Know what that sound is?
The grinding of metal on metal as Montreal Canadiens fans recallibrate their expectations for the season.
2010 was fun: the miraculous playoff run last April and May, a good start in October and November.
Then December happened, and the more sensible among us began to realize what we have here:
• A very good goaltender who has to be great for his team to win
• A defence crippled by the loss of Andrei Markov, leaving fans to hope that James Wisniewski can join a healthy (we hope) Josh Gorges in bridging the gap between aging veterans and raw-but-promising youth
• Forwards who exhibit the tendencies that have plagued the Canadiens for years: the skill guys lack grit and the tough guys lack skill
• A coach whose defensive, puck-support system looks brilliant in 3-2 wins is accused of being a stodgy, ultra-conservative stifler of talent when the team loses.
Look, your Montreal Canadiens are what they are: A team deprived … again … of their best player, with strengths and weaknesses that will leave them battling down to the wire for a playoff spot in a very competitive hockey league.
Need a pick-me-up after another dispiriting loss?
How about a good nutritious breakfast?
The Canadiens are six points clear of Carolina and Ottawa, but the Hurricanes have two games in hand.
They are two points back of Atlanta and the Rangers, but the Canadiens have played two fewer games than the Thrashers. The Welcome to the Bell Centre, James Wisniewski afternoon game against Atlanta on Sunday will be huge.
Before we get to the weekend, the Canadiens play a tough back-to-back in Florida.
In Tampa Bay tomorrow night, they face an explosive team that has scored 115 goals this season, to the Canadiens’ 93. But the Lightning have allowed 120, 34 more than the Canadiens. Surely an offence that has scored once this week will come to life in TB.
Then, with only about 20 hours rest the Canadiens play Jacques Martin’s old team at Happy Hour. At that point, the December road trip could be a putrid 1-5-0.
But, again, the Canadiens will skate into 2011 as a playoff contender.
Every team has slumps. Washington lost eight in a row this season – and did not look like a lock for the Cup last night. The team that bombarded Jaro Halak with 42 shots on April 28 had 30 on Carey Price last night. Nicklas Backstrom was brilliant – 10-2 on faceoffs, excellent in all three zones – but Alexander Semin was held off the scoresheet, and the Great Ovechkin didn’t score until Price was on the bench.
With a lead, Bruce Boudreau was able to roll four lines – a luxury denied Jacques Martin, who also had to deal with another parade to the penalty box. Maxim Lapierre played 4:06, Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern fewer han five minutes at even strength.
Benoit Pouliot – one of the precious few Canadiens with size and skill – took an undisciplined penalty when the score was 0-0 and played 8:20 on the night.
Scott Gomez went 0-12 on faceoffs, Tomas Plekanac 6-15. Pleks, one of the team’s ace penalty-killers, spent six minutes in the box.
Brian Gionta was minus-2, as was Yannick Weber, who’s my bet to sit when Wisniewski suits up.
Wiz should help the PP, which took another 0-for.
On the bright side, Max Pacioretty had a couple hits, came to the rescue of his captain and continued to look like he belonged.
P.K. Subban was on his butt in the neutral zone to start the sequence that led to Mike Green’s goal, but the kid played 21:10 – most ToI since his return from purgatory. P.K.’s minutes will become more manageable when Wisniewski becomes likely a first-wave RH shot on the power play.
Andrei Kostitsyn had five shots on goal last night. None went in, but the Big Enigma showed some jump.
The penalty kill was perfect again. Why not? They get lots of practice … and the Canadiens take a succession of rinky-dink minors that don’t even serve the usefulpurpose of intimidating anyone. The only people this team scares are its fans.
Bottom line on the FOURTH 3-0 loss of the season: the Canadiens have played worse games than they did in Washington.
And they may play worse games between now and April 9.
But let’s hope there aren’t too many, because this is a Parity Division team that can finish anywhere from sixth to 10th.
• • •
An astute Comment from JasonM:
Something happened to the Habs when they lost that game to Edmonton.
It seems that when the changes were made to the team they have been
unable to play quality hockey. There hasn’t been a stretch where I sat
down and watched them play in awe as they played some quality hockey.
I’ve seen some flashes here and there but the Habs are playing very
mediocre hockey. Carey Price is no longer standing on his head and when
everyone is no longer playing at their best and shall I say… coasting?
that won’t be enough… they won’t win games.
Now that the
pressure is on there’s a big problem… they cannot get it back into
gear and what does that translate to? Poor plays being made, frustrated
reactions and ultimately, bad penalties. The Habs have played a terrible
month of hockey and combined the Habs have taken far more penalties
than have been granted and it’s no referee controversy here folks.
not happy with Martin. I think he’s unable to get the best out of his
players and plays a game the way it shouldn’t be played in this day and
age. Furthermore, the youth don’t tend to grow under him, a big issue
when you have really OLD players and really young studs. I feel the way
he’s handled Subban far from ideal and to be honest, he had to take care
of other players beforehand.
There’s an issue with confidence
right now and more importantly an issue with motivation. I don’t see any
hunger out there and our forwards are shooting the opponents with peas.
We can’t score, we can’t finish and no one has stepped up and took it
to the other team. I thought this team had leadership? I just don’t see
It’s embarassing to lose to the Islanders.
To no show the next game and get shut out?
As the French media would put it… “c’est deplorable.”