This was the game that would set the tone for the California trip … and provide the Canadiens with their best chance to win.
And to possibly save his coach’s job, Carey Price has to stand on his head in San Jose Thursday night.
Can the goaltender stymie the Sharks?
But what’s the point? Your Montreal Canadiens are, at best, a mediocre hockey team that faces a steep uphill climb to make the playoffs.
If you figure 96 points punches a ticket to the postseason dance, the Canadiens will have to reap 72 from their remaining 57 games.
Sure … if you believe the team we saw in Anaheim is capable of putting together a winning streak that will propel them northward in the standings.
Of course, that wasn’t the team we hope to be seeing. Max Pacioretty will be back in the lineup when the Canadiens return to Montreal and face the might Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
Maybe Andrei Markov will play. Maybe not.
By then, the mess in Anaheim will be a distant memory … especially if it’s matched by no-shows in San Jose and Los Angeles.
Factoring in the quality of opposition, this might have been the Canadiens’ worst game of the season.
Shall we enumerate the horrors:
• The power-play went 0-for-7. That’s a first this season … although it’s gone 0-for-6 once, 0-for-5 three times and 0-for-4 five times.
• P.K. Subban took two penalties, running his season total to 15 minors, one fewer than Sheldon Souray, the league leader among defencemen.
• I watched the game in my basement and had zero shots on goal, thus matching the total of Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri combined.
• Trailing 2-1 and very much in it when the third period began, the Canadiens took 15 minutes to get their first shot: a Subban lob from centre ice that did not test Jonas Hiller.
• Mathieu Darche had 1:12 on the power-play, Lars Eller 28 seconds.
But this is what said it all for me:
With the Canadiens two goals down and about 90 seconds left, Jacques Martin pulled Peter Budaj. And as an extra attacker jumped on, Gord Dwyer blew his whistle.
The referee hadn’t noticed the empoty Montreal net. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts this was Dwyer’s thought process:
“Of course they have too many men on the ice. This is the stumbling, bumbling Montreal Canadiens. They take bench minors all the time.”
It’s so sad.
And I don’t see things getting a lot better in San Jose or L.A.
The Canadiens’ game was the third I watched this week, after the Rangers and Penguins – a cracker! – on Monday night and Boston-Toronto earlier Wednesday evening.
Based on what I saw, all four of those teams are better than the Canadiens … by a lot.
Yes, even the Leafs.
They lost 6-3 to the red-hot Bruins at the ACC, but the Leafs battled. They have young, talented guys who play hard.
While Pleks and Cammalleri were combining for a goose egg, Phil Kessel and Joffrey has seven shots between them.
It would be too painful to write about how good the Bruins were.
Or to dwell on the ineptitude of the Canadiens.
Forbes magazine says the Canadiens are worth $445 million – third in the league behind Toronto and Detroit.
If the Canadiens go 0-for-California, a distinct possibility, will Geoff Molson eat the last two seasons of Jacques Martin’s contract, plus an early-termination penalty clause rumoured to be $2 million?
The siren would no sooner sound on a loss in L.A. than they’ll be out with torches and pitchforks in Montreal.
But I’m sipping a cold one in the aforementioned basement at 1:15 a.m. and thinking neither Scotty Bowman nor Toe Blake could squeeze Ws out of this lineup.
Darche, Frederic St. Denis, the Swiss Cheeses, Petteri Nokelainen … and your highlight reel is Hal Gill out on an ice floe, killing another 5-on-3.
This ain’t the 1976 Montreal Canadiens.
Or the 1956 Canadiens.
And watching Saku Koivu, you could get nostalgic for the 2006 club.
OK, enough doom and gloom … for now.
On to San Jose.