Canadiens fans, let us draw solace on Sunday.
Not from the scriptures.
From the calendar.
For behold, it is April 14.
Were it April 28, loud would be the lamentations in Habland.
As it is, however, two weeks remain until the final game of the regular season – which the Canadiens will play in Toronto on April 27.
If they stink out the ACC again on that Saturday night … well, it will be time for some serious teeth-gnashing, nail-biting and panic button-pushing – especially if April 30 or May 1 is the date of Game 1 in a Montreal-Toronto playoff series.
So everyone chill out.
Mathieu Darche, on L’Antichambre, had a good description of what we saw at the ACC Saturday night: Humility Lesson 2.0.
Remember Feb. 9 at the Bell Centre? The Leafs won 6-0. The winning goal was scored 59 seconds into the game.
This time it took the Leafs almost two whole minutes to get on the board. With Francis Bouillon off for an accidental high-stick, a Canadiens penalty-kill that hadn’t surrendered a goal in seven games was torched within 18 seconds. Tyler Bozak completed a nifty passing play, and Carey Price had no chance on the goal.
The Canadiens’ goaltender was brutal, however, on goals by Leo Komarov and Jay McClement. The latter goal – the third on four Toronto shots – sent Price to the bench, an ignominy he had avoided in that early February loss.
David Drewiske’s goal briefly ignited hopes for a Canadiens comeback, but Dion Phaneuf scored on the first SoG Budaj faced.
Toronto defenceman Mark Fraser blocked three shots during the first period – two more than Price and Budaj combined.
It was that kind of a night.
It happens. You just wish it didn’t happen twice against Toronto in a truncated season.
And you wish it wouldn’t happen to Carey Price against a team the Canadiens might be facing in the first round of the playoffs. Or against James Reimer, who is lifetime 4-2 with two shutouts against the Canadiens.
Move over, Martin Brodeur. make way for James F. Reimer.
In his postgame remarks, Michel Therrien gave his goaltender a vote of confidence. Price has character, the coach said.
“I’m not concerned,” Therrien added. “He’s the kind of athlete who will bounce back.”
Price might have a shot at redemption in that April 27 game. The Eastern Conference standings will determine the significance of Game 48.
If the Canadiens are sitting fourth and the Leafs fifth, the game is a bona-fide playoff preview. And the pressure on Price will be enormous.
He is 11-11-1 against Toronto. Heading into a first-round series, Price has to prove he can beat the Leafs.
But if it’s a nothing game, maybe Budaj starts.
We’ve got two weeks to chew that over. The Canadiens followed that 6-0 loss to the Leafs with five straight wins, but this time they face a very tough schedule.
The game in Toronto was the first of five in eight nights. This is a physical test for the Canadiens, and Brandon Prust got banged-up in Toronto.
The Leafs lead the NHL in hits (and fights), and they laid 47 of them on the Canadiens. Every player in a blue jersey, except Phil Kessel, had a hit; and Ryan O’Byrne had SEVEN. That’s five more than Drewiske, the Canadiens late-season acquisition.
Vincent Damphpusse, on L’Antichambre, described the Canadiens’ effort as “tour croche”, which translates roughly as “f—ed up”. The former Habs captain knocked their lack of emotion, their tendency to give the Leafs odd-man rushes, their failure to be first on the puck.
But for all that, the Canadiens had a 13-5 shot advantage in the first period. With any kind of goaltending …
Down 4-1, however, it was all over but the crying. And the lacuna Damphousse highlighted were much in evidence. The Leafs had a 4-on-1 rush, for cryin’ out loud … and they didn’t score.
Contrast the s–it show in TO with Tampa Bay’s visit to Washington. Down 5-1 five minutes into the second period – as were the Canadiens – the Lightning outshot the Caps 32-14 over 40 minutes and scored four unanswered goals to send the game to overtime. Vincent Lecavalier took a slashing penalty in OT, opening the door for a Mike Green goal that ended it.
The last 40 minutes in Toronto weren’t quite that thrilling.
Maybe the Canadiens were complacent. Their win in Buffalo sewed up a playoff spot. And they didn’t know it while the game was on, but the Canadiens’ loss didn’t cost them first place in the Northeast, as Boston were on their way to a loss in Carolina.
Carolina had 17 shots in the first period, and Tuukka Rask stopped 16 of them. Justin Peters faced four Boston shots, the second of which beat him.