It’s been tough
sledding skating in the first weeks of the season for the Habs (1-4-1). If it weren’t for the winless Blue Jackets, the Habs would be dead last in the NHL. A spot that doesn’t sit well with either Matt, our correspondant du Canadiens, or the rest of the team’s fan base. Monday night finds them hosting the Panthers (4-3-0) at Bell. Bonne chance et s’elever ensemble!
When I’m depressed I clean. My house has never been cleaner. A friend asked me “Why so glum, chum?” and all I could do was look over at my Canadiens beer cozy and my eyes welled up. He told me that maybe I should let the straight guys worry about professional sports and get on with my life.
After rolling my eyes in disgust I told him sports has nothing to do with being gay or straight. Habs fan are used to being cocky and full of bravado, deservedly so in most years. But this is not most years. The team has won something like 2 games, including the pre-season, and is now 29th in the NHL with only the Blue Jackets faring worse.
Telling a Habs fan “it gets better” is not an easy sell since there seems so little to hope for at the moment. After being #1 during many years, telling a Habs fan they are #29 elicits the same response (anger, denial, hate) as you would get if you told a red state citizen that no, actually the US is now only #1 in the categories of total amount of national debt and nuclear weapons.
Let’s review the highlights and lowlights from the three games…
SABRES 10/18: The Habs lost 3-1 despite the fact that they outshot the Sabres with 41 to 23 shots on goal. Diaz lost his virginity and got his first NHL career goal. The Habs seemed fast and aggressive but coordination amongst the players appeared haphazard.
The defence kept leaving Price wide open to the Sabres advances, though Price was working his ass off flopping around the net and dropping to his knees. Subban exhibited tons of energy but no focus. Max Pacioretty deservedly got 2 stars for his 27 shots fired at Miller. But one player does not a team make, and I wondered why Plekanec and Gionta weren’t doing their fair share of the play making – especially since Cammaleri was out due to an injury. The Montreal power play was lackluster and unproductive, a fact made worse by the appearance that the Habs were relying solely on power plays for making goals.
PENGUINS 10/20: Coach Martin had reportedly been yelling at he team and extending practices but the result was still disappointing: Another 3-1 loss, despite the return of Cammaleri to the lineup.
Price seemed to be playing in slow motion and once AGAIN seemed to be defending the net all by himself – the defence just standing around and watching the Pens shoot on goal. I lost count of how many times the Habs iced the puck.
The Penguins, smelly Antarctic water fowl that they are, were hitting hard. Gomez was injured and left the game. Pacioretty also got injured but came back shortly afterwards. Gionta bowled Fleury over and miraculously was not penalized. The Pens led in all stats by the end of the game and sent the Habs packing.
MAPLE LEAFS 10/22: Gionta once again pulled his goalie roughing stunt, smacking Reimer in the face and sending him out of the game. Hardly of the same caliber as the infamous Chara hit on Pacioretty last year, but cringe worthy even for a Habs fan.
One Leafs’ fan’s comment that Montreal should be burned down in retaliation I thought was overboard – an offensive. Moen’s short handed goal early in the first period restored my team spirit but anger over the hit on Reimer was palatable and Price was the target of the Leafs’ wrath even though he wasn’t the one that made the hit.
At one point Grabowski actually mounted Price’s face, something that I think he should have left for me to do after the game. The Leafs also seemed unusually focused on ramming Subban every chance they got, beating down Montreal’s haphazard defence even more.
The Habs kept getting penalties, including twice for too many men on the ice – incroyable! The game was fast and extremely aggressive, as I predicted. The power play continued to be pointless (zero shots on goal) and the icings abundant.
Price flopped around like a fish out of water, but with little assistance the poor guy must’ve been exhausted. The Moen-Pacioretty-Eller line was by far the best line of the night. The game went into Overtime, where the Leafs quickly scored the winning goal. Score: 5-4.
So what the hell is going on? Everybody has their theories. My observations include incoherent teamwork, defencemen asleep at the wheel, sloppy discipline as far as avoidable penalties go, way too much icing of the puck, and the absence of key players (Spacek will be back this week hopefully and Markov sometime in November). Many fans, bloggers, and reporters have been calling for coach Martin’s head, wondering if Assistant Coach Muller’s departure left a big hole, blaming the youth of the team (so many players under age 25), seeking trades, and bitterly noting the pitiful power plays.
So maybe some more practice, especially on the special teams, and working on coordinating plays as a team would be a good start. Beefing up the defence is a must. A little more hitting would also help – it sure helped those filthy Penguins.
This next week includes 4 games – with two against the Bruins at the end of the week. Nothing would restore team pride and fan allegiance than at least one victory over the Bruins. It sure would be nice to have something to smile about and celebrate for a change. I’d be glad to let the housecleaning slide once the Habs are back to their winning selves – and hire a dejected Bruins fan to do the windows instead!
Thanks to Erica at the AllHabs.net Blog for the compliments and linking to my Habs articles here on Puckbuddy’s. Chalk another one up for the enduring straight women – gay men alliance.
And a big thanks to my idol, recent Canadiens alumni, Georges Laraque for taking the time to read my last article and retweet it. What an honour!
I say that he’s my idol in all sincerity because he brought the Habs the heavy hitting they are lacking this year – often done with a disarmingly radiant smile that belied a good heart.
I recall he once said that all the hitting and fighting he did on the team was “just his job”, implying that he was just a nice guy who had to beat up Bruins and other nefarious critters because he was getting paid to do it not because he was a jerk. He is also my idol because he’s the only NHL player I know of who’s participated in gay pride parades and who’s gone on after his NHL career to help make the world a better and more fair place to live – by being a leader of Canada’s Green Party.
I know many Habs fans are feeling like Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding’s goon whacked her in the knee… screaming whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? But don’t give up Canadiens fans – it WILL get better. Cup #25 is still coming our way!
S’il vous plaît suivez Matt sur twitter: @mattsko