There’s an interesting sociological study to be done on the differences between English- and French-speaking Montreal Canadiens fans.
As is my habit on the drive home after nights at the Bell Centre, I flipped between the postgame broadcasts on TSN690 and 98,5 FM. The latter is the French radio voice of the Canadiens.
On Tuesday night, after the team’s 3-2 loss to Washington, Ron Fournier was on 98,5 offering a calm view that could be summarized by the phrase “You can’t win ‘em all.”
Over on 690, there were corresponding reasonable words from Conor McKenna and Tony Marinaro.
Then they opened the phone lines … and reason flew out the windows of 690’s Greene Ave. studios.
Why do the station’s callers take such delight in bashing Carey Price?
Was the Canadiens’ goaltender great against the Capitals?
There might be a goal or two Price would want back … although Alex Ovechkin scores on many goaltenders these days, and the Eric Fehr goal was an epic schmozzle for which no individual should be blamed.
But for the first six-plus minutes of the first period – during which Washington had nine shots to none for the home team – Carey Price kept his team in the game with a series of excellent stops, the best of which was a lightning-quick leg save on Nicklas Backstrom.
The early heroics didn’t count for much among the Price-hating mouth-breathers. A subsequent caller described them as “morons” who are still second-guessing the choice of Price over Jaroslav Halak (currently the perennially injured number-three goaltender in St. Louis).
You don’t hear Price being raked on 98,5. Nor is he often a target on L’Antichambre.
But for a certain type of male, middle-aged (which you can discern from their voices) English radio listener, Montreal has a goaltending problem.
And the only way to shut them up is for Carey Price to lead the Canadiens on a deep playoff run.
We’re three weeks away from beginning to find out if that’s going to happen. But I would suggest the greatest challenge facing the Canadiens does not reside between the pipes.
Having avoided the injury bug for most of the season, the Canadiens are getting thin on D.
Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban were on for two of the Washington goals, Davis Drewiske and Andrei Markov for the other. Alexei Emelin’s physical presence was missed, as forwards Brandon Prust and Rene Bourque led the team in hits with six each. But the big hole in the blueline corps is the continuing absence of Raphael Diaz, who was concussed in a freak collision against Ottawa on Feb. 25 and hasn’t played since.
Diaz would give the team another offensive Dman to complement Markov and Subban. As it is, however, teams can focus on the only two Canadiens blueliners who can hurt them.
Suban had one shot on goal and four blocked by the Capitals. Markov had two SoG and three blocked.
Brendan Gallagher had one shot on goal and four were blocked. His linemate, Max Pacioretty, had five SoG and seven blocked. Michael Ryder: two shots, five blocked.
Washington blocked 34 shots. That was five more than Michal Neuvirth had to handle. John Erskine and John Carlson had seven blocks each. David Drewiske led the Canadiens with three of their 10 blocked shots.
Nine Washington shots missed the net, to 13 misses for the Canadiens. Opportunism, luck, bounces and, last but not least, officiating did not favour the home team.
But as Fournier told the non-morons listening to his show, you can’t win every game. The Canadiens battled, as they usually do, and there were some positives:
• The Canadiens were 41-24 on faceoffs.
• Faced with the league’s most dangerous power play, the Canadiens stayed out of the box and easily killed their one penalty, a first-period hook by Pacioretty.
• Lars Eller scored twice and continued to bring out the best in young Alex Galchenyuk, who assisted on both goals. Eller played 13:40, Galchenyuk 11:52. Compare this to David Desharnais’s 19:57, Brendan Gallagher’s 18:57 and Pacioretty’s 20:17. Or Plekanec’s 17:33 and Brian Gionta’s 16:25 and Michael Ryder’s 16:12.
Maybe the kids merit more ToI.
• Rene Bourque showed little rust and absolutely no timidity after his 21-game absence. He had the aforementioned six hits and went to the net consistently, playing 11:35 on the fourth line. Late in the third period, Michel Therrien put Bourque back on the Pleks line, moving Ryder to his natural RW with Eller and the kid and dropping Prust down with Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern. We’ll see if the coach goes with these combos in Buffalo on Thursday night.
By then, the Canadiens may be in fourth place.
Boston visits New Jersey Wednesday night to play the game they have in hand on the Canadiens. A win lifts the Bruins into first place in the Northeast Division.
That would be Carey Price’s fault.