Yes, the team is going to win some and lose some.
Yes, it’s a long season.
Yes, we hear you, Alex Kovalev: there’s no need to panic.
But there is cause for concern.
Your Montreal Canadiens played their worst game in two seasons last night in Boston.
It was worse than the hockey clinic the Detroit Red Wings ran at the Bell Centre last December.
Worse than the pre-Christmas Mike Ribeiro festival in Dallas.
Worse than any of the playoff losses to Philadelphia.
Worse than the Saturday night debacle in Toronto, a game that Guy Carbonneau called the most embarrassing of his coaching career.
The Boston Bruins – divisional rivals and regular-season bitches through a dozen games – took the Canadiens out into the deep, dark Massachusetts woods and bent our centennial-celebrating Stanley Cup contenders over a log.
I hope Carbo heard the screams, because he has to come up with a deliverance strategy.
You can read the 1,200-plus Comments posted to Habs Inside/Out during and after the game, but there was one on Franccois Gagnon’s blog that caught my eye this morning:
At the begining: "We didn’t play 60 minutes."
After that "We took them too lightly."
Then "there was too much time off between games", followed by "we’re playing too offensively, not enough concentration on defence."
And finally last night Saku Koivu suggested the Canadiens were "mentally tired."
The real answer, the poster suggested: "since the beginning of the season we’ve been arrogant and played below the level of our abilities; don’t start engraving our names on the Stanley Cup just yet."
Amen to that.
Canadiens had an off-ice meeting and video session on Monday. They watched themselves stinking out the ACC and talked about the mistakes that had to be corrected.
Lessons learned. Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, they beat Ottawa 4-0.
The Bruins, however, are not Ottawa.
God knows Milan Lucic – chosen 50th overall in 2006, just behind Ben Maxwell – is not Jason Spezza. I know there was a market for all those Rocky movies, but did anyone really want to see a sequel to Stan Jonathan vs. Pierre Bouchard?
Biff! Baff! Pow! And Mike Komisarek may have broken his hand. We’ll find out today.
Lucic’s UFC victory celebration was a bit much, but that sonofagun is a monster who’s been terrorizing the Canadiens since the playoffs last spring.
P.J. Stock made a good point – hey, even a blind squirrel finds nuts once in a while – on 110% last night. Shawn Thornton’s ability to get at least a draw, given Montreal’s notorious hometown scoring, against Georges Laraque at the Bell Centre last month was a psychological boost for the Bruins.
What’s with BGL anyway? Didn’t the Canadiens sign him so that Komisarek wouldn’t have to fight?
last night, Lucic hammered Kovalev into the boards. Next shift, Laraque follows Lucic around for a while, doubtless asking him to dance.
Lucic sensibly declines. Then when the game is out of reach, he does a tango on Komisarek.
A caller to French radio this week complained about BGL, saying the Canadiens wanted a policeman and got a secret agent instead.
Great! The team that needed Dirty Harry Callahan has Georges Smiley, at $1.5 million per three seasons.
There is no one on the Montreal roster, including BGL, whom Boston fears. And that sense of schoolyard superiority was only enhanced by Lucic KOing Komo.
Put it this way: When Chuck Kobasew is hammering your D-men, you’ve got a problem.
Did the Canadiens win a single one-on-one battle last night?
Were they ever first on the puck?
Did the Bruins have any trouble clearing their zone?
As a poster to Habs I/O observed, the scary part about all this is the Canadiens are beginning to resemble last season’s Senators: talented team, horsebleep work ethic, does not compete.
At least there’s no goaltender controversy … yet.
But there are many worrisome issues:
• Alex Kovalev was MIA last night. He spent part of the game on the third line, played all of 41 seconds on the power play. As goes Kovy, so goes Tomas Plekanec. Or maybe vice-versa. Whatever, the only guy on the line playing remotely well is Andrei Kostitsyn.
• The D is soft and highly vulnerable to the kind of aggressive forechecking Boston displayed last night.
• This stat says it all: Boston took two minor penalties in 60 minutes. That’s the extent to which the Canadiens forced their opponents into errors.
• The statisticians in Boston calculated two giveaways for the Canadiens. OK, there were cough-ups by Komisarek and Koivu that led to the first two Boston goals … and none thereafter? I don’t think so.
• On the Canadiens’ top three lines, the only physically-imposing player is Guillaume Latendresse. Everyone else is a highly-skilled figure skater … and triple lutzes don’t cut the ice against a team like Boston.
• Each of the players on the fourth line was minus-2 last night. And they’re the guys who at least try.
• What can Guy Carbonneau do to shake up the lineup? Steve Bégin for Mathieu Dandenault? Breezer back in? Wait for our saviour, Tom Kostopoulos, whose suspension has one game to go?
The coach thought his team played an "almost perfect" game against Ottawa.
They were perfetly horsebleep against the Bruins.
And the Flyers are here tomorrow.
OK, we won’t panic … yet.
The Canadiens are a young team with undeniable talent.
But there’s a malaise that could metastasize into something serious and season-threatening unless treated.
Are there too many impending FAs?
Is a team built for speed incapable of handling toughness?
Is there a leadership vacuum or some sort of problem in the room?
Kovalev said the Canadiens were "not prepared" to play against the Bruins last night. Is that a not-so-veiled criticism of the coach and his staff?
In his post-game remarks, Guy Carbonneau said he had "no idea" why his team played so poorly.
He’d better come up with some theories.