Ouch. Groan. Blech. Another day and another weak performance by the Montreal Canadiens. Three days after barely beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, our beloved Habs lost to the Kovalchuk-less Atlanta Thrashers and man was it ugly! From top to bottom, Montreal was disorganized and discombobulated. From sloppy defensive zone coverage to bad turnovers. From inconsistent goaltending to terrible special teams, the Habs were sloppy opposition for the Thrashers even without their superstar player. Ok, enough of my crying about how bad the Canadiens played and on with the observations.
1 – Carey Price is simply not ready for primetime. While he started strong and made some great saves in the first period, as soon as Atlanta started putting the puck behind him, he began adopting that all to familiar depressed, confidence-lacking posture. He reverted to the drop and flop technique that is clearly not working for him. There was one play in the third where an Atlanta player broke down the right wing and around Price, only to slide the puck across the crease – but not into the net. Well, you wouldn’t have been able to tell by looking at Price. As soon as the guy had him beat you could see that Price just gave up on the play. Meanwhile, Hamrlik was behind him stopping the puck from going in. That was the Price that we saw at the end of last year, and he seems to come back as soon as a few goals are scored on him. Price simply does not have a lot of confidence and, unfortunately for him, he isn’t getting the breaks either. While he played a solid first period the first Atlanta goal, that deflected off of a skate, was another unlucky break in a string of unlucky breaks for Price. For Price to get his confidence back, he needs to play with the lead for a change. I feel bad for him because the team has simply NOT played well in front on him, so far this season. And all the while, Halak is getting much better team performances in front of him. If only they could have scored the first goal tonight, I believe it would have been a different story.
2 – Tomas Plekanec continues to be the Habs’ best and most consistent player. Plekanec has gone through some kind of psychological metamorphosis this year and is playing at a level even higher than he did two years ago - when he scored 65 points. His challenge still remains showing that he can do it when it counts in the playoffs, but we have plenty of time before that happens.
3 – Mathieu Carle will be a good replacement on the blue line. While he had a bit of a tough 1st game, he didn’t look out of place on the ice. Give him a few games and he will make himself indispensable.
4 – Marc-Andre Bergeron should ONLY play on the power play and the only reason he is not is because we have three regular defensemen injured; Gil, Markov, O’Byrne.
5 – Cammalleri was a GREAT pick up by Gainey. Only 14 games into the season and Cammalleri is showing that he is a point per game guy regardless of whether he plays with Iginla or not.
Overall, this was a bad game. In fact, Montreal is just a bad team. Of course they are not as bad as their losses make them look but if you look at this team honestly, there are a glut of problems that need to be addressed. Bad penalty killing, worse power play, weak/fragile goaltending, poor defensive zone coverage, a lack of size, TOO many turnovers, no secondary scoring, too many lefties on defense, and on and on and on and on. As a GM, I would think that it is challenging enough to try to plug one or two holes or problems, but this team looks more like a brick of swiss cheese! Too many holes and too many problems. Gainey has his hands full and it is all of his own making. While I am sure that he will try to make some changes before Christmas the reality is that it is not easy to make trades in the salary cap era. The bottom line with the Canadiens is that while it is still early(ish) in the season, in all likelihood they are a team that will either just make or just miss the playoffs. To be honest, I would rather they miss the playoffs and at least get a higher draft pick in 2010 but I have a feeling that that won’t happen.