If there is one thing that the Habs excel at in this almost expired 2010 NHL season, it is in being inconsistent.
Whether from game-to-game or period-to-period, this ever changing team seems to have tremendous difficulty playing a full 60 minutes and maintaining rhythm.
Last night, against the lowly Carolina Hurricanes, the Habs started the game in a dominating fashion. But, as an all too familiar scene repeated itself, the Habs could only manage one goal—Marc-Andre Bergeron's 11th of the season on the power play—during a first period where they outshot the Canes 12-2.
The Canadiens were outshooting the Canes 25-10 after two and 35-27 overall, but Carolina was able to turn the tide in the third, shelling Price with 17 shots.
The story of the game, however, was Carolina's Cam Ward, a perennial thorn in the Habs' side. Ward was at the top of his game last night, making a myriad of spectacular saves to keep it a one goal game until Carolina was able to get on the board.
Once they did, the Habs seemed panicked and had a tough time organizing any kind of offense.
NOTE - Sergei Kostitsyn left the game in the first period, came back for a shift in the second and did not return for the rest of the night. RDS and TSN were both reporting last night that it was a lower body injury.
Final score: Habs 1 - Carolina 2
1. The loss was not Price's fault, but why was he in net?
OK, first things first: You will not win many games in the NHL by scoring one goal. It just doesn't happen and by doing so you are requiring a shutout from your goaltender in order to win.
While shutouts do happen, if you cannot score more than one or two goals a game you will simply not do very well in this league.
Price, who was not tested early, was brilliant in the third period as his team completely fell apart in front of him. Missed assignments, poor gap control, low percentage passes, and tons of turnovers meant that Price had to be sharp to keep the Canes off of the board.
Despite Price's best efforts, he still earned the loss. This is an all too familiar scenario this year and, again, I do not blame Price for the loss.
The head scratcher for me, is why was Price in the net to start with? It is clear that Jaroslav Halak gives the Canadiens the best chance to win, night in and night out. So what was Coach Martin thinking and why put Price in net now? Is he still hoping that he'll turn the corner, with five games to play?
News flash Jacques: It's not going to happen this year. Next year, maybe, but this is not his year.
2. The first line seems to be finding their rhythm again.
While neither Tomas Plekanec, Michael Cammalleri, or Andrei Kostitsyn had any points last night, all three were dangerous for the Habs.
The Habs first line—which was on fire before Cammalleri missed 17 games due to injury—looked like they were starting to remember how to play with each other again.
I am not sure how many more perfect or "gimmie" goals AK46 can miss or whiff on, but you would have to imagine that once he starts putting them in, it will make a big difference in the win column.
With five more games to play, the Canadiens better hope that they start getting some points and fast.
3. Cam Ward put on a resplendent performance but did the Habs make him look good?
There is no question that Ward has made a career out of stoning the Montreal Canadiens dating back to the 2006 playoffs. Last night was no exception as Ward made 25 saves over the first two periods—many of the miraculous variety—to keep the Canes in it long enough to make a comeback.
The problem is that the Habs seem to have that problem a lot this season. So is this a chicken and egg story? Are goaltenders really always standing on their head in Montreal or is the Habs anemic offense simply helping them to look like stars?
Keep in mind that the Habs are the worst team in the league 5-on-5.
4. Is Maxim Lapierre thinking of joining the party?
Last night, Lapierre quietly gave one of his best performances of the season. He was combative, gritty, poking at the goaltender after whistles, and generally annoying the Canes players.
In addition, Max used his considerable speed to wreak havoc in the opposing zone and was usually first on the puck.
While one game does not make a turnaround, it was good to see flashes of the extremely useful player of last season. If Lapierre has not yet figured out that his job is in peril in the offseason, then I think he is as good as gone.
Standings and Next Game
After winning six in a row and seven out of eight after the Olympic break, the Habs have now lost five out of their last six games. With 82 points in 77 games, they have now dropped down to eighth overall in the East.
It is amazing that only a week or so ago they were looking at the possibility of grabbing the fifth spot in the East.
Ahead of the Canadiens in the standings—but tied in points—are The Bruins and Flyers, both with 82 points and 76 games played.
Behind the Habs are Atlanta (80 points, 77 games played) and the Rangers (78 points, one game in hand).
The Canadiens now have a day off before taking on the Flyers in Philadelphia on Friday and then the Sabres in Montreal on Saturday. After the weekend, the Canadiens have only three games left in their season and their current losing streak has not made things any easier for them.
Anyone else think that their playoff chances might come down to their last game against the Leafs in Montreal?