Canadiens Compete Hard Against the Best – Fold to the Worst.

Written by:Iain Carnegie, BBBR

Where do we go from here?

After witnessing yet another heartbreaking loss to one of the best teams in the league, I’m only left to shake my head in wonderment.

Twenty-four hours earlier, I was less heartbroken and more venomous. After all, the Canadiens began their West Coast road trip against a team that should have guaranteed a sure two points. The Anaheim Ducks were sitting miserably near the bottom of the league, and should have been a shoe-in for a win.

The result? A 4-1 loss in a game that saw the Habs sit on their heels, forget how to stick passes on each others tape, and as usual, show the inability to do anything positive with the man advantage.

Anaheim handed Montreal every possible opportunity to walk out with a better record, and instead of accepting that offer, Les Boys not so subtly declined. The power-play was once again invisible, and the Canadiens failed time and again to generate any type of offense. It was painful to watch.

During tonight’s fiesta against a much stronger and better San Jose club, the performance of the team heralded this Tweet from one of my followers:

@LuisinMinnesota :’Habs play better against better teams, but terrible against terrible teams.. #thingsidontunderstand.’

On the money, and something that was trolling through my head for the first half of the third period.

When you looked at the play of Cammalleri, Cole, Desharnais, Eller, and LeBlanc – they looked hungry. There were some black holes in the line-up (Weber and Subban being the most recognizable), but for the most part the team showed cohesion and a desire to compete.

They skated to the puck with urgency, passed the rubber around the perimeter of the offensive zone with precision, and cycled the puck down low with determination. The only major failure seemed to be their lack to place bodies into the slot to pick up the numerous rebounds that were so graciously offered up.

So what causes this phenomenon that many a fan of le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge have been forced to witness over the recent past?

It’s a mental thing. I’m convinced.

When the roster walks into the building of a team that just doesn’t seem to contend against them, the lack of urgency drops, the skating slows, the puck movement gets sloppy, and the team falls into a waking coma.

Proof’s in the pudding looking back on losses to the Flames (October 13th), the Avalanche (October 15th), the Islanders (November 17th), and now recently – the Ducks (November 30th.).

When you look at the play of the team when they face strong contenders in the league, things change. More examples would be the defeats of the Flyers (October 26th), and the Bruins – back to back (October 28th and 29th). You may as well add in tonight’s match against the superior Sharks as well.

Looking back on all these contests, the Canadiens have shown hunger, desire, speed, play-making superiority, pass perfection, and goal scoring ability.

So I go back to the mental game. The Habs went into all the last mentioned games with a desperation. They knew they were the underdog, and the only chance they had at picking up points was to play like rabid dogs.

There were many a fan tonight calling for the head of coach Jacques Martin, but can you really place all the blame of a lethargic team on the coaching staff alone? Does Martin tell them in the dressing room, before playing an inferior team, that they only need to give half the effort?

As much as I don’t agree with the system that has this team protecting leads, without trying to increase them, it can hardly be considered the issue when you only held the lead once, as they did against the Ducks on Wednesday night..

Coaching can be held accountable for ridiculous errors such as sending Travis Moen and PK Subban out for the shootout; when players like Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Tomas Plekanec were available to seal the deal. Even the choice of Cole was questionable when he was visibly shaken in the last few minutes of the game with an earthquake of a hit just inside his blue line.

But at some point in time, the players need to take some accountability for the lack of performance. They need to realize – especially when they are playing sub-five hundred hockey – that there is no margin for slack play.

Saturday afternoon, the Canadiens will be facing another superior team in the Los Angeles Kings. If they can put up another showing as they did against the Sharks, they may be able to salvage something out of what has been a sub-par western road trip.

If it comes down to another shoot-out, and the wrong players are chosen again, I’ll be the first to hang it on the coach. But the players will have to show up to get themselves in that position – or better.

