In their first game of 2013, your Montreal Canadiens lost 2-1 at home to the Leafs.
Eleven months and 12 days later, they lost 5-4 in Carolina.
Those are your 2013 bookends: two one-goal losses to Eastern Conference opposition.
The Jan. 19 loss, fresh out of the lockout, was a disappointment.
The second – 88 regular-season and five playoff games later – was a bummer of such monumental proportions that we have to hope the game wasn’t a portent of what 2014 has in store.
Let’s go to the highlight reel:
• A 3-0 lead evaporated in two minutes, 29 seconds.
• Michel Therrien (pause for at least half the Commentariat to reach for air sickness bags) burned his Timeout on a second-period icing with the Canadiens leading 2-0. So the break was not available to the coach when his team began to disintegrate before our eyes in the third period.
• Carolina had 42 shots on goal. Another 24 missed the net, and the Canadiens blocked 34 shots. That’s ONE HUNDRED shot attempts. Comparable numbers for the Canadiens: 25 SoG, 11 misses, nine blocks by the Hurricanes. The margin, then, was 100-45. That’s a harlem Globetrotters final score.
• SoG through the second and third periods: Carolina 30 – Canadiens 12.
• The Canadiens took a season-high 10 minor penalties – including Too Many Men on the ice while shorthanded and a bench minor for Abuse of Officials.
• Tomas Plekanec was 6-28 on faceoffs.
• The Canadiens killed two 5-on-3s but gave up the first two PP goals of the road trip.
• Abandoned by his inept teammates, Carey Price smashed his stick after Jeff Skinner’s second goal, phones his agent after Eric Staal scored and demanded a trade when Manny Malhotra put Carolina ahead.
Look, I could go with these smart-ass observations. But it’s almost three hours into 2014, I’ve had a few pops and there’s little to be gained from pointing out what was obvious to anyone with eyesight better than Manny Malhotra:
The Canadiens sucked.
They lost to a team whose coach’s job is in jeopardy and whose captain began the game at minus-17.
The Canadiens began December by beating New Jersey twice. They then picked up Ws against Boston and Buffalo.
A 6-0 pasting at the hands of the L.A. Kings, who are better than the aforementioned Eastern Conference teams, was followed by a loss in Philadelphia. The month also included two losses to Florida and a keel-hauling at the hands of another Western powerhouse, the St. Louis Blues.
Yes, the Canadiens beat Nashville and Tampa Bay.
But as as the team completed the first half of the season with the debacle in Carolina, there are clouds on the horizon:
• Therrien is still tinkering with his forward lines, 41 games in.
• Alexei Emelin has celebrated his new contract and pairing with countryman Andrei Markov by playing his worst hockey since he left Russia.
• Lars Eller got off the schneid in Carolina, but the other scorers were the usual suspects: Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. The drought continues for Brian Gionta, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk at al.
Stuff happens, sure, but it’s difficult – for players, coaches and fans – to shrug off a total collapse against a mediocre team like Carolina.
At least we can’t blame that mess on Daniel Brière.
Last summer’s genius UFA signing doubtless will return to the lineup in Dallas, centring Travis Moen and George Parros.