It’s all Carey Price’s fault.
After the Canadiens beat Winnipeg 5-1 in the renascent Jets’ first home game on Oct. 9, Price said:
“The most important thing is to get the win, but it was extra sweet to come in and spoil their party.”
Price injured his team’s karma, which has been listed as day-to-day for the 16 days since.
That win in Winnipeg that Price gloated about was the Canadiens first of the season and evened their record at 1-1.
It was 99th regular-season win of Price’s career.
Since telling the world how glad he was to rain on Winnipeg’s parade, Price has had five chances to win his 100th game.
It hasn’t happened.
And with Peter Budaj filling in – admirably – against Florida, Price’s team ran its record to six losses since the visit to Winnipeg.
Worse five of the losses have come on home ice.
In their entire frequently-glorious history, your Montreal Canadiens have never lost five home games to start a season.
Never … in 102 freakin’ years.
And Florida’s win means the Canadiens have lost five of the six games they’ve played against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season.
Philadelphia, which is at the Bell Centre Wednesday night, was a playoff team last spring.
Boston, where the Canadiens travel on Thursday before the Bruins return the visit Saturday night, won the Stanley Cup.
In attempting to snap a six-game losing streak, the Canadiens are about to face two Eastern Conference powerhouses.
The New York Rangers made the playoffs with 93 points last season. To match that total, the Canadiens need 89 points from their remaining 74 games.
Do-able but difficult … especially in an Eastern Conference where several non-playoff teams, including the Panthers, have improved.
I thought Florida played in the image of their coach Monday night. Kevin Dineen was a hard-nosed, 110-per center throughout an NHL career that produced 378 regular-season and playoff goals and almost 2,400 minutes in penalties.
The Panthers worked hard, battled for every loose puck and got spectacular goaltending.
Against a team that hasn’t caught a break in weeks, that was enough.
So what do the Canadiens do now?
Price could make amends to Winnipeg fans by tanking a game, but the Canadiens aren’t back there until three days before Christmas.
They could fire Jacques Martin, an idea that never bubbles too far beneath the scum-slicked surface of the Commentariat and beyond.
But while sharpening your pitchfork and firing up the torch, pause to ask yourself:
Are the Canadiens playing like a team that has quit on their coach?
They outshot Florida 41-31 and outchanced them 13-7.
Supposedly a team whose offensive talent is being stifled by Jacques Martin’s system, the Canadiens are third in the NHL in shots on goal, trailing only Pittsburgh and Boston … and they’ve played two fewer games than the Penguins.
The Canadiens have three forward lines capable of scoring goals – a happy state of affairs jeopardized by Max Pacioretty’s injury.
Wouldn’t it just typify this team’s luck if Max-Pac were unable to play in either of the games against Boston?
The Canadiens are 14th in shots-against – and there are issues, notably on the penalty-kill. A team strength last season, the PK is 20th in the league. Florida had a power-play during which the Panthers kept the puck in the Canadiens zone for a full 1:40 off the faceoff.
One explanation is overuse of Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and Hal Gill on the PK. They were run ragged by Florida’s puck movement. And Michael Cammalleri, who is hardly a PK specialist, made a clearing attempt that turned into Florida’s first goal.
Every error the Canadiens make seems to end up in the back of their net.
That’s the way the puck bounces when a team is slumping … and this slump is turning into a doozy.
The Canadiens are 29th in the NHL. Nashville and Columbus are winless at home, but neither has played as many games on home ice as the Canadiens.
It’s going for 2 a.m.
I have no theories on why the greatest franchise in hockey history is plumbing the depths of suckitude.