The party line, after the latest blown lead, was “Blame it on our youth.”
“We have a few young guys,” Carey Price said. “With a lead, it’s easy to tighten up.”
In his imitable eastern Ontario franglais, Jacques Martin said “c’est-ce-qu’on appelle growing pains.”
Maybe so. But history will record that the Canadiens skaters on ice for Sami Salo’s tying goal were Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges, Travis Moen and Hal Gill.
Of course, they were killing a penalty to Lars Eller, who is a card-carrying member of the kiddie corps Martin had in mind when he tried to put a positive spin on the game.
“They learn,” the coach said of his young players. “They get better. It will bear fruit in the long run.”
The peaches will ripen, Canadiens fans. The bananas won’t stay green forever.
The trees will burst into bloom, and Mom will be busy making pies and jams.
We just have to be patient.
But man, it’s hard.
Combine the Thursday night loss with the Canadiens exhibition-game record and they are 4-16 on Bell Centre ice this season.
The team’s string of sellouts dates back to Jan. 8, 2004. fans are shelling out top dollar – for their seats and at the concession stands – and what they’re paying to see can be charitably described as mediocre.
Good times have been few and far between at the Bell Centre this season. But the Vancouver game was fun for a while.
The Canadiens built their 3-0 lead on the first goals by defenceman since Nov. 16 and a patented Erik Cole right-wing rush. But when Mason Raymond popped the fifth shortie that’s been scored against the Canadiens, you just knew that the earlier Olé-Olé cheer was – in addition to being tired and annoying – way premature.
You can celebrate when the siren sounds and the scoreboard indicated the Montreal Canadiens have outscored their opponents.
Not a moment before.
Shall we chronicle the team’s blown leads, just to get really depressed while waiting for the apple harvest?
Oct. 13 in Calgary: Canadiens score first, Flames scores the game’s next four goals.Oct. 15 in Colorado: Canadiens lead 2-1 and 5-4 with four minutes left. They lose 6-5 in a shootout.
Oct. 18 in Buffalo: Raphael Diaz scores two minutes into the game. The Sabres win 3-1.
Oct. 22 at the Bell Centre: Canadiens lead 1-0, 2-1 and 4-3 against the Leafs, who tie it late and win in OT.
Oct. 24 at the Bell Centre: Erik Cole opens the scoring against Florida. Panthers win 2-1.
Nov. 14 at the Bell: Cole and Max Pacioretty give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead. Buffalo ties it and wins in a shootout.
Nov. 25 in Philadelphia: Petteri Nokelainen, of all people, gives the Canadiens a 1-0 lead. Then Claude Giroux takes over and the Flyers win 3-1.
Nov. 26 at the Bell Centre: The Canadiens come back from 1-0 to lead Pittsburgh 3-1. The Penguins win 4-3 in OT.
Nov. 30 in Anaheim: Andrei Kostitsyn gets the Canadiens rolling on their California swing. Then the Ducks score four unanswered goals.
Dec. 1 in San Jose: Canadiens lead 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1. Sharks win it in a shootout.
It’s been that kind of season: Injuries, the Markov debacle, the ongoing Gomez toothache, the bench minors, the inexperienced D, Price’s shootout difficulties and his teammates’ 4-for-20 performance in SOs, the popgun power-play, the lack of an NHL number-one line …
And yet, your snakebit, non-clutch, frequently boring and overly home-ice hospitable Canadiens are one point out of a playoff spot.
I don’t entirely buy Jacques Martin’s vision of a bountiful harvest – and who knows if he’ll be around to do the pickin’ – but there is a promising agglomeration of young talent: Price, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Lars Eller, Raphael Diaz and the emerging mainstay of the D, Alexei Emelin.
The Russian Bear had four hits against Vancouver, including a cruncher that Ryan Kesler felt. Emelin moved the puck effectively and played 23:46, including almost three minutes at Andrei Markov’s left point spot on the power-play.
An Emelin pinch and AK46′s failure to cover the point sent Vancouver wheeling away to the shortie that put the Canucks back in the game. But he’s been on a steady upward trajectory of improvement as the team has surged and floundered.
Maybe he’ll be part of the fruit basket … or at least a beet in the borscht.