Braden Holtby stopped all 21 Canadiens shots en route to a 5-0 Washington Capitals shutout win Saturday night at the Bell Centre. It ended Washington’s seven game losing streak and extended the Canadiens current winless streak to four games. Alexander Ovechkin led the Capitals with his league leading 36th goal plus an assist. John Erskine, Jay Beagle, John Carlson and Casey Wellman also scored for Washington. Final shots on goal were 34-21 in favour of the Capitals. He three stars were Ovechkin, Carlson and Holtby.
The loss dropped the Canadiens into the wild card, 7th placing in the Eastern Conference, a point behind Toronto. The Leafs lost to the Jets in overtime Saturday night. The Canadiens do have two games in hand over Toronto.
Adding It Up –
Rock Bottom – It’s often said that slumps have to bottom out before improvement can begin. I can’t imagine the Canadiens are capable of putting out a worse team effort than this one. They were playing a team that was having it’s own issues and may have inadvertently let them off the hook. As we’ve been regularly documenting here, the Canadiens have a laundry list of problems. Team support has broken down, players are running around trying to do the job of others, too much individual play, lack of confidence, bad penalties. Name it, the Canadiens are guilty right now.
Dreadful – At 12:45 of the first period Rene Bourque tipped a shot on Holtby. It was the Canadiens third shot. They didn’t get another shot on the Washington goal until 12:44 of the second period when Daniel Briere threw a harmless 42 foot wrister at Holtby. For the record, that’s one second less than an entire period without producing a shot on goal. In the interim the Capitals took 21 on Carey Price, scoring four goals and chasing him from the game.
Far Between – Looking back, I can remember only two occasions where the Canadiens were capable of mounting what could be considered an credible offense. Both occasions involved the Desharnais line; one shift late in the second period with the score already 4-0 and another in the third period.
Trending Down – The Canadiens slump is not four games. It’s been running for six weeks and 21 games, during which they have won only eight times (8-11-2). Over the last 46 days, we have watched a slow, but steady deterioration to the point reached on this night.
No Solutions – It appears the team itself is going to be responsible for pulling things back together. There are few other options. There are no gamechangers in Hamilton and the trade market is not an option since you have to give up quality to get quality. A popular move might be getting rid of the head coach, but who would you replace him with? Guy Boucher? Guy Carbonneau? Somebody out of the junior ranks? Doesn’t seem to make sense.
Barely Worth Mentioning – ….Canadiens discipline was at a season low. The Canadiens collected eight minor penalties including two late boarding calls against team captain Brian Gionta. Brandon Prust was thrown out of the game for abusing officials in the second period. …….The Capitals dominated the Canadiens territorially through the first two periods. Shots through the first two periods were 27-9 and total shots attempted were 47-32. …..Plekanec, Eller and Desharnais led the Canadiens with three shots each. Alexei Emelin recorded 5 hits; Douglas Murray 4, Josh Gorges blocked five shots. And Desharnais won 12 of 17 faceoffs for 71%. That said, none played well enough to merit further mention.
Moving On – The Canadiens face the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday at the Bell Centre and then head for Boston Thursday before the two afternoon Super Bowl Weekend games against Tampa next Saturday and Winnipeg Sunday.