If they can manage to accomplish that, then we all know exactly where they need to head from here. Home. To play exactly the same way that they played against San Jose, and to secure two more wins and a positive start to the toughest month of the season thus far.

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About Iain Carnegie (@emann_222 on Twitter)

I have followed the Montreal Canadiens for over twenty years, even while living in the heart of Toronto. I spent 5 years in the mecca of hockey, moving to the Plateau region of Montreal in the summer of 2009, I've been writing extensively on the Habs franchise at Bleed Blue Blanc Rouge BBBR has now moved to it's new home here at WordPress, , where content continues to matter.
This entry was posted in 2011 - 2012 NHL Season, Eastern Conference, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Cap and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Canadiens Compete Hard Against the Best – Fold to the Worst.

  1. Jeff Jr says:

    I didnt get to see the game as I was watching my Canucks blow a last minute goal to the visiting Nashville Predators. I tuned in to see the overtime and shootout. I question Moen on going now not knocking him but in a way I thought maybe I would have seen AK46 or Plekanec get the cal first. Whatever the Habs have to do to get back on the winning track wether it be calling up some players or maybe another trade or coaching change there is still lots of season left keep your chin up! There will be brighter days

  2. Yes – Agreed. The coach sent out Subban and Moen when there were plenty of better options in Eller, Kostitsyn, and Plekanec.

    I blame the coach for the S/O loss, but I liked what the team did (for the most part) during the 60 regular minutes of the game. What annoys me nore is the lack of anything the night before against the Ducks.

    Thanks once again for reading and leaving thought’s Jeff – It’s greatly appreciated!

  3. lissa7 says:

    Great post, Iain, and when you mentioned that you were going to ponder this topic I knew I wanted to read it ASAP.

    I started noticing the trend when I began to learn about the various teams in the league. My sons would lament the fact that we seemed to take on tougher opponents and win and the opposite with weaker opponents. In fact, the first time I can remember becoming aware of this was against the Sharks – not last season, but the one before.

    We’re all pretty frustrated this season, but I still have faith the Habs will show their fans what we need to see: a team that CAN pull out a playoff spot and perhaps wow everyone the way we’ve been wow’d before.

    I also don’t like the “fire the coach” bandwagon. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on it. Not knowing all that much about how coaches are, or how much is hung on their necks, I do know human nature. And I know that despite a “leader’s” words, it always comes down to those who execute their task, either to the best, or the not-so-best of their ability (I couldn’t bring myself to write the word “worst” – not when it comes to my Habs).

    So call me naive, but I do think the season can be salvaged. I don’t understand why we’ve had such struggles, and I’m not going to pin it on injuries but you have to admit, we’ve been unduly plagued with a series of bad luck injuries this season, bad reffing (à la OT vs Pittsburgh) and just plain good goaltending/offensive efforts by opposing teams. I still think we’ll prevail in the end.

    Go Habs GO!

    • You better be careful or I might start looking at you becoming a regular commenter on the site … and I hope I can count on that to be honest. I only have one rule for you moving forward. You are no longer allowed to call yourself naive.

      Sitting in our living rooms and watching from the comfort of our couches and La-Z-Boy chairs makes it easy to criticize, and often it’s the coaching staff that takes the brunt of the blame. If not, it tends to be a few key players. So I always draw in a breath of fresh air when a fan (or fans) can settle back and be a little more even thinking.

      I don’t think this season is over either. The conference is like a log-jam of points with many a team that will have the opening to make the post-season. And we all know that getting a berth in the playoffs is like getting a free pass to a whole new season. Anything can happen.

      So although games like the one against the Ducks was frustrating, I admire your positivity. I can only hope that your “naivety” rubs off on some of the other fans that peruse this site and call the Canadiens “their team”.

  4. lissa7 says:

    You made me smile, Iain – you have a deal, in the entire first paragraph!

