About last night …


Remember when your 2013 Montreal Canadiens were a great first-period team?
Through the first 40 games of their season, the Canadiens opened the scoring 28 times.
Through the last six: Once, against Tampa Bay at the Bell Centre last Thursday, when Alex Galchenyuk put his team on the board four minutes into the game.
On the other five occasions, the Canadiens’ opponent has scored first – most recently, Tuesday night in New Jersey.
And the team trailing early – namely the Canadiens – has lost five times.
The Devils led 2-0 at the end of the first period, and the Canadiens maintained their perfect record: They have not won this season when trailing after 20 minutes.

For all the amazing things the Canadiens have accomplished this season – and their recent travails notwithstanding, let’s not lose sight of the fact they have exceeded the expectations of all but their most delusional fans – this is not a great comeback team.

They are 0-7-1 when trailing after one period, 3-12-1 when trailing after two.

Good starts are crucial for this team. And for the last two weeks, the Canadiens have been starting badly.

At least Carey Price wasn’t the problem in New Jersey. The Canadiens’ beleaguered goaltender had no chance on the Patrik Elias power-play goal that opened the scoring. Nor could you fault him for the Steve Sullivan goal – again on a Devils’ PP – that made it 3-0.

Price was deep in his net and probably down too early on the Jacob Josefson goal from in-close. But compared to his recent nightmarish starts, Price played a decent game.

A more high-scoring team than the Devils – say Pittsburgh, or Washington – would have buried the Canadiens early in this one. As has been the case through the slump, an aggressive forecheck produced disarray in the defensive zone throughout the first period.  New Jersey’s big forwards mauled the Canadiens’ undersized – and, in the case of Andrei Markov – immobile defence. And there was little help from backcheckers.

The swarming, five-skaters-on-the-puck that propelled the Canadiens to unlikely success seems to have deserted the team. Maybe opponents have adjusted … though you have to wonder why it took them 40 games to do so. Or perhaps, as some have suggested, the Michel Therrien system is too demanding for a physically small team.

Whatever the explanation, the Canadiens’ speed and dogged pursuit of the puck have deserted them.

There is solace to be drawn from the comeback that turned a 3-0 deficit into a game in New Jersey. Max Pacioretty had a good game, with five shots on Martin F. Brodeur and a couple of hits. Lars Eller scored and worked well with Rene Bourque, who joined Eller and Alex Galchenyuk when Michel Therrien moved Michael Ryder back to Tomas Plekanec’s line.

On the back end, I thought P.K. Subban played a more controlled and effective game than he had during some recent losses. And Raphael Diaz showed signs of rounding into form.

But man, that D misses the physicality of Alexei Emelin. The defencemen are small, they’re soft and they’re getting mauled. And just wait until the refs put their whistles away for the playoffs.

Brandon Prust, the straw who stirred the drink through the first three months of the season, is playing hurt. Prust had 11 minutes of ice time against the Devils. He had no hits and took two penalties.

Brenden Gallagher looks tired. Ryder didn’t have a SoG against the Devils. Colby Armstrong had one hit.

The Canadiens “won” the second half of the game. But the scoreboard showed yet another loss … and this was the most winnable game of the week.

In Winnipeg on Thursday, the Canadiens will play a Jets team fighting for its postseason life. Then the regular season wraps up in Toronto on Saturday night.

And how’s this for a Hockey Night in Canada dream scenario:

The right combination of losses by the Canadiens and Boston, which is also fading badly, and Toronto wins could have the Leafs moving into the Northeast Division lead on Saturday night.

Wouldn’t that be something to warm the black hearts of all those HNIC Leaf-blowers?

And let’s not even think about what that would do to the battered and bruised psyches of Canadiens fans, who are watching their beloved team stumble and bumble their way to a choke job for the ages.

We’ve all heard the cliché “there’s still a lot of hockey to be played” – a rationalization generally offered in late February by a coach who gets fired two days after saying it.

Well, there isn’t a lot of hockey left. The Canadiens play two more regular-season games – against opponents more potent than a New Jersey team that’s out of the playoffs.

In his postgame remarks, Michel Therrien said Xs and Os constitute 50 per cent of a hockey team’s effort. The rest, the coach said, is “intensity … putting on your workboots.”

Therrien’s team showed signs of recapturing that intensity during the last 30 minutes of the game in New Jersey. The Canadiens will need another 120 minutes of total effort to avoid embarrassment in Winnipeg and Toronto.





  1. William T Love says:

    Always thought Price was overrated. Nothing to do with how he has been playing lately. He just went from bad to worst. Hockey fans assume the so called “hockey experts” know what they are talking about. I don’t let the media form my opinion. .. I just watch games and lookup stats.. He is 34th in save percentage in a 30 team league. And I know all the excuses.. Everything from magically harder shots on him, he’s just a kid, new equipment, defense, forwards, Zamboni driver’s fault. If he had half the heart he did talent Canadiens would be ok.. The Good news is he has the talent and just maybe he will get hot for the playoffs

  2. Danno says:

    A fascinating story about the Pocket Rocket


    “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”
    Updates, highlights & great discussions on all things Habs

  3. Leafy says:

    Over the last 20 years the Leafs have actually won more playoff games than the Habs. Fact is, both teams have had some good years and some bad years the past couple decades, but neither have much to write home about. Neither Leaf fans, nor Habs fans should feel superior during the current “epoch”. The rivalry has suffered because as it happens the teams have not been hot at the same time: in the 1990s and early 2000s when the Leafs were perennial contenders, the Habs sucked. Over the past 8/9 years when the Habs had some playoff runs, the Leafs sucked. But now it looks like the beginning of a new period where both teams could roll together for a few years and rekindle the playoff rivalry. We’re both pretty fragile groups these days though, so I’ll only believe it when I see it! It will be fun 🙂

    Check this funny bit from a Leaf fan’s POV: http://www.downgoesbrown.com/2013/04/grantland-what-every-hockey-fan-needs.html?m=1

  4. Timo says:

    New thread alert. HIO woke up.

  5. haloracer18 says:

    I maintain that the solution to the goaltending problem is to sign Manny Yarbrough. He’s got to be 50 inches wide at the waist, so with another 5 inches for padding, add on another 12 inches for his arms and padding around the arms makes a whopping 67 inches wide! Because of his height, his upper body will easily cover most of the net. His size alone would stop 95% of shots. Leaning to the left or right would stop the rest. Only way to score would be to catch him leaning the wrong way, or a perfect shot to the top corners.

  6. Timo says:

    “Therrien says team wants Tinordi to be a physical presence.”

    How about Moen being a physical presense? Or Max or Gorges or Bourque or Ryder? Why doesn’t team want them to be such presence? Way to set up a rookie for a quick knockout. Therrien is an idiot.

  7. NCRhabsfan says:

    Moen can sit forever as far as I’m concerned. He didn’t show up this season. Maybe it’s the big contract, maybe he isn’t hungry anymore, but he has been completely invisible this season. Unfortunately I think we’re stuck with him again next year. Let’s hope he gets a new attitude over the summer.

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