About this afternoon …

The Canadiens season just suffered a lower-body injury.

Losing Andrei Markov in the opening game was devastating.

The Andrei Kostitsyn injury hurt.

But if Mike Cammalleri is gone for a while …. well, could the timing be any worse?

This is a kick to the goolies on your honeymoon night.

We won’t know the extent of the damage until tomorrow – if then.

But it looks bad.

Knees are just not supposed to bend that way.

(And Don Cherry is not supposed to recite poetry to a national TV audience on Hockey Day in Canada, but them’s the breaks.)

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And you can’t overstate Mike Cammaleri’s value to the team.

His 26 goals lead the Canadiens. Brian Gionta is second with 14.

Cammalleri’s four game-winners tie him with Marc-André Bergeron for the team lead. He’s taken 191 shots – 55 more than runnerup Tomas Plekanec.

Here’s the killer part: 22 of Cammalleri’s goals have come at even strength. No one else is in double figures except Plekanec, who has 10.

OK, other than that Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?

The team battled hard in Ottawa.

After another lousy first period, the Canadiens rallied from a 2-0 deficit to send the game into OT and salvage a point. That’s not easy on the road – and it’s more difficult against a superbly-coached team (did you see Cory Clouston doing chalk talk with Daniel F. on the bench?) that had won eight games in a row.

Again, it was the power play that put the Canadiens back in the game.

The team’s last even strength goal was scored a week ago against the Rangers – by Mike Cammalleri.

The Canadiens are among the worst 5-on-5 teams in the NHL. Today’s game showed why:

Clouston was able to roll four effective lines all through the game. No matter who was on the ice, the Senatorsforechecked effectively, won battles in the corners and made life miserable for the Canadiens in their own end.

Until Cammalleri was hurt, his line – bolstered by the addition of Sergei Kostitsyn – was able to exert sporadic pressure on the Ottawa D. 

Despite a mediocre game by Scott Gomez, his linemates – Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot – had a few even-strength chances.

But that’s it.

Get past the top six forwards and the Canadiens have no one who can score … or hit … or go to the net … or do anything that might wear down the goaltender and opposing D enough to make things maybe a tad easier for the top lines.

Can anyone remember the last time Glen Metropolit did something useful?

Travis Moen?

Maxim Lapierre?

Look, this is not a knock on their dedication. The aforementioned pluggers – along with Mathieu Darche – hustle their butts off and give 100 per cent on every shift.

The problem: Everything they’ve got isn’t enough.

The Canadiens don’t have a Chris Neil or Jarkko Ruutu, ass-kickers who can get an important goal. They don’t have a Peter Regin or Chris Kelly or Jonathan Cheechoo, skilled players who can skate and win some puck battles and eat minutes on the cycle.

They certainly don’t have a Mike Fisher, a take-no-prisoners physical centre who can score … and did, to win the game.

And now Cammalleri is injured – probably out until after the Olympics, maybe longer.

Who’s going to play wing with Pleks and Sergei?

Moen?

Darche?

Lapierre?

Maybe Ben Maxwell?

Then there’s the D, where the Canadiens have a superstar who’s struggling. Markov is still the team’s best puck-mover and passer (and Carey Price motivator, but I digress), but he’s become error-prone and inconsistent.

One positive today: Ryan O’Byrne played well as Markov’s partner, reinforcing the theory that Marky brings out the best in big galoots, see KOMISAREK, Mike and SOURAY, Sheldon

The Roman Hamrlik-Josh Gorges (is my man Josh the poster boy for over-achievement, or what?) pairing was solid.

But Hal Gill and Yannick Weber?

As Benoit Brunet so eloquently put it: “Oy-oy-oy-oy-oy!”

Another positive: Jaro Halak – 34 saves, and not much he could do about the goals. But I bet we’ll see Price against Vancouver.

There are two weeks until the Olympic break, and the Canadiens have a killer schedule:

A rare visit by homeboy Roberto Luongo – plus Henrik Sedin, the league’s leading scorer – on Tuesday night.

The Canadiens are in Boston on Thursday, then they’re home to the Penguins, Bruins and Washington before a home and home against the Flyers.

With Cammalleri, a steep mountain to climb.

Without him …

As we say in Québec, les carottes sont cuites.

•  •  •

L’Artiste:

A goal and an assist, six SoG, almsot three minutes on the PP.

He’s playing excellent hockey – and that’s a tribute to Clouston.

•  •  •

I swear, next referendum I’m voting Yes.

I just can’t be part of a country in which the greatest celebrity – by five kilometres … like, who’s second? Ben Mulroney? – is Don Cherry.

It’s embarrassing, no?

 

 

 

 


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