About last night …


The good news is your Montreal Canadiens won’t face the big, tough, skilled and well-coached St. Louis Blues again this season.
Unless the teams are Stanley Cup finalists.
I’ll call a Timeout here while readers change out of the pants they soiled by laughing so hard.

There may be hockey in St. Louis when the Cardinals are playing baseball this spring. The Blues are that good.

The Canadiens?

Montreal in late May may be seeing as much hockey as major league baseball, i.e. none.

As has become increasingly evident as as autumn fades and winter looms, this team is not a Cup contender.

They just don’t have the horses – at least, not yet.

Over the past couple weeks, the Canadiens have played two Western Conference powerhouses, the Blues and L.A. Kings.

They’ve lost both games by a cumulative score of 11-1.

It was 120 minutes of men against boys, contenders against pretenders.

And circle Januar 11 on your calendars. The Saturday night visitors to the Bell Centre: Chicago.

Peter Young, submitting a Comment on the live-game blog, pretty much nailed it:

The Blues’ positional play is superior to that of the Canadiens, which, tonight at least, was almost a scattergun approach. That’s the reason why you have Blues players nearly always available to pick up rebounds at both ends of the ice. And that’s the reason they had so many players free in the slot to shoot almost at their leisure on Price. The Blues play to a system; the Canadiens don’t appear to have a system, at least not one that’s visible.

Young adds a note of optimism:

There is indeed a quality gap between East and West. But let me say, once again, that our day will come. We have some players of very high quality and a smart general manager, who will learn quickly from his mistakes. We have a future; don’t write off that future just because we’re not there yet.

It’s been painfully obvious, in the losses to L.A. and St. Louis, the Canadiens are not there yet. What was disheartening, in both games, was the yawning gap between the Canadiens and two elite teams.

In his postgame media scrum, parts of which were telecast on L’Antichambre, Michel Therrien said his players “didn’t want to pay the price” against St. Louis.

“We need a better work ethic,” the coach added, “if we’re going to have a hope of winning.”

When one of the reporters mentioned the Canadiens’ ongoing excellence on the penalty kill – 6/6, including another Brandon Prust double minor, against St. Louis – Therrien said his players work hard on the PK – but not on anything else.

On L’Antichambre, Denis Gauthier – who played for Hitchcock in Philadelphia – said the coach’s mantra is “heavy sticks, heavy bodies.” It’s a grinding, physical style that contests – and usually wins – every loose puck on every inch of the ice.

Gauthier described playing against a Hitchcock team as “exhausting”.

“They’re very structured,” said the retired defenceman. “They give nothing away cheaply.”

To counter that style, a team needs 18 skaters working their butts off from opening faceoff to final siren. The Canadiens didn’t.

There were many dreadful performances, but some  stood out:

• Alexei Emelin was on the ice for four St. Louis goals and looked particularly lost during the first period, when the home team skated off to a 3-0 lead that proved way too steep a hill for the Canadiens to climb – especially against a Ken Hitchcock team.

• Brandon Prust, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller took penalties in the offensive zone.

• Rene Bourque, who started his career in the Western Conference and has the body to crash and bang with the big boys from out there, was invisible for 12 minutes.

• Andrei Markov, paired with Emelin since the Phoenix game, is not as effective as he was with P.K. This was particularly obvious against a team like St. Louis, whose star-studded defence corps threw a protective wall around Jaro Halak and moved the puck efficiently up ice all game long.

A couple grim stats:

• The Canadiens haven’t scored a first-period goal since Brian Gionta beat Cory Schneider Dec. 4 in New Jersey. That’s eight straight games in which the Canadiens have been unable to seize early momentum and diminish the pressure on their goaltenders, who have to be impenetrable for this team to have a ghost of a chance.

• Brendan Gallagher’s second period goal was the first the Canadiens have scored at even-strength in regulation since Alex Galchenyuk beat Jhonas Enroth at the Bell Centre on Dec. 7. The team went 356 minutes, 35 seconds – almost six complete hockey games – without a 5-on-5 goal.

And for all their current ineptitude, the Canadiens remain fourth in the Eastern Conference, comfortably clear of the cutoff for participation in the playoffs that will lead to a revenge series against St. Louis.

Aw, just when you were getting used to dry pants …







  1. CHasman says:

    I was on the bubble when they were discussing Patrick Roy as a coach for the Habs. But there was no bubble for me when Michel Therrion’s name came up. Didn’t work for me the first time and not working for me now. Unfortunately for people like me, we would have to lose a lot of games before we ever got a change and then we would have the same bilingual coaching problem. Was Scotty Bowman bilingual?
    Doesn’t really matter because I don’t think we’re bad enough to get a coach fired. And when it comes right down to it, even Therrion could win if he had the right personnel, which he doesn’t. It is going to be a long season. Good thing the Leafs are stumbling or I would have nothing to look forward to.

