About last night …

What happened to your Montreal Canadiens over the 240 miles between Detroit and Toronto?

Friday night, the team had a 19-3 third period shot advantage against the Western Conference-leading Red Wings. In one of the more dominant offensive displays of the season, the Canadiens looked like Central Red Army, circa 1975, and if Jimmy Howard hadn’t played like Vladislav Tretiak, the game would have gone to OT.

Last night, the Canadiens were outshot 11-4 and outscored 2-0 in the first period by one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. They were outskated, outhit and outfought for every loose puck.

How did a latter-day Red Army turn into the Zimbabwean National Guard in 22 hours?

In a segment televised on L’Antichambre, François Gagnon asked Jacques Martin about the Jekyll-and-Habs transformation of his players.

“It’s a good question,” the unhappy coach replied. “You should ask them.”

So Gagnon did.

And Jeff Halpern told him: “I’d like to offer a reason or an excuse, but there aren’t any. We came out flat and had nothing. It’s inexplicable and inexcusable.”

Whom shall we blame?

Did Martin and his staff not prepare their team properly?

Tony Marinaro thought so. On L’Antichambre, Marinaro suggested the Canadiens came out playing a cautious, trapping game that is the antithesis of their natural style, thereby handing initiative to the home team.

Don’t know that I buy that (or Marinaro’s insistence that David Desharnais should have been dressed for the game).

The comeback against Detroit may have had the Canadiens thinking they didn’t have to do much more than lace up to secure two points in Toronto.

And starting Alex Auld was basically saying “This is how much we think you suck”. That had to motivate the Leafs, who needed a W much more than the Canadiens, what with food being flung these days at the ACC.

What did we learn from that suckfest?

Their early season success and (precariously) lofty position in the standings notwithstanding, the Canadiens can’t let up against any team in the NHL.

Twenty minutes of intensity doesn’t do it, against great teams like Detroit or bad ones like Toronto.

And now thw worst part of a tough December schedule begins, with Philadelphia and Boston on consecutive nights at the Bell Centre.

If Scott Gomez’s shin injury keeps him out of the lineup, the Canadiens will be severely overmatched at centre for these games.

I love Halpern. At $600,000 he’s the bargain of the year … as a third- or fourth-line centre.

But bumping Halpern up to Top Six linemates and minutes is going to be problematic, to say the very least, when the Canadiens face Mike Richards/Jeff Carter/Daniel Brière on Wednesday night, followed by Patrice Bergeron/David Krejci/Marc Savard.

Tomas Plekanec can’t play 60 minutes. And as much as I love Lars Eller and his development to date, he’s not a Top Sixer yet.

Nor do I like the prospect of playing those two powerhouses when the most-minutes defence pairing is Roman Hamrlik and … well, who, if Jaro Spacek can’t go? (The bloody ACC, where Canadiens Dmen go to die.)

P.K. Subban was minus-3 in his hometown. He and Alexandre Picard were brutal on Phil Kessel’s goal (and Auld was out of position). Yannick Weber was decent for his 18:42; but if Spacek is out, the three young Dmen are in for major minutes.

If Spatch is on the shelf for a while, Pierre Gauthier may have to pull the trigger on acquiring another defenceman. He’ll hate dealing from a position of weakness, but Gauthier might have to act expeditiously to avoid a middle-third-of-the-schedule tailspin by his overachieving hockey team.

December is about to get very hairy, with seven games on the road.

A cross-continental Colorado-Dallas-Carolina trip will be followed by a two-day Christmas break. Then there’s a Boxing Day game on Long Island and a visit to Washington. The Canadiens close out 2010 with a back-to-backer – their eighth of the season – against Tampa Bay and Florida.

If Gomez and Spacek are out of the lineup for the rest of the month, this team is in trouble.

I don’t know what Carey Price asked for in his latter to Santa (an experienced Dman?), but what he’s going to get is a ton of vulcanized rubber.