    I have been a contributor to hockey talking/tweeting since last season. I have felt intimidated by those who have been breathing hockey since they were born, because I haven’t felt my opinion was informed. But looking at the whole picture, I am now confident it is. Why? Because hockey is a microcosm of life. It is business, it is competitiveness – self and other, it is cooperation with others and it is team spirit. It is growth of a physical, mental and (big underscore here) emotional. It is also a mob mentality, and I’ve never been one to go along with that. So with the experiences I have in life, and in hockey (as both a hockey mom and a fan of the game and of my team), I will now go forth with confidence that my opinion is as informed as the next person’s. That is, of course, as long as I am not veering into the field of stats, history or financial aspect of it!

    I am not a hot-headed person (though I can be TOO optimistic, bleeding into idealistic) so I can’t join all those calling for heads to roll. Correction: unless it’s reffing. The overtime against Pittsburgh still burns me and the question of accountability among refs is still a hot topic in my own head.

    I just love my Habs, I don’t (and CAN’T) trash talk them, I don’t even trash talk other teams. I just enjoy some fierce rivalry without stooping to the negative.

    I will be such a regular contributor in comments you will wonder what you wished for! *grins*

  5. Melissa says:

    I’ve been noticing this trend for years and I will agree a lot of it is a mental aspect. It makes sense a team walks in and thinks ‘yeah, these guys aren’t playing too hot we can take it easy tonight’ and then they realize they’re losing and can’t get that momentum started to pull a win out. I’ve noticed when I play hockey, I tend to play to the level of the players around me (so that could be happening too). It’s not that I even mean to… But it seems when I play against not so good players and I could wheel through a whole team I don’t. I think it’s almost if the other team lacks intensity, it brings my energy and desire to play down. My best games have been against good opponents and then I want to try hard, I fight for the puck and score goals.

    Btw- on a funny note… I chuckled reading Subban’s name after black hole.

    • Absolutely true there Melissa. This is not a new phenomenon.

      Again, it’s good to get the perspective from someone who plays competitive hockey at such a high level. I think we can take what you’re saying and apply it to almost every walk of life as well. I think most people tend to coast with the coasters, and elevate their performance around the hard workers.

      The issue that I have with that is, the teams that rise above that mentality, and go out every night to be leaders of their craft, are the teams that rise above and become championship teams. Having said that, no team will be perfect on every night out.

      Thanks for leaving an insiders look at what it’s like competing out there. As you know – I always look forward to your comments!

  6. SharkCircle says:

    Sharks perspective here. First, I wouldn’t fire Martin. I think hes one of the brightest defensive minds in the game. You can blame him for a poor offense if you want but I dont know that the Canadiens have enough firepower to be a good offensive team anyway, and theres no question Martin has maximized the team’s defending. Unless Im having a brain freeze and this was a different, Martin was the mind behind the upset against Washington and Pittsburgh in the playoffs. I think the Canadiens definitely have some underrated talent on the team, and the goaltending was great, but more than anything thats all coaching. Thats Martin.

    So the start may be poor this year, but Martin is a great defensive coach. I dont know that you get better firing him.

    As for the Sharks game, thats just the Sharks. They have 14 wins this year, and Im not sure theres been more than 1 or 2 that have been by more than 1 goal when you dont count empty-netters. They always just seem to get exactly what they need when they need it, and just enough to barely win the game and escape with the victory.

    it didnt help that you guys are short on defense. The Sharks just keep throwing that forecheck at you all period long when theyre trailing, and all it takes is one mistake by a young defenseman or a bad rebound by Price in this instance for them to tie the game.

    Anyway, I just found your blog Iain, and Ill be sure to add it to my blogroll now.

    Shark Circle

  7. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, awesome blog!

    • Hi Sharyn,

      Thanks a ton for stopping by. I’m always thrilled to hear from readers that enjoy the content, and I hope you’ll come and visit often. Make sure you subscribe, and add us on Facebook too. That way you won’t miss a single article.

      Thanks again and happy reading!

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