Canadiens-Hurricanes: Habs Fail to Clinch, Then There Was One.

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IApril 8, 2010

MONTREAL- NOVEMBER 17:  Jussi Jokinen #36 of the Carolina Hurricanes and Mike Cammalleri #13 of the Montreal Canadiens mix it up during the NHL game on November 17, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Carolina 5, Montreal 2 (RBC Center)

posted by Rocket
All Habs

from Invictus (adapted)

Nelson Mandela: How long before the Stanley Cup playoffs?
Jim Fleming: Don't get your hopes up. We're a damn disgrace!

Canadiens' fans were in a snarly mood after this one. And with good reason!

Let's trot out the cliches.

The Canadiens showed no intensity, and no sense of urgency. Players lacked passion. The team came out flat.

Those phrases could apply to every member of the team, with one notable exception: Brian Gionta. Yet, it was the kind of game where even Gionta was less than perfect. He failed to corral a rebound leading to the first Carolina goal.

“Leaders get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.” -- Bob Nelson

It's safe to say that coach Jacques Martin hasn't found the formula to motivate his team. Nailing a handful of players to the bench isn't exactly stoking anyone's passion, nor helping them learn
and build confidence.

Martin has his favorites, and those he likes to persecute. Some, like Sergei Kostitsyn, have a short leash, and others, like Marc-Andre Bergeron, have a boatload of mulligans.

As for Gionta, he has his own built-in fire, and the switch is on from the drop of the puck. Perhaps Martin could learn a thing or two about leadership from Gionta. Or the coach could have just done the smart thing and name him captain earlier in the season.

There were more emotional decisions tonight from the so-called non-emotional coach. After the game Martin said, "There were a lot of guys I wasn't happy with."

Blogger extraordinaire, Kevin vanSteendelaar tweeted this response, "Well a lot of guys and gals are unhappy with you!" Very true, sir!

Some may point to the play of Carolina goaltender, Cam Ward. Both Ward and Jaroslav Halak made solid saves in the first period, which ended scoreless. But just as the Hurricanes found ways to beat Halak, it was incumbent on the Montreal forwards to do the same against Ward.

The Canadiens could have used the man advantage to crack Ward but ended the night 0-for-2. The power play has a dismal success rate of 13 per cent since the Olympics.

But little was working for the Habs tonight.

As coach Martin admitted, the Canadiens weren't ready to play. He could have added that they were ill prepared.

With tonight's loss, the Canadiens will look towards Saturday's game against Toronto to actively secure a place in the playoffs. There is still a chance, albeit slim, that the Habs could miss the post-season with a loss to the Leafs and two wins by the Rangers over the Flyers.

The most likely scenario is that the Canadiens will make the playoffs, barely, but will have flushed their chance at the sixth place position in the Conference given their poor performances against the Hurricanes and Islanders, two non-playoff teams.

The Leafs and their fans will now relish the opportunity to have a say in the Canadiens' playoff fortunes. Toronto visits the Bell Centre on Saturday night for the Habs' final regular season game.

Rocket's three stars

1. Eric Staal
2. Chad Larose
3. Jamie McBain

Player quotes from wire services were used in this report