About last night …

Well, how do you like the Bob Gainey era so far?

Since Guy Carbonneau was fired, your Montreal Canadiens have beaten Edmonton in overtime, lost to the Islanders in OT, lost to New Jersey, lost to the Rangers in a shootout and lost to Ottawa.

That’s four points in the five games since Gainey took the reins.

Using my souvenir bleu-blanc-rouge centennial calculator, I project that performance to 66 points in an 82-game season.

Not a single team in the NHL finished with fewer than 70 points last season.

In their 66 games under Carbo, the Canadiens were on pace for 96 points.

As the Living Legend of Sports Journalism might, and doubtless will, ask in The Red Line tomorrow, what in thunderation is going on here?

Here’s what’s going on:

The Franchise is a mess. Carey Price, the Canadiens’ highest overall draft pick in 25 years, has won four of his last 17 starts. He gacve up four goals on 15 shots before being yanked last night.

Price’s technique is screwed up. His confidence is shot. And his future may be in jeopardy unless a very young man with loads of natural talent becomes the focus of some intensive coaching – and maybe counselling.

Price’s parents are in town. I hope they know how to get to the practice rink in suburban Brossard, because Jaroslav Halak – who stopped 23 of 24 shots but took the L in Ottawa because of the NHL’s illogical way of determining winning goals – will get the call against the Leafs at the Bell Centre tomorrow night.

it’s up to Jaro to carry Bob Gainey’s team into the playoffs. Had he not stolen four games in which the Canadiens were outshot and outplayed, the team would be in 10th place with a slim chance of advancing to the postseason.

Instead, the Canadiens are sitting seventh, with five more March games at the Bell Centre before finishing up with four of six on the road.

Will they make it to the postseason?

Should they?

The Canadiens don’t look like a playoff team. Last night at Scotiabank Place, most of them played the 72nd game of the season as though it were the 82nd.

Fore! And fire up the BBQ.

The usual suspects:

• Mike Komisarek, the second highest draft choice in 25 years (seventh  overall in 2001; Price was fifth in 2005) had one hit and no blocked shots. I think he’s playing hurt. It’s the only logical explanation for the decline in Komo’s game.

A physiotherapist told me recently it takes eight weeks to fully recover from a shoulder separation – notwithstanding that the general manager/coach of the Montreal Canadiens played with two separated shoulders against the Islanders in the postseason.

But that was a long time ago.

• Alex Kovalev is not injured. He just plays that way.

• Andrei Kostitsyn, statistically proven to be totally incompatible with Kovalev, buttressed that theory by falling down alot and failing to register a shot on goal.

Remember when Carbo was slammed for questionable ice time allotments?

Kostitsyn played 18:35 last night, including 3:13 on the power play.

Guillaume Latendresse, who had two goals and was robbed of a hat trick by Brian Elliott, played 14:30. Gui had 49 seconds on the PP – and none of that came during the crucial 5-on-3.

• I haven’t checked all the game summaries, but it’s a safe bet Mathieu Schneider was the oldest NHL defenceman playing 25-plus minutes – including 5:03 on the PP – last night.

This is seniors abuse – but inevitable after Gainey paired Schneider with Markov. The regular use of Schneider and fellow geezer Patrice Brisebois (didn’t he look grand on the Ruutu goal?) tells you all you need to know about the state of the Canadiens’ D.

It’s terrifying to contemplate where this team would be  without Andrei Markov, who played almost 27 minutes last night.

• With two seasons remaining on a contract that pays him $5.5 million p[er, Roman Hamrlik had zero hits last night. 

Kostitsyn had five hits, no one
else had more than one. The Canadiens’ total of 16 hits was half of
Ottawa’s.

• Saku Koivu went 11-8 on faceoffs but seemed to lose every crucial one – notably during the Canadiens’ four futile power plays. Tomas Plekanec went 10-14  on draws, but he was distracted by trying to get AK46 going and wondering why Kovalev bothered making the trip.

• Faceoff stats don’t tell the whole story. Maxin Lapierre was a dismal 1-6, but once again, Max was the best Canadiens forward on the ice. The reunited third line – Max, Gui! and Tom the Bomb – were a combined plus-7 on the game and were the only forwards who spent significant amounts of time in the Ottawa end.

• Jason Spezza had two goals, an assist and went 15-9 on faceoffs, winning eight of 11 in the offensive. I watched Spezza towering over RDS’s Luc Gelinas between periods and thought gee, it must be nice to have a tall centre who shoots right.

The loss of Robert Lang really hurt the Canadiens.

That said, how pathetic is it that Lang, out for the last 20 games, is still the team’s fourth leading scorer?

Trevor Timmins has helped the Canadiens draft well, but they haven’t come up with a star player who’ll lead the team in the post-Koivu/post-Kovalev era.

Higgins? I don’t think so.

AK46? Has the talent but is hampered by inKostitsyncy and lacks the personality – and fluency – to be a leader.

Komo? Funny how seldom we hear him described as "the next captain" these days.

Max-Pac? A solid power forward who might score 15-20, if they don’t screw him up.

Lapierre?

I love Max. But as they said on RDS after the game, Lapierre is an overachieving third-line centre – or maybe a number two on a team that had a great number one, like Vincent Lecavalier.

Sadly, the Canadiens do not have a big, dominant top line centre – in Montreal or Hamilton. Olivier Fortier, the centre they signed out of the Q yesterday, is 5’10".

But size isn’t everything.

The goaltender who will try to save Bob Gainey’s ass tomorrow night and beyond is 5’11".

 

 

 

 

 


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