•  •  •

The legions of Jacques Martin non-admirers will light up phone-in show switcboards early this week, frothing at the mouth about how the coach ahs undermined P.K. Subban’s confidence.

Gimme a break!

If a three-game enforced hiatus broke the spirit of P.K., then the young man is a lot more fragile than he had his adoring fans believe.

And while Subban watched from the pressbox, the Canadiens beat New Jersey, San Jose and Otawa by a cumulative score of 12-3.

P.K. will be good, maybe great.

But with defencemen not named Bobby Orr or Denis Potvin or Nicklas Lidstrom, it takes time.

•  •  •

And finally, a really excellent and thoughtful analysis from Jean-Vincent Fournier )JVF), a Canadiens fan living in Paris:

I don’t think JM messed up PK’s confidence by
benching him, but for a few (crucial) games, he has made him more
tentative and less efficient.

I doubt that’s what he intended to do, but that’s the final result.

For now.

intrigues me, though, is benching one your finest young defenders after
having played him 25 minutes in the game, more than any other
defenseman, if I’m not mistaken.

That’s odd.

He goes from
being your finest player on the ice to being persona non grata for 3
games. Never mind thoses 25 minutes, almost from the day he was called
up, PK has often been our most utilized Dman, the only one (with Markov
out) who can skate the puck out of our D-zone and cross the opponent’s
blue line with speed and maybe even some creativity.

That’s what Markov brought us and it made us that much more efficient as a team.

That’s what PK brings.

Not even Weber, whom I think is going to be a fine defenceman and whom I like very much, can do that.

yeah, PK is going to make mistakes, maybe even a lot of them. He’ll
miss a slap pass to a wide open Cammalleri on the PP, use an inordinate
windup to sell his slapshot to the whole world, dangle a little too
much, yap a whole lot, but couldn’t all of that be controlled by simply
limiting his ToI and talking to the guy rather than just sitting him in
the stands?


My two cents about last nights’
game: A silly lineup produced silly results. I would have put Desharnais
in there, just to see what he can do at this level and most of all,
because if there’s one thing this team sorely lacks, it’s O-F-F-E-N-S-E!

Maybe, just maybe, the little guy could provide us with some.
He’s done it everywhere else in his career, against all odds, so why not

Final point: Some people don’t like PK’s attitude, I’m
having a little problem with Cammalleri. He loses the puck too often in
our D-zone and misses the net too often at the other end of the ice.
There’s something different about him this year, he’s not the same

Is it being taken off the Plekanec line? Is it personal
problems? Is it because PK has taken a little bit of the spotlight away
from him?

Whatever it is, I’d like him to become the same lethal sniper he was when he joined us.

That breakaway last night?

No way he misses that a year ago. And if he scores that goal, it could have been a whole different ballgame…



  1. showey47 says:

    Fair enough retro,the season is still early. You say he wasn’t physical enough for us but last season he threw  way more hits then any of our other dman(3rd overall on the team) while missing almost 30 games and on most night with limited icetime.  He is obviously doing something right in colorado since on most nights he is amongst the leaders in team icetime.

  2. HardHabits says:

    You’re reluctant to argue because you have no answers. I am right. End of story!!

  3. PureGuava says:

    First off, I am reluctant to argue with anyone that doesn’t know the difference between ‘here’ and ‘hear’…

    Secondly, that is the worst contract this side of Bobby Holik, and the arguement need not continue after that fact….it’s over.


    “Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” – Robert Anton Wilson

  4. goat_007 says:

    Been to the ACC, paid 100 bucks for a seat I couldn’t see my end of the ice.. no wonder leaf fans are so dilerious half the time. They have to image half of the game…but seriously I did pay $100 for a ticket where I could only see half of the ice.

    Been to buffalo, the bell center and Rexall (Edmonton) and this spring the Excell energy center in Minny, and not a bad seat in anyone of them. O I can’t forget to mention the old Winnipeg Arena aswell…but I was like 7 so that doesn’t count. Loved the atmosphere in the Bell center, but its been a while. I’ll have to come around playoff time.

