Coming off a rousing 4-0 shutout victory over the Canes, the Habs laid a stink bomb tonight against the Islanders. It's not so much that Montreal looked tired playing their second game in 24 hours, but more that they were disorganized.
The defense that looked so good against the Canes was porous, not communicating and flipping and flopping all over the ice. The result was the Isles were able to run up a 3-0 lead before Montreal got on the board.
The Habs made a game of it in the third but it was too little too late.
Habs backup, Peter Budaj, playing his third game of the season, didn't get things done. It's not that the loss was his fault, mind you. It wasn't. But Budaj didn't make any key saves.
Mmmm, ok maybe one in the third, but that's it.
Poor goaltending and a porous defense? Sounds like a loss to me.
Final score: Isles 4 - Habs 3
Some interesting non-game related numbers - Prior to the Isles game:
-Montreal had the best road penalty kill in the league—two goals against in 41 short-handed situations (95.1 percent).
-The Canadiens had allowed only six goals against over the previous four games.
-The Habs were 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
-Michael Cammalleri scored his 27th career game winning against the Canes.
-The win over the Canes was Jacques Martin's 608th career win, placing him ninth overall in NHL history.
Protection - Erik Cole has some of the best puck protection skills in the league.
Easily top-10 if not top-5.
His combination of speed, a nose for the net and puck protection are constantly drawing penalties too. If you watch Cole cut to the net, he always kicks out his right or left leg, as needed, to protect the puck.
This move often causes opposing defenseman to haul him down as they go for the puck, hitting his skate and knocking him down in the process. Cole did as much, against the Isles, drawing the Habs second powerplay of the night.
He truly seems to have an endless supply of skills in his impressive bag of tricks.
Adrenaline ebb - The game day talk was about how the Canadiens inexperienced defense had played so well against the Canes on Wednesday.
With players like Yannick Weber, Alexei Emelin, Frederic St. Denis and Raphael Diaz in the lineup, the Habs backend looked a lot like an AHL lineup.
That being said, buoyed by the excitement and adrenaline of the moment, they played some inspired hockey against the Canes.
Against the Isles, however, things were completely different.
Montreal's inexperienced defense played the way you would have expected against the Canes; out of position, missing assignments, crossing signals and otherwise looking discombobulated.
Their defensive problems were never more evident than in the second where they allowed two quick Isles goals. Montreal pushed back a little but those two goals ultimately did them in.
I guess the adrenaline wore off.
Even the two veterans, P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges, had off nights, finishing a collective minus-4.
That's just not good enough.
Well that didn't take long - It seems that Scott Gomez has earned his way back to center. Well, at least according to Jacques Martin he earned it.
I mean how else do you explain Gomez centering the third line with Lars Eller shifted to the wing?
This is the move that I had been dreading for a while, because Eller is so much better at center. Sadly, I knew it was coming.
To his credit, Gomez played a great game against the Canes on Wednesday but come on.
He hasn't scored in 46 games. 46. And he's done little over the last two seasons to show he deserves more ice time than, say, Eller, or Cole.
Worst of all, with the Isles clinging to a one-goal lead, Peter Budaj on the bench and less than a minute to play, Gomez was on the ice. Why? For what reason? How about Max Pacioretty or David Desharnais or Erik Cole?
It seems that Martin's love for his veterans players can't be suppressed for long, no matter how ineffective they are.
Stat of the night - Scott Gomez played exactly 14 seconds more than Erik Cole—Gomez had 16:38 of ice time to Cole's 16:24. Oh, and Gomez ended the night a minus-2 while Cole was even.
Question of the night - Which is the real Montreal Canadiens team: the one that smeared the Canes or came out flat against the Isles?
Up Next - The Habs have Friday off before their biggest challenge of the season on Saturday night: the New York Rangers.
These are the same Rangers who have 23 points in 16 games, are 8-1-1 in their last 10 and have won seven straight games. I guess we'll find out Saturday which version of the Habs show up.
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 Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)