No team, not even the 1976-’77 Montreal Canadiens, plays 82 great games.
And trust me: your 2010-’11 Canadiens aren’t their 60-8-12/132-pts/nine HoF forebears.
The team was overdue for a bad game, and that’s what they played for the last 40 minutes in Philadelphia.
You can imagine what Peter Laviolette told his Flyers after the first period:
“Listen up, ladies. We are losing 2-0 to a team we @#$%ing OWNED in the playoffs. They had 15 shots in OUR BUILDING. Their goals were scored by the most annoying &^%$# in the league.
“Are you going to lose to a team that has an AHL defenceman from Switzerland playing forward?”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Shots in the second and third periods were 36-16 Philadelphia.
Ask yourself this: What would the score have been if Brian Boucher were the Canadiens goaltender and Carey Price were in nets for Philadelphia? (Which might have been one of the trade scenarios pitched to Pierre Gauthier last summer; we’ll never know.)
Because Price is still on the team, the Canadiens maintained one of the NHL’s more remarkable early-season streaks: They have yet to yield more than three goals in regulation time.
Here’s a quote that will help put a bad outing in perspective. After his Dallas Stars lost 3-1 to the Leafs last night, Marc Crawford said “The positive thing is there are a billion people in China who don’t know that we played terrible tonight.”
There are 3 million people in Montreal and its ‘burbs. And 2.5 million will be on hold to the phone-in shows today, waiting to vent about Scott Gomez and why Mathieu Darche should be playing and the crap power play and the fatal error of trading Ryan O’Byrne and the urgent necessity of calling up David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty NOW.
Hey, it was one game … 40 lousy minutes.
The sun rose this morning – in Montreal and Beijing.
The Canadiens and Flyers are 1-1 this season, and Philadelphia is at the Bell Centre 10 days before Christmas.
Of more immediate concern are two tough challenges, tomorrow night’s game against L.A. at the Bell Centre and a Friday night visit to Atlanta to face the much improved Thrashers before scooting home to play the Sabres on Saturday.
The Canadiens were soundly beaten by a very good hockey team. Key stat: Philadelphia had a 38-22 faceoff advantage. Jeff Halpern, who won 6 of 11, was the only centre with a positive percentage. So the Canadiens chased the pouck all night against a big, highly-skilled team.
And as Carey Price said, the rope-a-dope strategy, in protection of what Don Cherry rightly (even blind squirrels find nuts once in a while) calls the worst lead in hockey, “didn’t work out.”
Momentum shifted for good after a second-period penalty to Benoit Pouliot (whose ice time diminished thereafter). The Flyers didn’t score (the Canadiens’ 90.8 per cent PK is still the league’s best), but they wreaked havoc in the Canadiens’ end, with Scott Hartnell and Jeff Carter parked on the lip of the crease, and played the rest of the game like they had a man advantage.
One of my favourite members of the Commentariat, JF, summed things up succcinctly:
This game was a reality check. The Habs are good, but not that good.
To win, we have to use our speed and keep the intensity level up.
After the first period, we didn’t do that. The Flyers looked faster
and more determined. Their domination was so total that I could barely
stand to watch.
All our scorers seem to be streaky, and no one is
scoring at the rate they were last year, most notably Cammalleri and
Gionta, who tended to produce in bunches with a couple of games between
each bunch. 24 Cups above is right in saying this game recalled last
spring’s playoffs. After the first period, we had trouble keeping the
Flyers out of our crease, and we couldn’t penetrate theirs. We badly
need a big, net-crashing scorer if we are to be competitive against
teams like the Flyers.
JF and friends will have to carry the ball – or should that be lug the puck? – for the L.A. game tomorrow.
I have personal business to attend to, and the ironman streak that began in January ’09 is ending.
I’ll be back in the saddle (how many clichès can one man write?) for the road game in Atlanta, where the Canadiens likely will face Ondrej Pavelec, Allan Walsh’s other favourite goaltender.
Until then, try to remain calm.