You couldn’t hope for a more lovely November day in Montreal.
Temperatures in the low teens.
Young people walking around in tee-shirts and shorts.
Considering what we know is coming in a month or so, this Saturday was a gift from the gods.
Then the sun went down.
And so did the Canadiens.
Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot – making his first start against hockey’s most storied franchise, in the league’s most boisterous arena – could have played the game in a tee shirt and shorts.
That’s how easy Newton’s 22-save shutout was against what could be described as a popgun offence … but that wouldn’t be fair to popguns.
Alex Galchenyuk: No shots on goal, and his one attempt was blocked.
P.K. Subban: No shots on goal, while three were blocked and one missed the net.
Rene Bourque: Zero SoG.
Max Pacioretty had one.
As we sometimes forget in Montreal, there are two teams on the ice.
Credit the Rangers with a superb defensive effort. The Canadiens were continually frustrated in their efforts to find enough time and space to string together some passes and generate offence. They were outskated and outbattled for pucks by the visitors, who have been playing solid, Alain Vigneault-style hockey – even without Rick Nash.
The Rangers had been idle since Tuesday and were well-rested.
The Canadiens won a Shootout in Columbus Friday night, then flew back to Montreal.
And man, as the old joke goes, were their arms ever tired! Not to mention their legs.
The team will play two more Friday-Saturday back-to-backs this month. Both Friday away games are in Washington, and the Saturday home opponents are Pittsburgh on the 23rd and Toronto on the 30th. Carey Price will have to be at least as good as he was against the rangers – and probably better – to hold the Penguins and Leafs to single goals.
You’d start a lively barroom argument by suggesting Price is the best goaltender in the National Hockey League. There would be support for Antti Niemi, Jonathan Quick, the Toronto tandem of Jonathan Bernier and james Reimer, our old friend Jaro Halak …
It’s a long list. But let me restate the assertion:
Carey Price is the best goaltender playing for a team that doesn’t score.
The Canadiens are 20th in NHL scoring. And they save their most galling offensive ineptitude for home ice.
Playing in front of some of the world’s most knowledgeable hockey fans – many of whom are old enough to remember Guy Lafleur and the offensive juggernauts of the 1970s – the Canadiens have scored 29 goals in 12 home games. And 12 of those were in the first three games on Bell Centre ice.
In the nine games since, the Canadiens have averaged 1.89 goals per game. They’ve been shut out on home ice by San Jose and the Rangers, managing just 22 shots on goal in each loss.
This matches their total of goose eggs in 48 games last season – when only one of the shutouts, a 6-0 pasting at the hands of the Leafs – was at the Bell Centre.
People who have never been to a hockey game in Montreal can trust me on this: Fans do not like seeing a big fat 0 beside the fabled CH logo on the scoreboard.
It wouldn’t be so bad if visiting goaltenders were standing on their heads to shut out the locals.
But 22 shots on Talbot? 22 on Niemi?
Trailing by a goal Saturday night, the Canadiens went almost eight minutes into the third period before registering a shot on Talbot. And the one they finally got was a 47-foot wrister from the side boards by Daniel Brière – a shot that would have been stopped in the Timbits game between periods.
Why are your Montreal Canadiens like a short, 50-year-old used car salesman on Crescent St.?
Neither he nor they can score.
In terms of offence, the Canadiens are a one-line team. And when Lars Eller, Brandan Gallagher (who was just getting over the flu) and Alex Galchenyuk are bottled up, as they were against the Rangers, there’s no one to pick up the scoring slack.
Max pacioretty has two goals in 11 games. Rene Bourque has five in 20.
david Desharnais – who I actually thought worked hard and was decent against the Rangers – has yet to score this season.
The Kiddie Corps – Gallagher, Eller, Galchenyuk and Michaël Bournival – have 24 of the 52 goals the Canadiens have scored this season. That’s almost half the team’s scoring, from four guys who aren’t old enough to help with Movember.
The lack of scoring makes for some very boring nights at the Bell Centre. Despite the constant volume-pumping emanating from the PA system, fans are sitting on their hands.
Old-timers miss Guy Lafleur. Young pups miss Mike Cammalleri.
There have been nights when we miss Jacques Martin, whose teams played firewagon hockey compared to the hermetic ho-humery being coached by Michel Therrien.
Two more sleeps until Minnesota visits the Bell Centre.
Three if you count the game.
• Georges St. Pierre gets the decision? C’mon man!