About last night …

Canadiens lost and, as my friend Stubbs points out, the sun still rose in Montreal this fine Sunday morning.

No need to panic … at least not until the medical reports are in. Storm clouds, however, are gathering in the distance.

The Canadiens need one point to clinch first place in the Northeast Division. They have three games in which to do it.

Shouldn’t be a problem. And yet …

Canadiens got two of a possible four points on their short road trip, but let’s be honest: they sucked in both games. And if Saku Koivu, Mark Streit and Francis Bouillon are out for a while, that clinching point may prove elusive.

And the playoffs may be – in the words of that great old hockey coach, Thomas Hobbes – nasty, brutish … and short.

Don’t look for last night’s game in an NHL Classic DVD collection. There was little of the intensity and excitement we expect from Canadiens-Leafs.

Why would there be? Canadiens are headed for the playoffs, Leafs for the golf course.

So what did we learn, apart from the likelihood that Vesa Toskala, Anton Stralman and Jiri Tlusty will be members of the 12th place Leafs next season?

• Mark Streit must remain a member of the Canadiens. Without him, the power play was a mess and went 0-for-3.

• The loss of Saku Koivu would be a major blow. Because of the juggling necessitated by the captain’s absence last night, the second and third lines played like they’d met in a bar an hour before the game. Maxim Lapierre won six of 18 faceoffs, Mikhail Grabovski one of eight. Sergei K. was a non-factor. Michael Ryder played less than seven minutes and was benched in the third period.

• The loss of Ryan O’Byrne, nine minutes into the game, threw defence pairings into chaos. My man Josh Gorges was minus-4 on the night. He was on with Andrei Markov for two Toronto goals and with Roman Hamrlik and Bouillon for the others. Patrice Brisebois managed to finish plus-2.

• When Steve Bégin leads the team with four shots, you know the forwards are having an off-night.

• Wearing the C, Alex Kovalev played a B- game.

• As Guy Carbonneau said, based on his long experience, when you play to avoid injuries, you get injured.

• Two more penalties for too many men. That was three in two games. What’s going on at the bench?

• One bright spot: the PK went 7-for-7, killing 17 minutes. But all those shorthanded situations wreaked havoc with the lines, exhausted the O’Byrne-less defence and prevented Canadiens from establishing any rhythm or flow.

It was a lousy game. File it and forget it.

Now we wait for medical bulletins. A team that avoided major injures all season has been decimated this month: Mike Komisarek, Guillaume Latendresse, Saku Koivu, Mark Streit, Francis Bouillon.

And no amount of training or days off or careful allocation of ice time could have prevented what befell the latter three.

It’s hockey.

Shots happen.

I get the feeling Carey Price is going to have to stop a whole lot of them.


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