The answer to that question was “no”.
Again. They were shut out for the third straight time by Florida . the twelfth time this season which is most in the league. If you combine that with the 13 games in which they scored just one goal and you’re looking at one third of the season in which the second worst offense in the league has done next to nothing.
Anyone beyond the most cockeyed of optimists knew by the Christmas break that the Canadiens were a disfunctional mess. Since then the team has become progressively worse. Since December 23rd they have won only nine of 36 games, fewest in the league over that stretch.
To be fair, injuries have played a big part in this. The Canadiens are going to finish the season with well over 300 man-games lost. Teams that are that injury unluck are invariably doomed to the postseason trashheap.
The only three times the Canadiens have missed the playoffs over the last ten years, their injury number was over 300. Injuries created this scenario. The Canadiens used 19 players in this game. Nine of them weren’t with the team on opening night back in October including half of their defense, five of the 12 forwards and the goaltender.
Antti Niemi was a good goaltender once upon a time. And he’s good goaltender again. And the question is again begged. Charlie Lindgren’s season has been one of ups and downs both in Laval and with the Canadiens. After a year of failed gambles, does Marc Bergevin want to take a chance that Lindgren is ready to be Carey Price’s backup next season or does he try to re-sign Niemi. Once again, Niemi was the Canadiens best player. Through the second and into the third period that structure upon which Claude Julien constantly harps was rapidly disintegrating, leaving Niemi pretty much alone. With ten minutes left in the game the shots on goal were 37-19.
Once again Mike Reilly had a better game than Jeff Petry, his defense partner. The Canadiens have asked a lot of Petry since Shea Weber went down and those 27 and 28 minute games seem to have taken their toll. He was on the ice for both goals. It was an ill advised and bad pass into the skates of Mike McCarron that led to first goal. Petry is minus-6 his last four games. It’s a much maligned stat, but in this case it tells an accurate story.
It still is a mystery to me why Daniel Carr in unable to get more regular ice time with the Canadiens. Since the New Year he has been a healthy scratch in 17 of the Canadiens 32 games and yet when he’s been on the ice he’s shown that he can be an aggressive forward with a net presence we see only from Gallagher and Byron. He had three great opportunities to score in this game and one could argue he was the best forward, which considering the way the rest of the group played, may be faint praise.
There’s something in Carr’s game that Claude Julien doesn’t like. For the life of me, I can’t place what it is.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….Like much of the Canadiens game at even strength, the Canadiens power play was equally bad. 0-for-6. They wound up with 12 shots on the power play but they kept Niemi on his toes by giving up five to the Panthers.
….Jonathan Drouin won 7 of 14 faceoffs – 50%. Other than that, can’t think of anything positive he accomplished once he got inside the Florida blueline.
….Whatever edge the Canadiens had in their game seemed to disappear when Jacob de la Rose’s game-tying goal was legitimately disallowed with just over a minute left in the first period. The Canadiens came out flat in the second period and that was it.
….Daniel Carr led the Canadiens with five shots on goal. Nicolas Deslauriers recorded five hits and the first of two fights in the games first eight minutes.
….Mike McCarron had the other fight and four hits.
Back on the road where the Canadiens have lost 18 of their last 20 games. They’ll play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Buffalo Friday before coming home to face Washington on Saturday. Only nine games left. There are small mercies.