About last night …


Your Montreal Canadiens will have to wait until next season to put the puck behind Antti Niemi.
Unless, of course, they meet the goaltender and his San Jose teammates in the Stanley Cup final.

OK, that wasn’t even funny.
Hard to laugh after a road trip like that.

As we turn the clocks ahead, is there any point in looking back at what transpired in San Jose?

Or in Phoenix?

Or Los Angeles?

Suffice it to say the Canadiens haven’t won a game with Thomas Vanek in their lineup.

Or with Dale Weise out of it.

The schedule has been brutal: seven games in six cities over the span of 11 nights – including transcontinental air travel.

But credit a tired team with some resiliency. After Peter Budaj gave up that ludicrous shorty to Tommy Wingels less than three minutes into the game Saturday night, they regained their composure and outshot the Sharks 9-7 in the first period.

But when Wingels’ second chased Budaj 1:54 into the second period, the chances of a rally began to fade. And when Lars Eller’s turnover resulted in Matt Nieto beating Dustin Tokarski … well, we might as well have turned our clocks ahead to the final buzzer.

As was the case when he beat the Canadiens 2-0 at the Bell Centre in October, Niemi was rarely tested. Over their two meetings with the Sharks this season, the Canadiens were outscored 6-0 and outshot 68-49.

The Canadiens’ power play was 1-for-18 on the road trip, the only goal coming during a 5-on-3 advantage during a 5-2 loss in Phoenix. The power play was so inept in San Jose that Therrien began one man-advantage with a forward line of Daniel Brière, Alex Galchenyuk and … wait for it … Rene Bourque.

Nothing clicked. And a sputtering power play is a mortal weakness for a team that struggles to score at even strength.

The acquisition of Thomas Vanek was supposed to help. It still might – once Michel Therrien finds linemates for a sniper who played with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on Long Island.

With all due respect to the Canadiens’ best 200-foot player and the team’s gritty captain, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta are not Tavares and Okposo.

With the game in San Jose out of reach in the third period, Therrien moved  Vanek onto a line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. The coach also reunited the EGG line, using Brendan Gallagher with Lars Eller and Galchenyuk.

When the Canadiens traded for Vanek, some of the more excitable fans suggested the acquisition made the team a Cup contender.

The general manager was more circumspect. Marc Bergevin’s line was Vanek would help the Canadiens in what remains a very tight race for Eastern Conference playoff spots.

While the Canadiens remain second in the Atlantic Division – a point ahead of the Leafs, who have a game in hand – and six points clear of the cutoff for playoff spots, postseason hockey is not a sure thing in Montreal.  The team has completed the toughest part of the schedule – in terms of travel, quality of competition and frequency of games – but challenges remain.

Starting with Boston at the Bell Centre Wednesday night.

Let’s hope Carey Price is ready to face the Bruins – and that he gets better protection than the defence corps gave Budaj and Tokarski.

The Canadiens were a mess in their own end all through the road trip. They lost puck battles, blew coverages, yielded too many high-percentage scoring chances from the slot.

P.K. Subban hasn’t been himself since before Sochi. Alexei Emelin looks dazed and confused. Josh Gorges is injured. Jarred Tinordi is raw. Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver are spare parts.

RDS analyst Marc Denis said the Canadiens’ defence lacks mobility. He thinks Nathan Beaulieu should be brought up from Hamilton, if only to bolster the second wave of the power play.

Vanek prefers playing left wing. But he’s a righthanded shot, and using him with DD and Pacioretty might be the best way to get the proven sniper untracked in bleu-blanc-rouge.

Or play Vanek with Brière.

There are a few days – minus one hour – for the Canadiens to get their poop in a group.



  1. Mondou6 says:

    Regarding separatism, I think it would be bad overall for Quebec to secede, but how do you reconcile how different Quebec is from the other provinces? It’s really like two separate cultures, especially outside of Montreal, which seems more rural and less prosperous.

