The Canadiens and their coaches clearly have no answers for the long list of problems this team is facing. The team is demoralized, disorganized, probably confused, short on talent and desperately looking for leadership. Unfortunately there’s no-one in the room capable of taking the helm of this rudderless ship. The Canadiens game progressively worsened as they made their way from Boston to Chicago to Winnipeg this week. Against the Jets, the Canadiens recorded 27 shots on goal, eight of those came on a string of five Canadiens power plays in the second period, and none caused Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec any serious difficulty. The Canadiens simply didn’t show up. Scoring chances in the first period alone were 9-3 in Winnipeg’s favour.
Adding It Up –
…...Bad Timing – Hal Gill, the Canadiens best penalty killer, picked up a four minutes penalty for highsticking at 2:23 of the first period. Alexei Emelin replaced Gill alongside Josh Gorges and Blake Wheeler scored what eventually became the game winning goal.
……No Reaction – Randy Cunneyworth tried to shake things up by sending both the slumping P.K. Subban and Lars Eller to the press box in favour of Emelin and Yannick Weber. He also moved 20 year old centre Louis Leblanc to centre. The second guessers will have a field day, but in the end, it was the veterans on the team that were responsible for this result.
……On Separate Pages – Over the week, starting with a fairly good, but losing effort against Boston, we’ve watched the Canadiens sense of togetherness and teamwork completely disintegrate. Under Jacques Martin, the name of the game was ‘support’. In this game, support was almost totally absent. The communication between defense and forwards was non-existant. Net presence was rare and it allowed Pavelec to have one of the easier shutouts he will earn in his career.
…….Just Wondering – P.K. Subban was a healthy scratch and I think for his NHL development a needed move. I still can’t figure out benching Eller. He hasn’t been scoring but it’s never been for lack of effort. What is hard to fathom is the continued presence of Chris Campoli, who is really struggling. Campoli was minus-3 in this game; minus-5 his last two games and on on the ice for five of the nine goals given up by the Canadiens in Chicago and Winnipeg.
……..Back in the Dumpster – We have had some long nights watching the Canadiens power play this season. Rank this one down there at the bottom. The Canadiens went on the power play five times in the second period. The scoresheet will tell you they had eight shots in ten minutes of manpower advantage. What the scoresheet doesn’t tell is you is the poor quality of those shots. Thorburn was given a four minute penalty for high sticking Emelin. In the four minutes, the Canadiens could muster only one shot (officially listed as a 103 footer from Campoli) and Price meanwhile had to make a brilliant save on Jim Slater. The shots were 3-1 in Winnipeg’s favour.
……..Faint Praise – There were a few trying to make things happen. Tomas Plekanec seemed to have a little jump to his game, but in the end he had no-one to whom to pass the puck, so in the end his night was as useless as he others. Andrei Kostitsyn was most effective when he was put on a line with Nokelainen and Darche in the third period a fact that might speak volumes in it’s own right. Michael Blunden is never going to get a lot of ice time but he was effective in the 12:39 he did receive. Carey Price would probably like the Jets third goal back, but so would Hal Gill who failed to take Blake Wheeler out at the line. Still, without Price, this could have become much uglier than it was. In his limited time, I liked what I saw from Louis Leblanc as a centreman. I still think Lars Eller would have been more useful than Yannick Weber, but that’s nitpicking because Rocket Richard couldn’t have helped the Canadiens in this game. . But his presence or lack of it wouldn’t have changed a thing in this game.
…….In a Cloud – The line of Desharnais/Cole/Pacioretty had a very rough night. Hard to pinpoint what’s wrong there. Probably a little bit of everything. Pacioretty has not fully rebounded from his three game suspension; Cole’s game right now is closer to what we saw through the first two weeks of the season than what we got the next 30 games, and Desharnais wasn’t in this game at all. He simply quit on his backcheck allowing Stapleton to score the Jets fourth goal.
……From the Scoresheet – Shots on Goal – Plekanec-4; Hits-Blunden-3; Blocked Shots-Gorges-3; Faceoffs Won/Lost – Nokelainen 44% (4/5); Plekanec – 43% (9/12)
Ahead – The Christmas break. What the Randy Cunneyworth and the team desperately needs is some serious practice time not Christmas turkey. They’re back on the road in Ottawa Tuesday followed by Tampa Thursday and at Florida New Year’s Eve. More of what we saw this week and the Canadiens front office, whoever is in the GM’s chair, is going to have to start thinking about blowing up this group and working on next season.