About last night …

A somewhat truncated edition, because I’m too tired and bummed out to write very much.

Let’s repeat the comforting nostrums we heard last night and will be hearing over the next couple of says:

There are 75 games left in the regular season. It’s too early to panic.

There are lot of new players, and it will take time for chemistry to develop. It’s important for the Canadiens and their fans to remain patient and positive.

Each successive loss, however, makes the mantras ring a bit more hollow.

It is too early to panic. But given the degree of parity in the NHL, a team that tumbles to the bottom of the standings in October has a long, hard climb back into playoff contention.

What makes it difficult to control mounting dread is the difficulty of perceiving the positive indicators that Jacques Martin keeps talking about.

The most encouraging sign: the players ARE trying. With the exception of the Vancouver debacle, most of them are giving their best in every game.

For me, that’s the scary part about the way the Canadiens have begun their season: they are doing their best … and their best might not be good enough.

You can’t knock the goaltending.

Carey Price is 2-4, and you can maybe nit-pick his technique on a couple goals here and there. But the kid has to be damn near perfect, as Price was in Toronto and Buffalo, for the this team to win.

Just once I’d like to see the Canadiens give their goaltender a cushion. I’m still a believer in Price’s ability and mental toughness. Let’s see what he can do with a 3-1 lead.

The D?

Probably as good as could be expected without team MVP Andrei Markov and Most Improved Player (on the basis of training camp) Ryan O’Byrne. Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek and Josh Gorges can’t play any better than what we’re seeing. Shawn Belle seems to be an adequate NHLer.

Which brings us to Paul Mara and Hal Gill. Bob, did you really need BOTH of them. It’s like having two Chieftains CDs.

Up front, again you’re geeting the maximum from several players.

Tomas Plekanec can’t play any better. Andrei Kostitsyn can … and there are signs he’s starting to work harder.

The top line played its most dominant shift of the season to start last night’s game. Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri had the Ottawa D back on their heels as they buzzed Pascal Leclaire.

But they didn’t score – until Cammalleri finally popped his CH cherry with a fluke that bounced in off Leclaire’s shoulder on the line’s final shift of the period.

The Canadiens had 13 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. The Senators blocked 16 (about 10 of which occurred during a 1:55 5-on-3 PP), and nine shots were wide. That’s 38 attempts to score. The Ottawa numbers were three SoG, two blocked and one wide.

You can’t get more dominant than that. Yet Ottawa scored first, and the Canadiens didn’t break through until there were 27 seconds left in the period.

Big indicator: over the last 40 minutes, the Senators didn;t take a single penalty. That means they weren’t pressured into fouls … just like the Flames weren’t when they went THE WHOLE #$%^ING GAME without taking a penalty.

The Canadiens don’t pressure anyone. They don’t scare anyone. And they don’t score on anyone.

Since popping four in an opening night OT win against the hapless Leafs – man, that seems like a long time ago – the Canadiens have scored 11 in six games.

Alexander Ovechkin has nine.

Again, what’s disturbing is that the top line, Plekanec and Kostitsyn, lately, are not dogging it. They’re busting their butts, but the goals aren’t coming.

Are they too small? And is lack of physicality a fatal flaw, since the refs seem to be letting a lot more go this season?

Are we back into the conundrum that has plagued the Canadiens for what seems like decades: the skilled guys aren’t tough, and the tough guys have no skill.

Certainly the latter seems true … again.

I love Travis Moen’s grit and work ethic. But unless God drops all His other preoccupations, like starving children in Darfur, Travis Moen is not going to score 15 goals.

Moen is what he is: an honest, hard-working hockey player who can be a valuable component of a winning team … which the Canadiens – at least to date, and maybe for many dates to come – are not.

Likewise two players who are off to stuttering starts: Maxim Lapierre, a revelation last season but not so revelatory so far, and Guillaume Latendresse, the Canadiens anwer to Tomas Holmstrom. The Two Amigos have been .. what’s a poite way to put it? .. crap. But even if they were firing on all cylinders, Max and Gui! are third-line energy guys. They aren’t difference-makers.

The player who makes a difference – on the PP, the PK, against the opponent’s best forwards – is out until February. Canadiens suffered a crippling blow when Andrei Markov went down.

We saw what he meant to the team during the bitter end of last season. The Koivu/Kovalev/Komisarek/Higgins Canadiens couldn’t win a single game without Markov.

Well, guess what? With the exception of an OT miracle in Buffalo, neither can the Gomez/Cammilleri/Gionta/Spacek Canadiens.

On the CKAC postgame show, Martin Lemay was beating the drum for call-ups: Marc-André Bergeron for sure, but also Sergei Kostistyn and Tom Pyatt.

I’ve always been a Sergei K fan. Two goals and an assist for the Bulldogs last night. At this stage of their careers, he’s a better hockey player than Max Pacioretty.

Pyatt was excellent at training camp. Small, but a great skater and tenacious defender, he’d probably be an upgrade on Kyle Chipchura.

Repeat after me: It’s too early to panic.

But 4-1 Atlanta
– which has scored five more goals than the Canadiens (in two fewer
games) and allowed 11 fewer – are at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.

booing we heard last night was a muffled overture to the crescendo of
catcalls that wil engulf this team if the L streak hits six.




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