Some had predicted the result.
The Vancouver Canucks were off to a win-less start after three games and their star goaltender, Roberto Luongo, had looked less than ordinary. Luongo was facing his home-town team. Montreal had seven straight losses in Vancouver.
The Canadiens were playing the second game in consecutive nights and the fourth game of a long road trip. The team was still trying to adjust to injuries to three players from their lineup. Most importantly, their best player and potential captain would be missing for quite some time.
So, all signs pointed to a Canuck victory, and that's exactly what happened. The story can be wrapped up in a nice, neat little bow.
But that's far too simplistic.
Coaches have to adjust to plugging holes in their lineup caused by injuries. Road trips are not new to players. And playing against a motivated team should only help ramp up a team's effort.
It's far too easy to say that the Canadiens were destined to lose this game. That train of thought also dismisses accountability.
The game was lost in the first period. The Canadiens were outplayed and outshot 14-to-4. Some will point fingers at the defensemen but the Canadiens' breakdowns actually originated in the neutral zone with poor coverage by the forwards. This has been a common problem for the Habs in the first four games.
Ryan Kesler accepted a pass in full flight, split the Canadiens defense of Hal Gill and Yannick Weber, went in all alone and gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead. The pass never should have made it through. Max Lapierre must do a better job defending the passing lanes in the neutral zone. Having said that, Gill should be able to anticipate the play.
Lapierre's line was on the ice for the Canucks' second goal as well. The Canadiens' third line did not play well ending the game a collective minus seven. Lapierre was a weak 13 percent on faceoffs.
After a poor first period, the Jekyll and Hyde Canadiens dominated the first half of the second period. The Canucks recorded their first shot on goal 11 minutes into the period. At that point, the Habs already had 14 shots on goal. But they could only score one goal in that time, a quick snap shot by Andrei Kostitsyn that fooled Luongo.
For the last 29 minutes of the game, it was all Vancouver. They outshot Montreal 21-to-10 and scored four more goals. The Canadiens gave up far too many odd-man rushes, including a two on zero. Simple mistakes like line changes were also a problem resulting in a goal against and a too many men penalty.
Coming into the game, the Habs were struggling on special teams ranking 20th on the powerplay and 21st on penalty killing in the league. Tonight that trend continued with the Canadiens giving up three power play goals on five Vancouver opportunities. The Habs scored one powerplay goal of their own on four chances.
With Glen Metropolit, the Canadiens fourth line continues to sputter. Kyle Chipchura is minus four after two games. Georges Laraque spent most of the game gliding around the ice politely asking people to fight. All declined.
Hal Gill did not look particularly good in an awkward tilt with a much shorter Rick Rypien. Gill's fight did help pad the Canadiens' penalty statistics. The team entered the game tied with San Jose for the most fighting majors.
Tomas Plekanec and Paul Mara each had an assist and continue to share the Canadiens point lead with four.
Carey Price's first start in his home province will be one he will want to forget. Many of Price's teammates were quick to apologize for their poor effort after the game. Jacques Martin should be concerned about several aspects of his team but goaltending isn't one of them.
Here are a few questions that should be directed at coach Martin:
- Why is the new system so weak in the neutral zone and prone to giving up odd man chances?
- Why does a team who are playing a "puck possession game" being regularly outshot?
- With powerplay that is struggling, why does Yannick Weber get his first shift on the powerplay in the last five minutes of the game and the score 7 to 1?
- After Paul Mara and Yannick Weber had played so well together in Calgary why were they split up?
- Has the coach lost patience with some of the younger players like Greg Stewart, Kyle Chipchura and Max Pacioretty?
The Canadiens can still salvage a successful road trip with a win in Edmonton on Saturday.
Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri
Plekanec, Pacioretty, Andrei Kostitsyn
Lapierre, Latendresse, Moen
Chipchura, D'Agostini, Laraque
Carey Price starts in goal for the Canadiens, Roberto Luongo for the Canucks
scratches: Stewart, Markov (ankle, four months), Metropolit (ribs, day-to-day), O'Byrne (knee, eight weeks)
Rocket's three stars
1. Henrik Sedin
2. Ryan Kesler
3. Daniel Sedin
(photo credit: AP)
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