Let’s put events on the first Sunday of February, 2014, into perspective:
A gifted actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, breathed his last at the tragically young age of 46.
A great NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning, screwed up the first snap of the Super Bowl … and it was downhill from there.
Bob Dylan did a car commercial.
And your Montreal Canadiens lost another hockey game.
Hurrying out of the Bell Centre to hit the dépanneur for beer and head off to my friend’s place to watch the Super Bowl, I compared notes with a hockey writer who knows more about the game than I.
(Doesn’t narrow the list down much, eh?)
I ventured the opinion that the Canadiens will miss the playoffs.
“No, they’ll make it,” he replied. “The Eastern Conference is crap.
“Toronto can’t possibly continue playing this well. And Detroit is having its own problems.
“The Canadiens will make it. Then they’ll lose in the first round, and the beat goes on.”
If my learned friend is correct in his analysis, the Canadiens will be in the hunt for a playoff spot at the trade deadline. They will hang on to pending UFAs who may (Andrei Markov) or may not (Brian Gionta) be part of general manager Marc Bergevin’s long-term plans for rebuilding the team.
I thought CJ made some good points in the HIO Comments today:
… we got the bounces against the Hurricanes. At times, I thought we were the better team, but for long stretches the Canes controlled the play on Tuesday night. Despite this, we got the win.
This afternoon, the first ten minutes of the first period aside, I thought Montreal was the better team. We controlled the play for long stretches, but couldn’t get a bounce.
We are not a great team, but we are not terrible either. We are one of 20 average teams in the league. There are maybe 5 great and 5 bad teams that make up the balance. This is a parity based league with a hard salary cap.
Games contested between two average teams are decided by a number of variables which are not always easy to quantify or qualify. Today two mistakes ended up in our net. I didn’t see how we were significantly outplayed. We are too small and have too many players who are the exact same. I don’t think Crosby could make a difference right now, nor do I think that Mike Babcock could guide our troops to the promised land. We need bigger players up front who can open up time and space for our skilled players.
Until this happens, we can expect to continue as an average team. Guys like Bozon, Vail, Crisp, Nevins, McCarron and Fournier are still years away, if they make it at all. Best case scenario involves us taking the deep breath and parting with our UFAs and fringe players for size, prospects with size, or draft picks (who can be used to draft size).
There’s that size thing again.
Jean-François Chaumont, who covers the Canadiens for the Journal de Montréal, tweeted during the game that Winnipeg’s roster includes 10 players 6’3″ or taller.
The Canadiens have three, and one of them is Carey Price.
Brendan Gallagher – generously listed at 5’9″, 180 lbs. – is the only player on the team capable of getting under the skin of opponents. Gallagher’s feistiness was amply displayed in a losing cause against the Jets.
We love Gallagher. He’s a Bell Centre favourite, and they might have to enlarge the door to the home dressing room just so he can get his gonads through it.
But when a guy that size is consistently your most courageous and physical player …
Let’s put it this way:
If Dustin Byfuglien walked into a bar, a prudent person might make mental note of the nearest exit, just in case things got sketchy.
If Brendan Gallagher walked in, they’d card him.
And 6’2″ Rene Bourque has scored as many goals since Nov. 5 as Phil Kessel did in 27 minutes against Ottawa Saturday night.
Alright, enough negativity.
I’m just bitter because I took Denver in a Super Bowl bet with Dave Stubbs, and now I have to wear one of his bow ties for a week.
Heading into the Olympic Games break, your Canadiens have three winnable games: Calgary and Vancouver at the Bell Centre, then the Hurricanes in Carolina.
And if Bob Dylan believes in Chrysler, I’m ready to reserve Canadiens playoff tickets.