I can't do it....no wait...maybe I can...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, ummmm, ya....errr....nope, I can't. That is probably the best way to describe the Habs 3-4 overtime loss to the Blues last night. There were bad, they were good, they were up, they were down, they were losing, they came back but ultimately lost it all on a weak goal in OT. What an emotional roller coaster it was for Habs fans as they went from 1st period cheers as Price tried to fight Janssen, to 2nd period boos as the Habs failed to mount any competition for the Blues, to 3rd period elation as the Habs tied the game with 32 seconds left in the game. Ultimately, however, it was the Habs bad start and lack of effort that again did them in. The Habs are the 30th team in the league for 5 on 5 scoring so if their goaltending is not outstanding - which it wasn't last night - and if they don't score a bunch of PP goals - which they didn't last night - they tend to lose games. Exhibit A: 3 - 4 OTL to the Blues.
1 - Carey Price has not yet established himself. He started the game off very shaky, got run by Janssen, tried to fight him, settled down and started making some great saves in the 2nd to keep that Habs in the game, but ultimately let in a suspect goal in overtime for the loss. For some reason, game after game, the team in front of Price continuously throws up stinkers. While Price was far from stellar last night, he can definitely not be blamed for the loss. I am at a loss to explain it, but the team tends to put up a much better effort with Halak in nets. When Price is in tending goal, they seem to hang him out to dry. The Habs, for the most part, were outclassed last night. For most of the game, they were running around in their own end and looked disorganized, tired and just plain bad.
Price's shakiness was never more evident than on the play that lead to the Blues second goal of the night. On the play, Price looked non-chalant (I unfortunately cannot find video on this goal) as Kariya skated behind the net and banked the puck off of his back/pad into the net. Price was flopping around, out of position and unable to recover. Flashes of the Roland Melanson era. The horror...the horror.
Also, while the overtime winner by Andy McDonald - top shelf, blocker side - was a bullet of a shot, it is one that Price should have had. For all of his effort, Price is still struggling to find that consistency that Halak seems to have found and you can tell that it is bothering him. But let's not forget that he is only 22 years old and has many years to find his game. The only unfortunate part is that the Habs desperately need points in the standings NOW, as Ottawa and NY Rangers are starting to pull away.
2 - Speaking of Price, the highlight of the night has got to be when the Blues Cam Janssen ran Carey Price, and Price then wanted to fight him. Here see it, and the subsequent Habs pp goal, for yourself:
(video only available on Habs To The Top http://www.HabsAddict.com
Nice to see some emotion from Carey but sad to see that no one else fought Janssen. Ok, Hamrlik grabbed and roughed up the guy a bit but what kind of weak message are the Habs sending? Since when is it acceptable for an opposing playing to run your goalie and escape unscathed? Aren't the goalie's teammates supposed to automatically beat anyone to a pulp, who decides to run their goalie? Now, some have suggested that Laraque would have settled the score. Really? This is the Laraque who is telling anyone who will listen that he doesn't like fighting or want to fight. This is the Laraque who spends most of his time studying 'the code' the no other enforcer has been apprised of. This is the Laraque who asks people if they want to fight, and if not simply skates away. No, Laraque would not have made a difference because he doesn't 'attack' people, won't take an instigator penalty and does little more than talk to opposing players. Back in the day, if anyone even glanced Patrick Roy, Larry Robinson would beat them to a pulp. Now, however, the Habs are simply a bunch of pushovers and the word is spreading.
The Habs just bought out George Laraque's contract. He will not play for the rest of the year, but will be paid. His contract will be bought out for next season at 2/3 the cost ($1 Million instead of $1.5 Million) spread over two years. This means the Habs will have a $500K cap hit for the following two years instead of a $1.5 Million cap hit. Nice, and good move!
3 - Pouliot continues to impress. It is rare that both sides of a trade are so joyously happy with the outcome. Usually, one of the two sides is left less than happy. With the Latendresse for Pouliot trade, however, both teams are elated with the results as it becomes more and more clear that both players needed a change of scenery. While Latendresse is ripping it up in Minnesota, Pouliot is also returning the favour in Montreal. After scoring his 7th and 8th goals in a Habs uniform last night, Pouliot now has 8 goals and 9 points in his 12 games with the Habs. Nice. Very nice. Along with Gionta and Cammalleri, he is showing that he playing like a 30 goal scorer. When was the last time the Habs had three 30+ goal scorers? Ya, I don't know either, but I imagine it has been a LOOOOONG time. Keep in mind that Pouliot was a 4th overall selection in the draft and might end up being a steal for the Habs.
4 - Hamrlik and Spacek, what has become of you? Both players were anchors for the Habs and put in yeoman's service while Markov was on the sidelines, but since his return they look every bit the 35 years of age that they are. Watching last night's game was a continuation of a month of mediocre to bad play by both players. I think that at 35, these two guys played too many minutes too early in the season and now look like tired, slow, old guys. This is a big problem, because except for Markov, the Habs defense is pretty damn weak without them. Gorges is all heart but is small. Gill and Mara are both turning out to be busts (except for Gill on the pk)and O'Byrne is playing as a forward - what is Martin thinking? On top of it, the Habs have 4 defensemen in the top 8 WORST defensemen for giveaways. Shocking stat, yes. But the facts are irrefutable:
Spacek, Hamrlik, Gill and Gorges are in the top 8 WORST defensemen for giveaways. Kinda explains why the Habs are running around in their own zone so often. So much for a puck possession game.
5 - AK46 is conspicuous by his absence. While the 2nd line of Gomez, Gionta and Pouliot seem to be clicking, the absence of AK46 from the top line is proving to be huge. Plekanec and Cammalleri don't seem to have that same umpf without Andrei and there is no short term help in sight. The only possible replacement will be when SK74 is healthy and ready to go - likely next week. Until then, Martin has little choice but to insert the likes of Mathieu Darche - who was colossally bad last night - or Travis Moen into the vacant role. Sadly, they are poor replacements for Andrei K. Makes you wonder why the Habs didn't grab Peter Sykora off of the waiver wire yesterday to fill that spot. I guess I'll never understand some of Gainey's decisions.
With the overtime loss last night, the Canadiens have now lost 3 games in a row, have 51 points in 51 games and sit tied for 11th overall in the East. The Habs are tied with Atlanta (two games in hand) and Philly (three games in hand) while Florida (one game in hand) is 1 point back of the Habs with 50 points.
Things don't get easier for the Habs who now have back-to-back games at New Jersey on Friday and vs. the Rangers in Montreal on Saturday. It is stating the obvious to say that both games are paramount, as the Habs have to play playoff hockey for the rest of the season if they are to make the post-season dance.
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