  5. RetroMikey says:

    If I am at the bottom, surely you must be right behind my butt following me around all the time on this site.

    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

  6. RetroMikey says:

    You are basing his stats based on a few 18 or so games now that he is playing in COlorado.

    Talk to me as the season progresses .

    He is still a work in progress in the NHL.

    You cannot judge a player by playing 18 games with Colorado.

    The reason O’Byrne was traded was that he was not physical enough for us, that was the plan, for  a 6’5″ guy to bring us, a big strong bruising DMan.

    I guess the boxing lessons did not help, he would have stayed with us.

    A major disappointment IMO.


    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

  7. RetroMikey says:

    As Elton John would say, the bitch is back on this site and has nothing more thant to criticize other comments from fans on this site who are are harsh or critical on this site and following me everywhere.

    Frosh, go find a barn somewhere and play with yourself than following me around.

    I’m straight, it appears you are not.

    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

  8. HardHabits says:

    You can look at things however you like. The fact is that the team is weak on offense, certainly not as strong as they are on defense.

    So tell me Mr. Genius who does Gainey sign back 2 years ago? He didn’t want Koivu. He wanted to change the dynamic. He wanted players who had been there. He wanted to unify the team under 1 leadership. Captain Gionta. Gio who came over after Gomez was signed. The truth is you wouldn’t get half the player for half the money. Gomez is only marginally over valued. His cap hit hasn’t stopped the Habs from signing Cammy or Gionta, nor did it stop the Habs from signing Plekanec.

    Gomez value is more than his cap hit. I’d much rather Gomez than Kovalchuck any day and I know most of you would disagree but that is how I see it. Gomez is a team player. This team has been traditionally weak at centre for decades. Finally the Habs have two very decent top 6 forwards at centre, a budding bright young light in Eller and an exceptional journeyman in Halpern and all people can think about is Gomez’ salary and as if that would just disappear everything would be better.

    The Habs are winning with Gomez. The Habs made a deep play-off run with Gomez. Currently there is no-one in the system to replace him. No-one is taking that contract because no-one needs that type of player. Gainey got Gomez for a song, not to mention Pyatt as a decent throw in and everybody claims Sather is some kind of genius.

    It takes years to build the type of team I want to see the Habs become and for the time being Gomez is an important part of that process.

    Name me the tons of guys that can replace Gomez and explain me how the Habs can acquire them. I don’t hear those ideas. All I hear is bitch, moan, whine, the contract.

    If the Habs were in Leaf territory I would understand but they are winning with Gomez and looking weak without him.

    C’mon!! Let’s here it!!!


  9. PureGuava says:

    P.K. is back in the line-up and they’ve lost two in a row….

    By simply using your logic, I can deduce that the Canadiens have either lost two games because of PK, or lost 2 because Gomez didn’t play….I don’t believe either! I was simply stating that his contract has to go. I have nothing against Mr. Gomez, or his family…I don’t think he’s a bad player, and I wish him no ill will. For this team to be all that it can be, that contract has to go. You could get twice the value for half of the price, and tons of guys that will provide your precious leadership at a quarter of the cost.



  10. light_n_tasty says:

    See, now THAT is a great post.  It is absolutely entertaining.  Sure, xtra has a, how shall we say, unique way of expressing himself, but what’s wrong with that.  He’s just saying what many others are saying: the Habs need more grit and size.  Just in a more colourful way.

    “The traditional Holiday wheels fall of the Bus event at Habs Headquarters” ~ CLASSIC!

    “BUGLERS PLEASE” ~ awesome!

    And picturing the Habs in a bench clearing brawl…hilarious!  I get images of the white KHL team layin’ the beatdown on the black KHL team (racism not intended) in that video posted a few days ago on the main page.  And the Habs would be the black team.

    We need posters like Xtra to keep things interesting around here.

  11. Habnofear says:

    nigel-ski,since you were at last nights game and had a clear view please tell me what you thought went wrong,besides total domanation…

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