The Canadiens traveled the Windsor corridor this weekend and came out with a goose egg points-wise in back to back games against the Red Wings and the Leafs.
Really it was a story that repeated itself, starting with Friday night in Detroit where the Canadiens essentially lost the game in the first period, even if they were up by one before Lindstrom scored with 2 seconds left on the clock.
Too many penalties meant the Habs were playing defense all period and really never found their game. Stuck in neutral, the trend continued into the second period which saw Detroit score 2 more goals. The Wings won because they were puck-hungry and relentless whenever the Habs had control of the puck.
The Habs don't seem to react very well when they are pressured and need to make quicker decisions and passes. Detroit exploited that weakness to the tee.
But once the Wings went up 3-1 for whatever the reason they deserted that strategy and the Canadiens suddenly took flight. If it weren't for some timely saves by Jimmy Howard and an inability to finish, the Habs might have pulled it out. The turning point was when Andrei Kostitsyn missed an open net (from a sharp angle, but still he's usually money with those) on a rebound when the game was 2-1.
Instead, Detroit made it 3-1 not much long after.
Nice goal by Pouliot made the game interesting in the 3rd -- he owed us that one because it was his turnover at the Detroit blue line that led to their 3rd goal.
In the end the Habs fell short 4-2 after an empty netter. The big news I guess was that P.K. Subban was back in the lineup, but he didn't have an impact on the game. Dustin Boyd was also in the lineup, and also had a couple of good chances he surely would like back.
Can't say the Habs played a bad game, but they didn't play good enough to win against a strong Detroit team that was looking to bounce back after losing their last three games.
The next night, the Habs were in Leafland. Weber was reinserted into the lineup in lieu of Boyd. The game started off pretty chippy with very little flow. The Habs looked very flat and generated very little offense, the only highlight being a Cammellari breakaway where he just missed to top shelf.
I was at the game sitting in the upper bowl with my ode to the Pension Plan Puppets.
Turned out my friend had a friend who works the Platinum seats down in one of the corners, so after the 1st period we mosied on down and were lucky enough to be able to sit right in the corner behind the net (where the Canadiens played for the 1st and 3rd periods). That's more like it.
Actually it's interesting to see the game from two different vantage points. Up high, you get a good sense of the flow and playmaking of the players; down low, you get a sense of the speed on how quickly things happen, and how big these guys are.
Unfortunately for the Habs, they started the game off much like they did in Detroit. To our surprise -- and disappointment -- Alex Auld was in nets. That makes two games in a row I've seen in Toronto where Price hasn't played (I went last year and Halak started and they lost 3-2 in a shootout). Auld looked a bit soft on the Leafs first goal but after looking at it again, it was a bit of bad luck the way the puck caromed off the boards to come back out in front of the net. Auld looked the wrong way, and by the time he caught up to it, Phil Kessel put it home. Picard should have had Kessel on that one in my opinion.
The Leafs second goal came on a mini 2-on-1 and Auld probably would want that one back too. But it would be too easy to blame this loss on poor A.A. He actually made a few nice saves. The Habs, once again lost the game in the first period. They couldn't generate any sustained offense and too too many penalties -- Halpern taking two in a row. They only got their first shot over 9 minutes into the game. That's not acceptable for one of the better teams in the league.
It does seem however, the Habs are being shafted by the officiating of late. Not a lot of calls are going their way. But nevertheless, they need to be more disciplined. Penalties change the momentum of the game and keep good players (like Cammellari) out of the game.
In the second, the Canadiens did have a bit more jump but they really weren't able to generate any quality scoring chances or sustained pressure.
Cammellari finally broke through with his 10th goal of the season on a nice play with Plekanec, using him as a screen and firing a hard wrister through Tomas' legs to beat Giguere high on the glove side.
Here in a screengrab from HNIC, you can clearly see... yeah right... my friend and I in the corner.
He's the tall, lanky Indian gent wearing a Habs jersey.
I'm to his left, right over the word "Run" on the Esso slogan ad.
And here's the pic of the Habs celebrating the goal. Didn't come out that great, I'm afraid:
Unfortunately it was too little too late. The teams swapped chances in the 3rd, but honestly the Canadiens really didn't muster any quality scoring chances, and didn't force Giguere into any heroics.
Le Tricolore didn't deserve this one. They should have come out and asserted their game and the fact that they are indeed the better team. Instead, it was like they were waiting on the Leafs to make mistakes. Unfortunately, sitting back only caused the Canadiens to be the ones to make the mistakes, making turnover after turnover -- especially in the 1st period.
Near the end, our only hope was that the Leafs would be the Leafs... and blow it. But they didn't this time. Always against the Habs for some reason! Well there's always a next time. And that next time will be in Montreal, most likely against Price.
If only the Leafs would play the Habs and Senators all season huh? They'd be 82-0!!!
Too bad Habs, but honestly, you got what you deserved. A better, more consistent effort is needed. This team needs to assert its game instead of waiting around for something to happen.
It's times like this when you're happy this happens earlier than later so the Habs can gleam some sort of lesson from it.
Trying to be optimistic here, folks.
Anyhow, no need to panic, just 2 losses in a long season. Now the Habs go home and get to rest up and practice to try to avoid losing 3 in a row for the first time this season when they host those pesky Philadelphia Flyers. That should be a good one.
Btw, Scott Gomez didn't play for the second straight game, and Spacek fell awkwardly on his left hand/arm after getting pummeled by Clarke MacArthur -- which is embarrassing enough. Weber took his spot on the blue line.