Clocks get turned back in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Too bad it’s only hour.
Your Montreal Canadiens might want to turn the calendar back to mid-October, when they won three of four games in western Canada.
The U.S. is not as hospitable.
Venturing out of their time zone for the second time this season, the Canadiens lost back-to-back games in Minnesota and Colorado.
As the second month of the season begins, the Canadiens limp home with an 8-7 record. They are fifth in the Atlantic Division, second, behind Boston, in the wild-card standings.
It’s way too early in the season to start fretting about playoff seedings. And it’s hard to get a fix on where the Canadiens fit into the Eastern Conference power structure, since 11 of their 15 games have been against teams in the Western Conference.
That’s about to change. The November schedule includes games against Ottawa, the Islanders, Tampa Bay, Columbus, the Rangers, Washington (twice), Pittsburgh, Buffalo and the Leafs.
But before getting into the meat of that schedule, there’s one more game against the West. Tuesday night, St. Louis visits the Bell Centre for the first time since Jan. 12, 2012.
The Blues ran a clinic in that game. The 3-0 score in favour of the visitors flattered the Canadiens, who barely touched the puck all night, rarely troubled Jaro Halak and were held to a measly 19 shots on goal … in their own barn.
It was a different Canadiens team, en route to a last-place finish that sealed the fates of general manager Pierre Gauthier and coach Randy Cunneyworth, who had replaced Jacques Martin.
The lineup included Mike Cammalleri, Chris Campoli, Tomas Kaberle, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mathieu Darche, Erik Cole and Hal Gill.
David Desharnais played 18:29 against the visiting Blues that night.
What’s the over/under on DD’s ice time Tuesday night?
Desharnais played 14:20 in Colorado. He was benched for most of the third period as Michel Therrien juggled his lines in search of an offensive spark.
Alex Galchenyuk was moved to centre, between Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. I thought they were the Canadiens’ best forwards in the third period, especially once Max-Pac shook off the rust of his eight-game absence.
Lars Eller centred Rene Bourque and Louis Leblanc. Michaël Bournival bounced around a few lines but ended the game back with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
The Canadiens had 30 shots on J-S Giguère, but at no point was the Colorado goaltender subjected to sustained pressure – except for some late-game shifts by the Galchenyuk line. The Avalanche has no stars on the blueline – and were second-guessed for not drafting homeboy Seth Jones – but there was enough size and skill to prevent the Canadiens from harassing Giguère.
It was a different story at the other end of the ice. Colorado has used its high draft picks to select gifted young forwards, and Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Paul Statstny, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon won puck battles and wreaked havoc aroudn Peter Budaj for long stretches of the game.
P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, the Canadiens’ top defence pairing, were each minus-3 on the game, as was Lars Eller. The Subban turnover that became O’Reilly’s goal was a dagger in any hopes for a third-period comeback.
P.K. has been out of sorts in recent games. He hasn’t been strong in the Canadiens’ end, displaying defensive lacuna that bolster the case for leaving a Norris Trophy winner off Canada’s Olympic team.
Perhaps P.K. is nursing an injury. Or chafing under the coaching staff’s efforts to purge spontaneity and energy from his game.
The drop-off from Subban-Markov to the rest of the D is precipitous. Josh Gorges was steady on the weekend road trip, but Raphael Diaz was vulnerable to Minnesota and Colorado’s physical forecheck; while Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray are willing warriors who, nonetheless, would be seventh or eighth defencemen on elite teams.
Alexei Emelin can’t get back soon enough – but the Russian Tank won’t be back against St. Louis.