Your Montreal Canadiens just aren’t good enough to coast.
Thirty minutes of intensity – even against the lowly Edmonton Oilers – wasn’t good enough, and the result was the second two-goal lead blown on home ice within 10 days.
It’s one thing to fold aganst Philadelphia.
Not a good way to begin a tough month – and as my friend Arpon Basu writes, you have to start worrying about the team’s woeful inconsistency.
It’s been two weeks since the Canadiens won two games in a row.
It’s been a month since consecutive losses, but that streak is in jeopardy tonight in the unfriendly confines of United Arena.
If the Canadiens play like they did in the late stages of the game against the Oilers, New Jersey will smoke ’em … even without Martin F.
And if they miss the playoffs by a point, the Canadiens will be looking back to a home game against Edmonton as one that got away and bollocksed their season.
The Canadiens had been 11-1-1 when leading after two periods this season. Edmonton was 1-11-2 when trailing.
So what happened?
And why did it all seem so inevitable. The momentum swing was palpable after Edmonton’s second goal, and the only question was precisely how the Oilers would tie the game.
The answer: In your face!
P.K. Subban dicked around, as the rookie tends to do, at the blueline on a power play. The kid fell down, Sam Gagner wheeled away and we were on to OT.
Brutal – as was Mike Cammalleri’s turnover on the winning goal.
I’m not ready to join Brian Wilde in throwing Cammalleri under the team bus. But he’s been out of sorts – Cammalleri, not Wilde – since being demoted (the only way to put it) to Scott Gomez’s line, and the lack of effort in pursuing Dustin Penner was both obvious and dismaying.
While visions of that screw-up roiled our sleep, Tony Marinaro – who has solid sources on this story – Tweeted that Andrei Markov will be having knee surgery … again.
“Partial tear ACL graft rt knee, large radial tear lateral meniscus, bone contusions & mod. knee joint effusion” is Dr. Tony’s diagnosis. The surgery will be performed by Dr. James Andrews, an orthopedic heavyweight )Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Albert Pujols, Drew Brees), in Birminhma, Ala., and Markov could be out for up to a year.
This is the last season of Markov’s contract.
Any advice for Pierre Gauthier?
Does the long-term absence of Markov mean the team we see in New Jersey tonight is the roster that will wear the bleu-blanc-rouge for the rest of the season?
And is it good enough to maintain the Canadiens’ lofty position in the standings?
Fact: The Canadiens have not been able to string consecutive wins since Markov was injured in the 7-2 blowout over Carolina on Nov. 16. They won the first game without him, 3-0 over the Flyers, but have lost and won on an alternating basis in the seven games since.
P.K. tries on the power-play – I found him very trying last night, bada-boom – but he isn’t Andrei Markov … at least not yet.
Roman Hamrlik will pinch adroitly and score the occasional goal, like his milestone 150th last night, but he isn’t Markov, either.
The Canadiens have played .500 hockey without their best defenceman. Maintaining that pace over the rest of the schedule will net them 89 points.
The team snuck into the playoffs last season with 88, so maybe .500 hockey will punch the Canadiens a ticket to the dance.
But that’s a premature projection. There’s a lot of hockey to be played … and no way to predict whether Markov’s will be the last serious injury the team sustains.
Playing their best for 60 minutes, even without Markov, the Canadiens have demonstrated they are better than a .500 team. They’ve got a great goaltender and a system that’s effective when everyone busts butt between the national anthem and the final siren.
Any lapse of effort or intensity, however, and things get muy ugly in a hurry.
Tonight’s game will be telling.
No Martin F., and a bounce-back is imperative.