    I think the status quo is probably best, it just seems seems that it’s not really a cut and dried situation.

    • Captain aHab says:

      There won’t be a referendum (especially with the economy not doing too well) but she has to pretend to sate her base.

      Me skull and crossbones arn’t the only thing I plan on raisin’ tonight.

    • Frozen Village says:

      Tough to reconcile transfer payments, Quebec on the disproportionate take for over 50 years, techno parc would be a ghost town within 18 months, currency’s, furthermore, the territory would look much different, draw a line from southern part of James Bay across to just north of lac st-jean then to sept-isles, then poke wholes in it like Swiss cheese, that’s a rough idea what Quebec would look like, Montreal would become a city state detached from the rest, the Americans would come in and save the day, culture would be a distant memory in 15 years, the French language would die in Quebec much before Franco communities in the rest of Canada, oh also take there portion of the federal debt….(large); living here for the past 13 years, I appreciate the attempt to define here, re-invent, ultimately that endeavour here in Quebec has been a decadent pursuit by a largely unknowing population, as to the cost to Canadians in other provinces subsidizing the vain pursuit of a majority acting like a minority in its own home, the minorities here largely zionized, status quo, the rest of Canada will not stand for…political power has moved out west, they have a recent history of being marginalized by central canada.. I could on, it would be interesting if we could truly, lucidly get along,

      More Swedes for the Lions in Winter

      • Mondou6 says:

        Yeah, I don’t know how it will play out.

        As easy as it is to find fault with the language law craziness, without it, the province of Quebec would look no different from the province of Ottawa within 50 years.

        Outside of Montreal people are relatively poor and French speaking. Do you say, ok, we need to preserve that culture, or do you say, oh well, too bad, conform to the rest of Canada…That’s kind of a tough pill to swallow.

        Just a tough situation, since Francophones are a poor minority in Canada, but they are a majority in Quebec. Conversely, the Anglophones only enclave in Quebec is in Montreal.

        Even though people on both sides seem annoyed by the status quo, I think it’s probably best for both sides.

        • Frozen Village says:

          Touché, think the fear and goblins approach has run its course with regards to language.I didn’t have to send my kids to french school, but I have. There should be 1 school board, with french being the primary language, with more English and other languages introduced freely.

          From seeing other provinces and there victories and defeats, Quebec is solely responsible for theirs, maybe more so, as they have more autonomy, control, support the others do not have save for Ontario to a degree due the generations of the centralized economy paradigm ,

          Politicians seem more well off here too, wonder why that is ?

          Anyways go habs go free of limiting politics, go brave into the new world

          More Swedes for the Lions in Winter

  2. Phil C says:

    So what would you do with Budaj when Price is back? Tokarski is playing better right now, but I think they will be loyal to the vet once Price can start most of the games.

  3. habstrinifan says:

    Let’s do the following:

    Never sit Wiese again!
    Put Vanek/Briere/Eller together (Galchenyuk).
    Put Pleks/Gionta/Bournival together. (Absolutely the best Gionta has looked all year was the few games that was a line.)

    Put P.K in Kovalev’s spot on the PP and bring back a forward.

    Sit back and watch the fireworks(If MT does this then you know he will be implicitly adjusting to more attacking game).

    Put a All Terrain wheels/suspension on the bandwagon. Lots of potholes on the Parade route.

    Party ON!

  4. slapshot777 says:

    Like I said last night If Price was injured he should not have went to Sochi, he said he had the injury prior to the Olympics yet he went anyway and played with the injury making it worse. Now he comes back to the team who pays his salary and he is all of a sudden not fit to play.

    Price has to get his priorities straight. We went on this western road trip and could have used him. With Price in net we may have squeaked out an extra couple of points. Instead we play with a backup and an AHLer who played his first game in the NHL in the last two years, granted he was the one who the two points for us.

    Yet Price is limping around enjoying the sun while the rest of his teammates are working their butts off trying to win games with secondary goaltending.

    To you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high.

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