Poor Len here. Ed. asked me a week ago [Only a week! Ed.], after the Montréal Canadiens had won their fourth game in a row, thumping Detroit 10-1, if I wasn't going to write something on the team's incredible turnaround. "Let's wait a few days," I told him. "I think I may be dreaming. I want to see if this is real." Alas and eheu! It wasn't.
This past Tuesday the Habs lost a close one (4-3) to a bigger, tougher team, the St. Louis Blues. On Thursday they lost 3-2, in overtime. tio the Calgary Flames, a team they should have been able to beat handily. Their play in the couple of minutes of extra time was a model of ineptitude. And then there was last night, when they got mauled 6-2 by one of the worst teams in the Western conference, the Edmonton Oilers. It's been a tough week to be a fan of la Sainte Flannelle.
Their modest winning streak seemed attributable, in large part, to the return of Carey Price. "Mr Saturday Night" appeared to have regained his all-star form, allowing just two (2) goals in the first three games he played since coming off the injury list. And he played in the games against St. Louis and Calgary, getting his GAA for the season down to 3.00 going into last night's game. Last night, for some reason, he fell apart, getting the hook at 2:24 of the second period, after allowing 4 goals on 15 shots.
Price gave the impression of having no energy, and not being in the game mentally. Why? Who knows? It's not for lack of rest. He played two games in two nights the week before, winning both. Perhaps it's a recurrence of rumoured personal problems that (they say) were part of the reason for his time off for most of November. To be fair, last night's débâcle was not his fault alone. As Shea Weber told the meeja, "Why should he deserve all the blame? It's a team sport. I don't know why the finger should be pointed only at him."
Indeed, there's plenty of blame to go around. The Canadiens were outshot 40-26. Where was the defence?! Weber was -3 last night. So was Jordy Benn. But it's not all down to the D either. There are still some forwards -- step forward Alex Galchenyuk -- who are either unaware of or incapable of performing their defensive duties. Captain Max Pacioretty said, "From the first face-off, we were back on our heels, worrying too much about playing defence against some of their players [meaning Connor McDavid, no doubt] who were coming through the neutral zone at speed."
Quite so. Brendan Gallagher, who I love to bits, took two penalties in quick succession, near the beginning of the third period, trying to stop Edmonton rushes. Sure enough, the Oilers scored on one of the ensuing power plays. Cap'n Max says "The best way to defend against that kind of thing is to create an attack." That would have been fine, except the Habs forwards didn't do that. Rookie goaltender Laurent Broissoit, who started the game with a GAA of 3.71, was never sorely tested.
The warning signs were there in Tuesday night's 4-3 loss to the Blues. St. Louis scored first, and Montréal was able to tie the game and then go into the lead (which they blew) thanks to goals by the aforementioned Weber (2) and Benn, both defencemen. Where was the offence? MIA.
And there you have the problem of this season's edition of the Canadiens in one word: inconsistency. One night there's no offence. The next night there's no defence. And on the third, the (former?) best goalie in the world has an "off night"...or a night off. Price was defensive in the meeja scrum after last night's game. "I didn't get up this morning intending to be pulled in the second period!", he snapped.
I believe him. I believe they all want to win. And they know I and 1000s of other fans of Canada's team want them to win. I just wish that the forwards, the defence and the goaltenders could all get their acts together for sixty minutes in the same game, 6 or 7 times out of 10, from here until April. Ainsi soit-il!