The same night Montreal welcomed sniper Michael Cammalleri back into the lineup, they put forth their most disorganized performance of the season.
For a team whose claim to fame is that they play a five-man unit in all three zones, their "system" was nowhere to be found.
Replacing the five-man unit was five islands, not communicating, not working together and always out of position. The only one who looked like they knew what was going on was Carey Price, and he can't do it all by himself.
It it wasn't for Price's phenomenal play, Pittsburgh would have easily scored five or six goals on the night.
It's true that the season is still young because it's only five games in. But with a 1-4-1 record so far, the Habs had better right the ship soon.
As my HabsAddict.com colleague, Louis Moustakas pointed out—quoting Elliotte Freidman—since the lockout, only seven percent of teams that were three or more points out of the playoffs by November 1st, recover to make the postseason dance.
Considering Montreal is currently 14th in the East and November 1st is only 11 days away, the clock is clearly ticking.
PSH Numbers: Pittsburgh dominated 52 percent to Montreal's 48, while posting a 215 momentum rating to Montreal's 201.
Final Score: Pens 3 - Habs 1
Juggling act - What is wrong with Jacques Martin? Seriously? Cammalleri starts the game on the fourth line with Mathieu Darche and Andreas Engqvist?
I know it was only for a shift or two, but why? To make sure he was ready? If he was in the lineup then he was ready and should have started on the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Erik Cole.
And why was Moen still on a line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta? Wouldn't it make more sense to put Lars Eller on their wing with Cammalleri on the Plekanec line and Moen on the fourth, possibly providing more of an offensive boost?
No? Is it me?
Alas, this is one of many problems with Jacques Martin's style: he goes the safe, cautious and conservative route far too often. Play it safe. Be passive. Prevent, prevent, prevent.
That's why, with Montreal trailing by two goals midway through the game, the Habs continued to play the trap.
It was fun while it lasted - With the Habs scrambling in the defensive zone and firing blanks offensively, Coach Martin spun his roulette wheel of line combinations again.
The result was that Montreal's best line over the last two games—David Desharnais centering Max Pacioretty and Andrei Kostitsyn—was dismantled early.
Once the dismantling started it seemed like it didn't stop until the final buzzer. The result was that we even saw Cammalleri playing a shift or two with Desharnais.
As I stated recently, what made the DD-Patches-AK46 combo so good was that the two big wingers created space for Desharnais to work his magic.
As good as Cammalleri is, his 5'9 frame isn't about to make things easier for DD.
I struggle to understand why I see this and fans see this but, for some reason, the Canadiens coaching staff does not seem to.
Sufferin' Subban - It's no secret that P.K. Subban hasn't had a great start to the season. Part of the problem is that he seems to be trying to do too much. Be too fancy. Overthink things.
The other problem is that, unlike parts of last season, Subban is a known commodity in the league. As such, and as the prime skilled defenseman on the backend, teams are basing their shut down of the Canadiens on shutting down Subban.
As a result, he's seeing a lot more attention this year.
Now don't get me wrong, because Josh Gorges, Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz and others on the Habs backend have skill. But in the absence of Andrei Markov, Subban is the undeniable No. 1 defenseman on this team.
And right now, he seems to be withering under the pressure that buoyed him to greatness last season.
Not to worry, however, because Subban has the confidence and work ethic to find his way through the forest. That and hopefully for Montreal, Markov will be back in November.
No Crosby, no Malkin, no problem - What a well coached, well rounded team the Penguins are.
Without superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their lineup, not to mention Kris Letang serving a suspension, the Pens were no worse for wear. So much so, that James Neal potted his seventh goal of the season against the Habs last night.
In case you're counting, that ties him with Phil Kessel for tops in the league in that department.
Unlike the depleted Pens, Montreal does not seem able to overcome their injuries—which became more plentiful when Scott Gomez left the game in the first period last night.
So why is the margin of error so slight for the Habs and not so for the equally injured Pens?
It comes down to coaching and the system each team employs.
The Jacques Martin system is all about prevent, safety, playing not to lose. The Pens, on the other hand, attack and take the play to the opposition—as they did all game last night.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Jacques Martin's system works fantastically when the Canadiens have the lead. But it's a style that does not allow for many victories when the Habs are trailing.
And hey, if you're down by two goals and are still using the one-man forecheck with everyone else sitting back in the neutral zone, that's what's going to happen.
Power outage - Speaking of slim margins of error, the Habs path to glory this season is undoubtedly paved by special teams.
Over the last few seasons, and since Jacques Martin took over the coaching reigns, that Habs have always had top-10 special teams, especially the power play.
With woeful 5-on-5 scoring, it's their power play that has made them a playoff team over the last few years.
So far this season, things are not going according to Hoyle.
Montreal has the 25th ranked PP at eight percent efficiency and the 14th ranked PK at 84 percent.
The PK is respectible but, in absence of any kind of scoring punch, Montreal absolutely needs to average one PP goal per game.
Last night, with the Pens leading by two in the second frame, Pittsburgh handed Montreal three straight power plays. Not only were the Habs unable to score, but they struggled to even gain the offensive zone.
Things got so bad that at one point you saw Gorges on the point on the PP. That smacks of pure desperation to me, and shows that the coaches just didn't know what you do.
Not a good sign.
Up Next - The Habs have the day off before taking on the red-hot Leafs at the Bell Centre Saturday night. Toronto is coming off a 6-2 spanking at the hands of the Bruins, but have otherwise been playing inspired hockey thus far.
It is only five games in and Montreal still has plenty of time to turn things around. But if their skid reaches three straight losses—with a loss to the Leafs—and one regulation win in seven games, look for the panic button to be pushed in earnest.
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/
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(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America)