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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Canadiens - Hurricanes: Third Period Collapse Ends Habs Streak at Four

Many Habs addicts are upset this morning over the Canadiens' 5-3 loss to the Canes last night. But what did they expect? That the Habs would win every game from here till the end of the season?

There were a lot of positives in the match, namely the continued excellent performance of young guns like Lars Eller and David Desharnais.

P.K. Subban too seems to be playing better, simpler hockey and is a more effective player as a result.

Last night's loss was a game the Habs could have and probably should have won. But short-handed and power play goals by the Canes in the third, we're all the Canes would need to collect the two points.

Montreal is now stalled at seven points back of the eighth overall Leafs. Worse yet, the Canes are now only two points behind the Habs in the standings.

At the end of the day, you can't win 'em all. The problem is that to make the playoffs, Montreal needs to.

Game Notes

Crash-bang - You've got to love the way the Habs set a physical tone early in the game. In the first five minutes of play, Rene Bourque, Eric Cole, P.K. Subban and Alexei Emelin all threw thunderous body checks.

Emelin, in particular, got under the Canes' skin early with a low-bridge hit on Anthony Stewart.

But more than just the physicality, the Habs came out of the gates like race horses. Skating hard, driving to the net and showing the same determination that had won them their last four games.

Unfortunately, an early goal by the Canes took all the air out of their balloon and led to their defeat.

Why? - Jaroslav Spacek, who was playing his first game at the Bell Centre against his former team, was booed every time he touched the puck.

I don't get it.

Was it because he spewed his guts about the farcical situation that existed in Montreal when he was traded? Was it because he used to play for the Habs and now doesn't?

I get fans booing, say, Zdeno Chara who after almost murdering Max Pacioretty remains public enemy No. 1. But Spacek?

Say what you will about the aging veteran, but he gave the Habs some good years of service and was a good soldier. And he should be respected as such.

What a turn around! - If Lars Eller's performance under Randy Cunneyworth has been impressive, an almost equally impressive turn around has been from Mathieu Darche.

This is a guy who was one of, it not the, top unsung heroes for the Habs last season. This year? He's been largely invisible, has looked slow and, overall, like he doesn't belong in the league anymore.

That was until about five games ago. All of a sudden, Darche looks like the player he was last season, giving every ounce of his being on every shift and being rewarded for his hard work.

Darche finished the game with one assist, two shots on goal and 17:41 of icetime. That's fifth overall after Eric Cole, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec.

Not bad for a fourth line plugger.

Attitude - I think one of the biggest changes that Cunneyworth has brought to the Canadiens is a positive attitude. Moreover, this team doesn't quit like they used to.

The first five minute aside, Montreal was terrible against the Canes through the first half of the game. Giveaways, missed passes, poor defensive zone coverage. They actually looked a lot like the Leafs did on Saturday night.

Lost.

To be honest, if it wasn't for Carey Price, the Canes would probably have had a three or four goal lead early.

That aside, the Habs didn't throw in the towel, roaring back to score three second period goals in a six minute span to take the lead. This ability to come back and put the pedal to the metal, was entirely absent over the first 40 or so games of the season.

I think it's no real surprise too, considering the type of NHL player Cunneyworth himself was. For those who don't know, he wasn't the most skilled but was always the hardest working.

He never took a shift off and never quit. Ever. Despite the loss, it seems like his work ethic has finally rubbed off on his players.

Stat of the night - 21. That is the number of times this season the Habs have held the lead only to lose the game.

Ugly.

Question of the night - Will Ryan White slot into the lineup tomorrow night against the Boston Bruins? You'd have to think that yes, he will. But what about Ian Schultz?

Word is that he was called up as a precautionary measure because of injuries and likely won't play. But is there a better opponent for his than the rough and tumble Bruins?

UPDATE - Ian Schultz has been sent back down to Hamilton.

Up next - The Habs travel to Boston where they take on the division leading Bruins on Wednesday in Boston.

To say that Boston is a dominant team would be the understatement of the year. They are currently a league-leading plus-64 for their goals-for/against differential. They also sit in second overall in the East and fourth league-wide.

Montreal will certainly have their work cut out for them trying to prevent this loss from turning into a two-game skid.

---
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny segment of The Franchise weekend morning show, 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 Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

6 comments:

Good stuff Kamal!

Can't help but feel that, with White and Schultz up along with Darche's playing time increasing, Moen looks like he is on his way out.

As for last night's loss, tale of the season really.

@Louis: Yep, the White and Schultz calls up would make one think that Moen is on his way out. The problem, right now, is the mysterious upper-body injury he is suffering from.

Word is that it might be a head injury and, with about two weeks till the trade deadline, this could not have happened at a worse time for the Habs most tradeable asset.

@KP

Can't help but wonder if they are holding him back because he is on the block and that perhaps his injury is not so bad. At least, that's what I hope!

For the record, I think Gill is the most tradeable asset, especially with Gleason, Beauchemin and now Sutton all with new deals.

@Louis: True, Gill is a high value asset at this point too, but I still feel he is a little less so than Moen. Strictly because Moen has some good years left in the tank whereas Gill, well, is close to the end if not already there.

Still, it's splitting hairs, imo...

Why doesn't Kaberle get benched for that ugly turnover that cost us the game. He makes me sick, so little tenacity, no fight! He took all that momentum they built through hard work and testicular fortitude and gave it away like a present. The estrogen levels soaring as he flounders to get a grasp of the enormous blunder he committed. I laughed when the Bruins signed him and now I'm crying!

@Anon: Ya, that was a brutal giveaway by Kaberle. But he really does come as advertised. Sure he can put up points but he is horrible in his end of the rink.

Plus he's soft and never shoots the puck. What he does do well, is getting the puck up the ice.

Overall, a pretty one-dimensional player and one which the Habs made a HUGE mistake in acquiring, imo.

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