You can understand the Canadiens having trouble with Philadelphia. There’s the goon factor.
New Jersey? the incomparably great Martin F. Brodeur is always at his best against the hometown team.
Buffalo should be a good match-up for the Canadiens. The Sabres are a skating team that doesn’t scare anyone. Games against them should be contests of skill. And the Canadiens somehow get out-skilled on a consistent basis.
Maybe it’s because the Sabres have an excellent goaltender and play an intelligent, disciplined system in front of him. It’s been that way, year in and year out, with Lindy Ruff behind the bench and Darcy Regier, an alumnus of Bill Torrey’s great Islanders’ organization, running the front office.
They’ve been together 13 years. Players come, players go, and Buffalo plays the same up-tempo, minimal-mistakes style – one that Randy Cunneyworth knows well from his days of coaching the Sabres’ AHL team in Rochester.
Contrast this stability with what we’ve seen in Montreal: a revolving door of general managers and coaches, culminating in this chaotic, disastrous and depressing season.
How often have we seen what killed the Canadiens in Buffalo: aggressive defencemen and determined forwards doggedly pursuing the puck and cycling it around the Canadiens’ zone. St. Louis did it on the Blues’ visit to the Bell Centre. We’ve seen the Canadiens similarly whip-sawed in games against Washington and Winnipeg.
Even in the 28 games they have won (against 46 losses), the Canadiens have rarely displayed sustained, shift-after-shift puck possession in the offensive zone. The far more common trend is one and done, with maybe a few passes around the perimeter preceding the long-range, low-percentage shot that is either blocked or turned aside easily by the goaltender.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Carey Price has opponents buzzing around him, zipping shots from the slot, the dots, the point.
How can the league’s best 4-on-5 team such so bad at even strength?
On L’Antichambre, Guy Carbonneau described the Canadiens’ zone play as “affreux”. My well-thumbed French-English dictionary offers these meanings: “Frightful, hideous, shocking, repulsive, horrible, atrocious, ghastly.”
How about all of the above?
Eight more games of Chris Campoli and Yannick Weber?
Waiter! Check please.
Down 2-0 in the second period, Cunneyworth broke up his top defence pairing. P.K. Subban played with Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges was paired with Alexei Emelin.
It didn’t help.
Cunneyworth kept his forward lines intact. That wasn’t of much use, either.
The Canadiens outshot the Sabres 34-31, but Ryan Miller had an easy night in racking up the eighth shutout inflicted on the Canadiens this season.
For the third straight game, the DD line was held off the scoresheet. And when they’re not producing …
In his postgame remarks, Cunneyworth talked about the Canadiens’ lack of desperation. Like, what should they be desperate for? Good tee times on April 8th?
The coach said he was pleased with his bottom six forwards. Maybe Cunneyworth saw something I didn’t.
Playing in front of Jarri Kurri, who was in Buffalo scouting for the Finnish national team that will go to the Worlds, Petteri Nokelainen had four shots on goal and went 4-3 on faceoffs.
Woo-hoo! Plan the parade route in downtown Helsinki.
Ottawa is at the Bell Centre Friday night.
The Canadiens have won their season series against the Senators, which raises a question:
What’s wrong with those guys?