  2. Trollhunter says:

    With the new divisions and alignments many people had the habs at 7-10th in the east in pre-season predictions. The problem with this team is its a bubble team and *IF* they make the playoffs, they are NOT built for the playoffs.
    Now how the big question.
    How the Heck do they proceed?

  3. CHicoHab says:

    What coach or coaches taught PK that backwards ass first stand tall smacking body checking move??
    Effective?? Unorthodox?? Useful?? Or silly??

  4. Habfan10912 says:

    Heading over to West Point tonight to see Army take on #5 Providence. Several Calgary and Buffalo draft picks on Providence’s roster.

    Goalie Jon Gillies will be missing from the lineup as he’s been selected to Team USA Jr.’s club.

    Calgary’s first round pick (21st), Mark Jankowski will be in the lineup for Providence as he was cut from the Team Canada Jr. team. Really looking forward to seeing him play.

  5. B says:

    Collberg looking good this afternoon. He made a beauty setup from behind the net for an early 1-0 lead. He just skated out from his end, wove his way around and into the US end and then snapped a shot under the bar to make it 3-1 Sweden.

    –Go Habs Go!–

  6. FlyAngler says:

    Certainly on cannot criticize a coach for wanting his team to work hard and provide a maximum effort. These elements are essential for any team to compete at the highest levels in any sport.

    This is not the same, however, as expecting every player on a team to play the same way- as in be a grinder.

    Right now Tyler Seguin has 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points and is a +11. He did not “fit” in the Bruins “system” and now leads the Stars in scoring while putting up great numbers.

    Patrick Kane leads the Hawks with 20 goals and 26 assists but is only a +6. Clearly, he is not a “grinder” and yet he won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year and was pivotal in the Hawks victory over Boston.

    The late great Canadian author Robertson Davies once described imagination as “the ability to see all sides of an issue” and the lack of this plagues any number of coaches and NHL teams.

    The Blackhawks find a way to utilize Patrick Kane, a non-grinder, in a way that enables him to succeed and the Blackhawks to succeed. The Bruins failed to do the same with Seguin and now find themselves on the wrong side of a trade that might ultimately turn out to be as bad or even worse than the Gomez trade.

    The problem that the Bruins had is that Tyler Seguin did not fit in their rigid system or they lacked the imagination to find a way to utilize him within it. By way of contrast, Joel Quennville seems to be as demanding a coach as there is in the NHL, and yet he is flexible enough to find a way to utilize an enormously talented player like Patrick Kane in a way that works for everyone.

    I often wonder if coaches who are excessively hard on talented players are secretly envious of them, especially if those coaches were grinder type players themselves. The fact that DD has a certain modicum of talent and works hard does not make him a top 6 forward in the NHL no matter how much Michel Therrien likes him or the way that he plays.
    By way of contrast, a player like Daniel Briere, who although not a superstar, has demonstrated over the course of his career the ability to make plays and score goals is not going to become a grinder and should not have to become a grinder- he is not that type of player- but neither is Tyler Seguin or Patrick Kane. Therrien should take note and resist the temptation to impose too rigid a system on his players. Structure is good and essential, but there needs to be some flexibility within that structure and not rigidity- otherwise talent gets suppressed and is ultimately wasted. More than anything else right now, the Habs need some imagination and flexibility.

    “Elever le flambeau!…Raise the Torch!”

    • B says:

      All of the guys need to work their butts off, even the “non-grinders” have to be hustling out there. I can understand and forgive getting out skilled or out sized, but not being out worked.

      –Go Habs Go!–

  7. frontenac1 says:

    Reports; Varlamov has charges of domestic abuse dismissed.

  8. --Habs-- says:

    Don’t know if MB is or plans on retooling this team but I can tell you this! If this is the type of hockey I have to watch to win 40 games I’ll be making my way to to the booze store to get my Fireball treat before every game to help me fantasize the players are all Erin Andrews in a bikini on the ice to keep my interest.

    “Habs” Watch and learn….! Or Not!

    • frontenac1 says:

      Fireballs? I knew a guy who drink that stuff while Ice Fishing. Life is to short for that stuff. Get a good Single Malt. It’s good for your health. Saludos!

    • --Habs-- says:

      I used to say watching baseball was like watching paint dry compared to hockey. I think the Habs are almost there. I WOULD NOT spend $500 taking my family to watch that. Your money would be better spent taking your family bowling. Maybe I’m overboard but…………………!
      “Habs” Watch and learn….! Or Not!

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