Let’s go with the Wives Theory.
It came up on Ron Fournier’s phone-in show on 98.5 FM. In trying to explain why it often happens that teams come out flat in their first home game after a road trip, Fournier laid the blame squarely on spouses and household responsibilities.
“They come back from the road and they have all this stuff to do,” the radio entertainer said. “Fix the garage door. Go shopping at Costco. Check the kids’ math homework.”
The players get stressed.
And the next thing you know, they’re on Bell Centre ice, skating around aimlessly and going more than seven minutes into the game before managing a single shot on the goaltender who used to be a Canadiens’ farmhand in Hamilton.
So fine, 20 minutes to get Costco and math out of their systems. Then down to business against the team that sits 30th in the NHL, right?
The Canadiens went more than eight minutes into the second period before getting a shot.
They salvaged a point. And maybe the point Brian Gionta secured with his late third-period goal will be important in April.
But on nights like this, the Canadiens look like a team for whom hard-won points won’t prevent April from being an early golf month.
Colleague Eric Engels asked Carey Price a terrific question after the game. Price’s stall in the dressing room is just across a whiteboard showing the current standings in the Eastern Conference, and Engels asked the goaltender what it’s like to look at where the Canadiens are sitting.
As always, Price was honest.
“It’s eating me alive,” he said, adding “I don’t like to lose.”
A goaltender bears some responsibility for a Shootout loss. But this one wasn’t on Price.
The Canadiens managed a measly 20 shots on Curtis Sanford. That matches the season-low they had in Anaheim, where the Canadiens suffered a loss to another team that’s going nowhere.
Do they play to the level of competition?
Brian Wilde of CTV suggested that during Jacques Martin’s press conference. The Canadiens play well against the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league, then stumble against the teams like Columbus and Anaheim.
In his typical fashion, Martin offered up sme bromide about there being no gimmes on the schedule, every team is competitive, yada-yada.
Martin did allow that the Canadiens seem to play play a more simple, direct game on the road. Aagainst Columbus, the coach said, they were guilty of individual plays, sloppy turnovers that turned into odd-man rushes, poor support of the puck carrier.
“Fancy” hockey, Martin said, applying one of his most pejorative adjectives. General unwillingness to go to the net and pay the price, which Brian Gionta did to score the tying goal.
P.K. Subban committed three of the Canadiens’ 11 giveaways. And each one turned into a dangerous Columbus scoring chance – including a 3-on-1 in the dying seconds of the game, a situation rescued by Josh Gorges.
Gorges bailed out his defence partner on several occasions, but it’s not fair to come down too hard on P.K.
Yes, the kid tries to do too much. But in the ongoing absence of Andrei Markov, Subban is the back-end’s only remotely dangerous puck-mover. P.K. played 32:17 against Columbus, and I think some of his late-game problems were attributable to fatigue.
Subban and Gorges (27:58) had to play ridiculous minutes because Martin benched Yannick Weber for the third period, reducing the D corps to five. If there were positives to take from the game, they were the continuing steady play of Raphael Diaz, who blocked a team-high four shots, and the physical impact of Alexei Emelin, whose nine hits – many of them crushers – topped both teams.
Chris Campoli and Jaro Spacek are getting closer to returning. At this point, Weber is toast, but beyond that Martin has some difficult choices to make.
The picture is clearer up front. The forwards were not good against Columbus – losing puck battles, making jittery, low-percentage passes – but they’ll come around … possibly as soon as Thursday night, when they will have to rise to the challenge of the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.
Trailing for most of the game, Martin shortened his bench to three lines. That meant only less than five minutes of ice time for Louis Leblanc in his Bell Centre debut. But let history record the kid had a shot, a hit, a takeaway … and focus enhanced by the 20-year-old’s marital status.
• • •
The Canadiens were 24-11-6 on home ice last season.
They are currently 4-5-5.
It doesn’t make sense … and the illogic of it all does not sit well with the 21,273 who pay top dollar to watch the team struggle at the Bell Centre.
Despite the Stanley Cup banners and the retired jerseys and the noise from all those sellout crowds, the Bell Centre is not a building where visiting teams feel intimidated.
• • •
Someone on the other thread pointed out a grim stat:
The Canadiens have played 28 games this season.
They have EIGHT wins in regulation.
Over their last 10, TWO regulations wins.
Picked out your spot for the parade?