Your Montreal Canadiens held the visiting Edmonton Oilers to 14 shots on goal.
The Canadiens took two minor penalties while enjoying the man advantage six times.
The Canadiens pretty much matched the visitors in hits and blocked shots, while winning 56 per cent of the game’s faceoffs.
They lost anyway.
As was the case on a Monday night two weeks ago, the Canadiens were stoned in their own barn by a hot goaltender.
On Oct. 24, it was Jacob Markstrom, an unknown who made 40 saves in a 2-1 win. Florida has since returned Markstrom to the AHL.
Nikolai Khabibulin (photo by Christine Muschi of Reuters) won’t be going to the minors any time soon. He is the hottest goaltender in the NHL, and the Bhulin Wall was unbreachable in stopping 28 of the 29 shots the Canadiens fired at him.
Jacques Martin said the Canadiens had 17 scoring chances against a hot goaltender and a team that has surrendered the fewest goals in the league. The Canadiens hit the post a couple times and surrendered goals on a Tomas Plekanec error and a deflection that eluded Carey Price.
They could have won the game.
But they didn’t.
And while there were several praiseworthy performances, the team has dropped six of the eight games they’ve played at the Bell Centre this season and face some daunting math as they hit the road to Phoenix and Nashville.
The Canadiens are 14th in the Eastern Conference with 12 points. Martin has hypothesized that 96 points will be needed to make the playoffs.
The Canadiens need 84 points in their remaining 67 games, 35 of which will be played on the road.
It’s too late at night and I’m too much of a math spazz (hit the wall with freshman Calculus) to figure out the combinations of wins and Overtime/Shootout points the Canadiens will have to fashion to punch their ticket to the dance.
Suffice it to say it won’t be easy.
This is shaping up as the kind of season in which nothing is easy … the more so because teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Florida are on the rise and hungry for playoff spots.
There are no gimmes on the Canadiens’ schedule, no opponents that this team can dominate easily.
The Canadiens are going to have to scratch and claw for every point. And having stumbled through the opening weeks of the schedule, they will need a lot of points.
And maybe the Canadiens are capable of putting together the kind of winning streak that will catapult them past a few teams in the standings. There were strong performances against Edmonton by Erik Cole, Mike Cammalleri, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller and Brian Gionta.
I spent most of the night at the Bell Centre hoping Jacques Martin would put Lars Eller between Cole and Cammalleri. The Oilers size on defence and ferocious back pressure turned David Desharnais into a non-factor, and I agree with my colleague Patrick V. Hickey that DD is destined for duty on the wing when Scott Gomez returns.
Eller played with Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche, neither of whom complements a playmaking centre. Andrei Kostitsyn was missed … to the point where Martin tried Petteri Nikolainen on a line with Eller and Moen.
Nokelainen began the game centring a fourth line with Yannick Weber and Mike Blunden on his wings. Weber ended up being used primarily on the power-play, and Blunden played 44 seconds on three shifts. Heck, even Georges Laraque used to get more ice time than that.
None of the defencemen had a bad night, and Alexei Emelin made an auspicious return to the lineup with four hits in less than 11 minutes of ice time. I feared the young, fast Oilers would run Jaro Spacek and Hal Gill out of the rink, but that was not the case.
The power play is a problem.
Pleks’s turnover to Ryan Jones highlighted the difficulties he’s had playing the point on the PP. Martin alluded to “guys not there who could help” the struggling power-play.
He’s probably referring to Gomez, and the coach is certainly yearning for the return of Andrei Markov … as we all are.
As Hickey, Stubbs and I were saying in the latest HIO Puckcast, the Canadiens have PP point men who can shoot the puck – P.K. Subban, Weber, Raphael Diaz – but none of them gets his booming shot on net with any consistency.
The current state of the PP makes a fan nostalgic for Mark Streit, Sheldon Souray and James Wisniewski.
Heck, it makes you miss Marc-André Bergeron.
The Canadiens have about $1.3 million in available cap space, so Gauthier can’t really afford to rent a howitzer.
The general manager has to hope the return of Markov will boost the Canadiens past their dismal success rate of 12.7 per cent on the PP.
What percentage will they need to get to 96 points?
Hey, my Movember ‘stash is pathetic, but do I look like Stephen Hawking?