Your Montreal Canadiens have played great hockey – and, let’s be honest – surprised more than a few of their fans for the last four weeks.
They were due to dial up a stinker.
And they did.
The Los Angeles Kings hadn’t won a game on Montreal ice since 1999.
Two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup and still blessed with a powerful lineup, the Kings were due to win a game in the 514 area code.
And they did.
The Kings put six on the board against a team that hadn’t given up more than four goals in any game this season – and had given up two or fewer in 12 of their last 14 starts.
The Canadiens actually outshot L.A. 31-30; but shots, in this case, are a poor indicator of what transpired in the game.
Similarly, the Canadiens’ 32-24 advantage in hits might lead one to conclude the home team won the physical battles. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Kings are big, fast and skilled. They won every puck battle they needed to win.
L.A. worked the boards effectively and enjoyed a succession of wide-open looks in front of Carey Price and Peter Budaj. The Canadiens, by contrast, couldn’t penetrate the well-protected zone in front of rookie Kings’ goaltender Martin Jones.
Brendan Gallagher and, on a couple of occasions, Alex Galchenyuk were the only Canadiens who got close enough to ascertain the colour of Jones’s eyes. The other forwards worked at such remove they could barely make out the logo on his jersey.
Look, the Kings are a very good hockey team. They did the things – controlling the slot at both ends, winning battles along the boards – Pierre McGuire predicted they would during his spot on Mitch Melnick’s Tuesday afternoon show.
Jeff Carter was almost invisible, but it didn’t matter. Anze Kopitar (a goal, an assist, 11-3 on faceoffs) and Mike Richards were outstanding. Drew Doughty outplayed P.K., and veteran Willie Mitchell was on for four of L.A.’s five even-strength goals.
The only Canadiens who escaped the Minus column were Alex Galchenyuk, Travis Moen, Ryan White and Raphael Diaz. Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin were each minus-3.
The game might have gone differently had the Canadiens been able to cash an early power play. With Doughty off for tripping 38 seconds into the game, the Canadiens bombarded Jones with seven shots on goal. None went in. On two subsequent first-period PPs, the Canadiens fired blanks.
The other turning point occurred with the score 1-0 and the first period ticking down. Daniel Brière iced the puck with 17 seconds left. Anze Kopitar beat Lars Eller on the faceoff, worked a give-and-go with Mike Richards and snapped a 30-footer past Price.
Late-period scores in one-goal games are kicks in the area where it hurts to be kicked.
Two-zip: effectively over – and decisively over when Price was beaten on two of the first four shots he faced in the second period. Peter Budaj let in two of the nine shots he faced as the King outshot the home team 13-3 in the middle period.
It was a butt-kicking through 40 minutes. By the time the third period began, the Bell Centre’s lower bowl looked like a Pauline Marois rally in Hampstead.
What shall we conclude from this unmerciful stomping of our erstwhile Atlantic Division leaders?
Hey, every team has an off night.
Well, maybe not the 1976-’77 Canadiens. But the 2012-’13 edition of the team lost 6-0 to Toronto at the Bell Centre last February. Fresh off a humiliation that had the Hockey Night in Canada Leaf-blowers leaning back on their pillows to smoke a cigarette, the Canadiens travelled to Tampa Bay and beat the Lightning in a Shootout to launch a five-game winning streak.
The Canadiens don’t get to lick their 6-0 wounds in the Florida sun this time. They are in wintery Philadelphia – did you see that crazy football game? – to play the Flyers Thursday night, then travel on to Long Island for a rare Saturday night road game. Then the Canadiens are home to the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
As ship-righting schedules go, things could be worse.
Let’s see how the team reacts to their worst loss of the season.