Another loss, another blown lead, another blow to the Habs playoffs hopes.
In dropping tonight’s spirited contest against Kirk Muller’s Carolina Hurricanes, the Canadiens reverted to the form we have gotten used to this season; taking a lead into the third period, and subsequently squandering it. Tonight’s blown lead featured a beautiful shorthanded goal by Carolina captain Eric Staal, followed by a wild scramble tally from up-and-coming Jamie McBain. The Habs had their chances to tie it up late, but couldn’t beat Cam Ward if their (playoff) lives depended on it.
A couple of things did impress me tonight, however; I tweeted early in the game that I couldn’t remember the last time a Habs team came out of the gates playing so physically. The usual suspects, Alexei Emelin and Erik Cole, were out in full force, but guys like Lars Eller, Rene Bourque, Mathieu Darche, and even diminutive David Desharnais (although he was picking on the guys his own size-smart man) were getting in on the hitting parade as well.
Alas, it was to no avail; in the end it didn’t really make much of a difference on the scoreboard. But with the ramped up physicality, combined with the likely additions of Ryan White and Ian Schultz to the lineup on Wednesday, it would appear that the Habs have truly adopted a change in philosophy, moving towards bigger, more robust player with some toughness. The change couldn’t have come at a better time, nor will it ever receive a tougher test, as the Bruins roll into town on Wednesday for a classic tilt between longtime rivals. We will see how tough this team really is, and whether or not the added “sandpaper” to the roster will have a positive effect on the team.
What is worrisome (perhaps not for some) is the fact that the Habs can’t seem to handle teams below them in the standings. This is nothing new, it appears to be a trait of Les Glorieux of recent years; for whatever reason, they seem to play up to their tougher opponents, and down to the teams beneath them. Either there have been some serious psychological issues with this club over the last five years, or it’s simply coincidence that these so-called “lesser teams” always play better against the Habs. Who knows? All I’m saying is that it would be nice to not have to worry when a cellar-dweller rolls into the Bell Center on any given night.
This loss deals a serious blow to the Habs’ playoff hopes, especially considering the fact that besides the Washington Capitals (who also lost), every team ahead and behind the Habs were idle on this quiet night in the NHL. Already disadvantaged by the fact that they don’t hold games-in-hand over many teams, the Habs made it harder on themselves by dropping a game on a night like this, to an Eastern Conference opponent to boot.
Perhaps this will be looked back on as one of the few losses that the Habs could afford to lose…but that’s assuming they win 85% of their remaining games; a feat that appears near impossible at this point.
Only the legendary ghosts of the Montreal Canadiens can help this team now-let’s just hope they haven’t given up yet.