About last night …

Standing otside the losers’ dressing room, Brian Wilde of CTV put the night in perspective:

“Doesn’t it say it all that the Fan of the Game was crying his eyes out?”

During the third period, roving cameras capture fans at the Bell Centre. Each is flashed on the huge scoreboard, and the Fan of the Game is the one who gets the most applause.

It’s usually a babe or someone wearing an interesting costume or a particularly enthusiastic and athletic dancer.

Last night it was an infant, held aloft by his parents and crying his eyes out. 

Hey, it’s NHL parity – and he’ll cry if he wants to.

That’s not the Bell Centre baby in the picture, but close enough.

There was plenty to cry about, starting with the Canadiens failure to win a four-point game.

Ls happen.

It’s cause for tears, however, when the eighth-place Eastern Conference team loses to the team that’s in seventh – and looks like a 12th-place team for most of the night.

No use crying over spilled milk, of course, and the Canadiens are checking into their Manhattan hotel as you read this. 

Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden, the ninth-place Canadiens play the seventh-place Rangers.

Wonder if the “excellent” goaltender will get the start.

That would be Carey Price, whose excellence Jacques Martin cited during his postgame press conference. 

Martin laid the blame for the loss entirely on the Canadiens’ special teams.

Fair ’nuff. A team that lives and dies on its power play went 0-for-6 and yielded the shorthanded goal that opened the game.

Otawa coach Cory Clouston must study video. Noting the success of the Canadiens’ PP since Andrei Markov returned to the lineup, the Senators’ coach had his penalty-killers pressure the puck, which forced the Canadiens into hasty and bad decisions – they usually go hand in hand – on the PP.

But I don’t buy Martin’s assertion that Price was excellent. And I think Jaro Halak will get the start in New York.

When Chris Phillips scored the winning goal from another area code in the second period, Price had been beaten three times on the first 12 shots he faced. At the end of the second period, I chatted briefly with someone who played in the NHL and knows hockey.

“The other guy should be i nets tomorrow,” he said, “and he should play for a month. Price is too lackadaisical, and he makes all his teammates nervous.”

I’ll leave the Price-Halak debate for the Comments section, except to say this was a statement game for The Franchise.

And the statement Carey Price made was, to put it charitably, ambiguous. He gave up rebounds all night, his puckhandling was weak (three giveaways) and we never saw that elite goaltender swagger that says “Fire away, bitches! You’re getting NOTHING past me.”

Price did not favour the media with a visit to the room after the game. This left several grumbling that the starting goalie should answer questions. Some recalled the accessibility of Cristobal Huet, who was in the room win or lose (crediting his teammates for Ws and taking responsibility for Ls.)

The Canadiens didn’t lose because of Price. But it’s getting harder to remember a game they won because of his supposed excellence.

They lost because the Senators played like they wanted it more. The stat that most vividly indicates thie willingness to outwork the Canadiens was blocked shot:

The Senators got their sticks and bodies in front of 24 shots. Anton Volchenkov had seven blocks on his own.

Contrast this with Roman Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek, who had two blocks, both by Spatch, between them – and four giveaways each. Not a great night for Andrei Markov, either. The Canadiens best player was minus-3 – in vivid contrast to Daniel F.’s plus-3

The number of blocks also suggests Ottawa had a pretty good understanding of how the Canadiens’ attack functions. In addition to shutting down the PP on six occasions, the Senators did a nice defensive job on Scott Gomez, who has keyed the Canadiens’ attack of late.

Rather than letting Gomez accelerate through the neutral zone – something he does with as much speed and stickhandling skill as anyone in the league – Ottawa clogged the middle and forced him toward the boards. Gomez skated in a funnel for most of the game. The line’s best chances were the result of Brian Gionta gaining the Ottawa zone by speeding down his wing.

Benoit Pouliot, whose neutral-zone turnover led to Zack Smith’s shorthanded goal, said the Canadiens’ attack lacked the precision it has displayed in recent games. There were very few tape-to-tape passes, and consequently little flow or rhythm.

When Tomas Plekanec finally scored his first goal of 2010 to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead, the Bell Centre went berserk and the Canadiens had a chance to seize control of the game.

It didn’t happen. Ottawa pushed back immediately, tying it at 2 and taking the lead three minutes after Pleks scored.

With the Gomez line effectively defenced and with Pleks and Mike Cammalleri doing their best without benefit of a complementary winger, it was difficult for the Canadiens to build any Mo because their third and fourth lines have only player, Glen Metropolit, who can score. And six of Metro’s goals have come on the PP.

How’s this for a crazy stat: Metropolit played 8:44 at even-strength against Ottawa. Georges Laraque played 9:18.

Down 3-2 in the third period, Maxim Lappiere had the puck all alone on the lip of Mike Brodeur’s crease. Lapierre had his back to the goalie, and it was painful to watch his clumsy effort to turn around and go to his forehand.

Max is a gamer, but he has no hands, no moves and no eye for the net. Sadly, these shortcomings are shared by Max Pacioretty, Travis Moen, Matt D’Agostini and Georges Laraque.

I could live with their lack of offensive talent if the Canadiens’ third and fourth liners brought more smackdown ability. But unlike the Senators – who have Chris Neil and Jarrko Ruutu, the poster boys for energy and edgy physical play – the Canadiens don’t have any players against whom other NHLers hate to play.

There is no one in a bleu-blanc-rouge jersey who has opponents lacing up before a game and thinking “S—, I have to battle that miserable p—- tonight.”

Sad to say, no one in the league feels this way about Marc-André Bergeron.

The only Canadien who scares anyone is Price – and your own teammates don’t count.

•  •  •

Gui!’s hat trick against Phoenix gives him 13 in 24 games with the Wild.

All but one have come at even-strength.

 

 


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