell and Simmonds – carried the day.
So do you suppose Marc Bergevin cried himself to sleep wishing he’d traded the Canadiens’ first-round draft choice for Ryan Clowe?
I doubt it. The general manager takes the long view, and his vision of the Canadiens’ future was not clouded by what transpired at the Wells fargo Center.
There are, however, short term challenges.
Tomas Plekanec is one of the players – Carey Price and P.K. Subban are the others – the Canadiens can’t win without. Pleks does so much – plays against the other team’s best centre, kills penalties, wins crucial faceoffs, plays on the PP.
If Plekanec is out for a while, the team is in trouble.
But maybe you can say the same about Boston without Patrice Bergeron.
And speaking of recalls from Hamilton – which we weren’t – the Bulldogs are in Texas.
So Gabriel Dumont – and maybe Michäel Bournival – will have an interesting day of travel to face the Jets in Montreal.