This just in from the Hockey Inside/Out Decision Desk:
After long deliberations fuelled by tequila shooters and takeout sandwiches from Schwartz’s, we have decided to award your Montreal Canadiens a mulligan.
We are going to forgive and forget the piss-poor effort from which they miraculously salvaged a point.
faster, Hungrier, infinitely more prudent and skillful in puck management, Detroit deserved to win in regulation.
As it was, the Red Wings got their two points in Overtime, while the Canadiens bored their fans to tears and flew on to Pittsburgh.
Fearless prediction: If they play that badly against the Penguins, there will be no OT at the Consol Energy Center Thursday night.
The Canadiens began the most challenging part of their schedule – seven games in 11 nights, five of them on the road – by depositing a steaming pile on an ice surface that began the evening in glory.
In the immortal formulation of Sports Illustrated’s Michael Farber, there are two institutions that do ceremony right: the House of Windsor and the Montreal Canadiens.
During a pre-game ceremony Wednesday night, the Canadiens honoured members of Canada’s Gold medal-winning women’s hockey team. They lined up on one side of a regal blue carpet, while the other end was occupied by representatives of the Gold-winning men’s team: Coach Mike Babcock and general manager Ken Holland of the Red Wings, P.K. Subban and, in civvies, Carey Price.
Then the Bell Centre crowd sang a rousing O Canada, the enthusiasm of which gladdened the hearts of those of us living through Quebec’s most recent bout of shamefully cynical and petty politics.
I won’t go into details of why an affirmation of love for Canada and our superb athletes was significant on a late February evening in 2014 Montreal.
Nor will I dwell unduly on the failings of our local hockey team, who responded to all that pomp and good-timey emotion by playing one of their most listless and monotonous games of the season.
Nor will I stress, beyond a simple acknowledgement, that this was one of the Canadiens’ “Optimum” games, for which they boost ticket prices.
What did the fans get for their extra expenditure?
No home team scoring for 59 minutes, 31 seconds.
A second period in which the Canadiens, trailing 1-0, had no shots on goal for 12:31 and ended the 20 minutes with TWO SoG – a season low.
Let’s just chalk the whole mess up to a post-Olympic hangover.
And perhaps the sight of the women, P.K. and Price flashing all that gold was just too much of a downer for Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin – all of whom came back from the Olympics bereft of Gold, Silver or Bronze adornment.
Peter Budaj didn’t win anything in Sochi either. But unlike the aforementioned no-shows, the Canadiens goaltender played well against Detroit.
Free-flowing refreshments here at HIO HQ notwithstanding, it is sobering to consider that Detroit was the easiest opponent the Canadiens will face on this killer portion of their schedule.
After facing the first-place Penguins in the second half of a back-to-back, the Canadiens play host to the Leafs on Saturday. Then they fly across the continent for a Monday game in Los Angeles, followed by a Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back in Anaheim and Phoenix and a Saturday game in San Jose.
First opponent after the Canadiens return home?
Boston at the Bell Centre on March 12.
The Canadiens are eight points clear of ninth-place Columbus in the Eastern Conference standings.
There should be postseason hockey at the Bell Centre – a likelihood that suggests Marc Bergevin won’t be doing much wheeling and dealing in advance of the March 5 trade deadline.
This team is not going to load up for a Stanley Cup run because there isn’t going to be one – unless Carey Price can mistake playoff opponents for the U.S. and Sweden.
Nor is Bergevin likely to be a seller at the deadline. The GM’s cautious approach will disappoint those of us who would happily bid farewell to Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Lars Eller and, if the deal were right, Andrei Markov in exchange for assets that will help the club become a bona-fide contender …. in the post-Michel Therrien era, with Alex Galchenyuk as the number 1 centre.