The Montreal Canadiens lost 2-0 to the Washington Capitals last night at the Bell Centre, getting shut out for a third game in a row.
The last time Montreal was shut out three games in a row, Maurice Richard was leading the charge, and the year was 1949.
If that wasn't bad enough, the shutout loss was the Habs' ninth loss by shutout this season, a record of futility for the Canadiens' organization.
So do you think this team has problems scoring?
After getting destroyed by the Bruins on Thursday, you really thought Montreal would bring a solid effort to the rink. Unfortunately for Habs fans, the Canadiens let in an early first period goal, took penalty after penalty, looked frustrated all night and managed only 18 shots on net in the process.
To the Caps' credit, they played a smart, patient game and used their size to completely shut down the middle of the ice.
Carey Price was once again the only player who showed up for Montreal.
With the Habs trailing by a goal, a brutal neutral zone turnover led Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin down the ice for a 2-on-1. Semin potted a sweet feed from Backstrom to close out the game with 3:41 to play.
For the record, Montreal has now gone 186:05 without a goal, while being outscored 11-0 since beating the Wild on March 20.
Final score: Caps 2, Habs 0
Habs scorers: None
Caps scorers: Marco Sturm (5), Alexander Semin (26)
- Carey Price
- Braden Holtby
- Marco Strum
Tomas Plekanec Still Has a Ways to Go.
In his second game back after missing five due to injury, Tomas Plekanec still isn't playing up to par.
He turned over the puck at the Caps' blue line on an early shift, leading to a 2-on-1 break for Washington.
Marco Strum put the puck past Price to make it 1-0.
After the goal though, with the Habs handing several man-advantages to the Caps, Plekanec started to play a little better.
Shortly after the second penalty kill, he chipped the puck past the Caps' defender, then turned on the afterburners, setting up a 2-on-1 with Andrei Kostitsyn.
AK46 wasn't able to convert Plek's beautiful saucer pass, but that play gave the Habs a ton of momentum.
I think it's pretty clear Plekanec has not yet fully recovered from his injury. That being said, he looked better last night than the previous game. So hopefully, for the Habs' sake, he will only get better from here.
The Habs Have No Confidence.
That's what happens when you are on a losing streak. You get stuck in a funk, and right now, the Habs just don't believe in themselves.
The Canadiens are certainly not an elite team, but they are also not as bad as the one we have seen the last few games. Last night, as the game wore on and Montreal's offense continued to fire blanks, their frustration became palpable.
Sights of players gritting their teeth, swearing, constantly arguing with the refs and linesmen, slamming their sticks on the ice and otherwise expressing their angst, became commonplace.
The only person who seemed to have their wits about them was Price.
The funny thing is that the Bell Centre crowd, often able to will their heroes to victory, were just as frustrated as the players. By the mid-point of the second period, there was a smattering of boos for the homeboys.
By the third it was a chorus.
On the bench, the Habs looked like a defeated bunch with slumped postures and heads down.
It is a truism of human nature that winning and losing are both equally contagious, and right now, the Habs are suffering from the plague of defeat. With six games left in their season, you figure Montreal will get a win at some point.
But until that happens, it looks like they need a priest to exorcise their demons.
No Ovechkin, No Problem.
Much has been made this year about the midseason system change that Washington made. It was a tough road for a while, as the all-out-offensive system was changed for one that offers more balance and a tougher overall opponent.
Last night the Caps were missing their best offensive threat in Alexander Ovechkin. In addition, their best offensive-defenseman, Mike Green, continued to be on the sidelines.
The Caps' new system is bigger than one or two players though, and the Caps seemed largely unaffected by these huge absences last night.
The work that Bruce Boudreau has done this season is truly remarkable and puts him in the Coach of the Year conversation. His team now plays a system rather than a style.
The Caps' new way of playing has won them 12 of their last 14 games, including the win over the Habs.
A Tale of Two Goalies.
Is it just me, or does Braden Holtby remind you a lot of Carey Price?
Big, position-solid, lighting quick reflexes and, above all, cool as a cucumber.
While the Caps are looking like the team to beat in the East, their one potential Achilles' heel is their goaltending.
Don't get me wrong, Holtby looks really good, as does Michal Neuvirth for that matter, but none of the Caps' net-minders are playoff proven.
That doesn't mean they will fail come playoff time, just that they are the one question mark for the Caps.
For Montreal, Price bounced back nicely from the seven-goal shellacking at the hands of the Bruins—Price let in five goals that game before being pulled. More importantly, he continues to be the only player who shows up for Montreal night in and night out.
As has been the case far too often this season, Price was once again the only reason this game wasn't over early.
I firmly believe Price lost any chance at the Vezina Trophy in the game against the Bruins, but he continues to make a strong case for the Hart Trophy.
Can you imagine how bad this team would be without him?
Standings and Next Game.
The Habs' recent tailspin has put them in an extremely precarious position in the standings.
Montreal remains stalled in sixth with 87 points, now tied with the Rangers, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Buffalo, 2-0 winners over the Devils, are now only two points back of the Canadiens with one game in hand.
So while Tampa is only four points ahead of Montreal, the objects in their rearview mirror are truly larger than they appear. The Habs now have two days off before taking on the Atlanta Thrashers, who are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the "Sunday Shinny" on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8:00-9:00 a.m. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/