It was a good day yesterday as it always is for me on November 26th -- my birthday. Work followed by a few pints followed by some burgers from my favourite burger joint, followed by a rare Friday night hockey game to watch on tv. Things were good.
I was psyched to watch my team dismantle the Thrashers. I was hoping (read: expecting) the team would come out and assert themselves as the better team, and help me end my special day with a win!!
But I didn't go to bed happy.
Here's the deal. In recent years, the Habs have had trouble in Atlanta, never fully playing up to their potential. Although I think they won there last year, usually the team doesn't perform that well in Atlanta. Maybe it's the relatively long trip, maybe it was the fact that they were playing on a Friday, maybe they just underestimated the Thrashers.
Whatever the "maybes" are, it all equaled up to a sound loss for the Habs, losing 3-0 to the Thrashers. Shut out for the 2nd time this week.
Yeeesh! I thought me and the Habs were tight!? Right!? Like, they of course would deliver a solid, 60 minute road game and bring home the bacon on my bday. Well it started off like that might happen, but they couldn't find the net after a few power plays in the opening 10 minutes. Then after some fumbling around by Hal Gill in the last minute of the 1st right in front of poor Alex Auld -- who probably feels like a crisp, white sheet today after being hung out to dry by his team last night -- the Thrashers made it 1-0 and never looked back.
So far this season, the 2nd period hasn't fared all that well for the Habs, and last night may have been the worst 2nd period they played all year: giveaways, losing faceoffs, taking penalties, losing battles. If it wasn't for poor "he's big, he's bald, he's Alex Auld," this game could have been a total write-off. Auld was solid in nets and did everything he could to keep his team in the game. So we definitely can't hang this one on him.
Honestly, this was the kind of collective effort the Canadiens tended to reserve for Carey Price last year. So if there's one good thing about last night, it's that CP didn't play, so he didn't have to take this kind of abuse.
This may have been collectively one of the worst games the team played all year, although to their credit, they didn't play terrible in the 1st and 3rd periods -- it's just that 2nd period which completely put the game out of reach. I mean, getting outshot 23-4!? That's pretty sad, especially when you can only wonder what was said after the 1st when the team gave up a last minute goal to make it 1-0. The game was still in reach at that point.
Hal Gill probably had his worst game in a long time and Gorges didn't look that much better. Subban wasn't his usual self, and although he finally dropped the gloves to fight Zach Bogosian -- guess he wanted to "learn those lessons" Mike Richards was speaking of. Unfortunately it didn't help to fire up the team, and Subban was largely ineffective last night.
I could go on, but no point singling out each player.
One alarming trend that I hope the Habs are able to curtail soon is their end of period play. Many times this season, they have taken late period penalties and start the next on the penalty kill. Luckily, their PK has been terrific, but it puts a kink in their flow. Last night, they were scored on with less than 20 seconds left in the 1st, then took a penalty in the first minute of the 2nd. This needs to stop.
Got to give the Thrashers their kudos though. They came out and really competed. They wanted to win and pressured the Canadiens net all night. They really are a transformed team now that they're in the post-Kovalchuk era. They have a strong young goalie (Pavelec), some great young talent (Evander Kane, Little, Peverley) bolstered by the Blackhawks' cup-winning cast-offs in Byfuglien (absolutely love that guy), Ladd, Eager and Sopel. Then add Jonny Oduya which they got in the Kovalchuk deal, and you know? This team might actually make the playoffs this year. They're a fun team to watch. But I had my fill after last night, that's for sure.
All I can hope for now is that the Habs continue with recent history and bounce back strong after a loss. They seem to be stringing wins and losses together lately, and they play a still insecure Buffalo Sabres squad tonight back home at the Bell Centre. Even with Ryan Miller in nets, the Habs should by all means take this one, and there's no excuses for playing last night, because the Sabres also played on Friday (beating the Laffs 3-1).
I think the Habs owe me this one.