Now it can be told.
Last Monday, I got a phone call from Bar Refaeli.
“Hey, how did you like my Super Bowl commercial?” the famous super model asked.
“Hey,” she added, “I’ve rented a beachfront cottage in Aruba for the beginning of May. “Why don’t you come down and hang out?
“Bring your friends Pat Hickey and Dave Stubbs. I’ll get another couple girls from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot and we’ll party.”
“Thanks for the invite, Bar,” I replied. “But the Montreal Canadiens are 6-2 on the season.
“Hickey, Stubbs and I are going to be covering the playoffs in May.”
Can we go to Plan B for Bar … or for barf, which is the only reasonable gastro-intestinal reaction to the Canadiens’ worst and most embarrassing home-ice loss in 16 years.
Dec. 23, 1996. Ottawa 6 – Canadiens 0. That team finished the season at 31-38-15 for 77 points. That was good for eighth place – and a first-round exit against top-seeded New Jersey.
The team a national TV audience saw on Saturday night will not be playing hockey in May.
From the moment Alex Galchenyuk lost the first game-opening faceoff of his career, your Montreal Canadiens were outhit, outskated and outhustled.
They were also outscored, outfought and – by a ludicrous 48-23 margin – outdrawn in the faceoff circle.
And if getting a team ready to play an important hockey game is a coaching responsibility, the Canadiens were outcoached … by a lot.
The phone-in shows I listened to while stuck in a crazy 11 p.m. traffic jam on the way home focused on all the idiocy that unfolded during the third period: Mikhail Grabovski biting Max Pacioretty, Colton Orr sticking out his leg to injure Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges valiantly trying to fight Frazer McLaren, who held the Canadiens defenceman at arm’s length and laughed at him.
Second-guessing will include suggestions that Ryan White would have helped against Team Truculence. And Peter Budaj should have played the final 20 minutes.
Fair points. But problems revealed over the last three losses run deeper than game-to-game or period-to-period personnel moves.
As has been the case in recent seasons, your Montreal Canadiens are a small and, Brandon Prust notwithstanding, soft hockey team. And their next home game is against the Flyers.
But the Canadiens didn’t lose to the Leafs because they were outmuscled and/or intimidated. From the moment the puck dropped and Grabovski won it back to his blueline, the Leafs were faster and hungrier.
Randy Carlyle and his staff looked at video of their opponent’s losses to Boston and Buffalo and drew the obvious conclusion: Hustle, hit, pressure the Canadiens on the puck and they will wilt.
That 6-2 start had Montreal fans pinching themselves and wondering whether it was a dream. And now that the team has lost three straight to Northeast Division rivals, the dream threatens to become a nightmare.
The Tuesday night game in Tampa Bay will tell the tale. If the Canadiens don’t show up against the Lightning, this season could head south in an awful big hurry.
But hey, it’s a vintage draft year.
Nathan MacKinnon would be an upgrade on David Desharnais. Seth Jones is better than Tomas Kaberle.
And Jonathan Drouin would help us forget Erik Cole.
Cole epitomizes the Canadiens’ sudden descent from the early-season penthouse to outhouse. The guy who scored 35 goals last year is in a funk and looks like he doesn’t care.
We could reverse his jersey number and have Erik Kovalev … except Galchenyuk is trying to bring honour back to 27.
And he will. Galchenyuk is the future of the franchise, along with Brendan Gallagher, the big-hearted kid who went down swinging against Toronto; Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Raphael Diaz, Max Pacioretty and, maybe, Lars Eller.
Plekanec is a player. So is Rene Bourque.
That epic butt-kicking and the previous losses revealed, however, that a few players may have skated past their Best Before dates: Cole, Colby Armstrong, Travis Moen and – I hate to say it – Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta.
On the play that led to Leo Komarov’s goal – the game-winner, 59 seconds into the first period – Markov could not stay with Nikolai Kulemin.
The captain still plays hard. And good for Gionta going after Orr on the Plekanec hit. But Gionta is on pace to score eight goals – the total he managed in 31 games before an injury ended last season for him.
But look, my Bar Refaeli fantasy aside, I didn’t consider the 6-2 Canadiens a lock for the playoffs.
They are a work in progress.
And that 6-0 pasting might not be the last bump on the road back to respectability.
The last word, from a really pissed-off fan: The only thing left for the Leafs to do is **** the Habs’ wives.
One more time, Mike: