Habs Drop the Ball in Embarrassing Game 3 Loss

Below is a fairly angered review of last night's ''game'', but first, a word on what's going in tomorrow on TCL, Hockey Independent and Hockeybuzz!

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LIVE BLOG TOMORROW

Tomorrow night, TCL will be partnering up with Hockey Independent as well as Hockeybuzz to bring you a LIVE BLOG that will feature some of your favorite bloggers and writers from around the web! Along with myself, the event will feature Jeremy Scriven from HI and Steven Hindle and Kamal Panesar from HB. Habs fan and blogger Kyle Roussel will be dropping by and TCL's Scott Lowe will be making an appearance. And who knows? If you drop in at the right time, there may be some special guests from Hockeybuzz joining us!

More details tomorrow, but for now, don't forget to set yourself a reminder as to not miss any of the fun!

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ABOUT LAST NIGHT

As the Canadiens attempt to pick up the pieces after an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre, the accusations are already flying left and right this morning.

If it wasn't Marc-André Bergeron's fault, it was Jaroslav Halak's, or Jacques Martin's or Hal Gill's. Barely 15 hours removed from last night's game, no one is safe. Everyone to a certain extent, can, will or has had an argument made against him, after the Montreal Canadiens dropped what could have been the turning point of the series to the Washington Capitals.

What's worse, the Capitals did what they did it on the Canadiens' home soil, in front of a hungry Bell Centre crowd, that left the arena feeling sick to their stomachs, and no longer willing to take a bite. They did it while the Canadiens held all the momentum, splitting the first mini-series at the Verizon Center in Washington, and they did it while making the Canadiens look like a vastly inferior team.

Whatever the case may be in the argument of which is the better team and how much better they are than the other, last night's performance was inexcusable.

Watching that sorry excuse for a hockey game, I couldn't help but think that the Canadiens simply gave up after the first period. And that first period was all-Habs. 10 shots to the Capitals' 7 and scoring chances with matching differential, I honestly couldn't tell you how the Canadiens didn't score at least once. Semyon Varlamov, coming into the game in relief of an embarrassed José Theodore, wanted to take the victory for his team, and losing was not an option.

Quickly after that, as the second period commenced, it seemed as though the Canadiens just as quickly ran out of steam. As if they couldn't accept the fact that they didn't score in a first that would obviously be credited to them, if this was a judged sport, as if they simply shut down. And as every Habs fan watching last night's game witnessed, that's exactly when the Washington Capitals are at their most dangerous.

At first it was one goal, then two, then three... then Carey Price. While a case could be made for Jaroslav Halak in each of those three first goals, and against the defense, 3 goals on 13 shots is reason enough to bring in the reinforcements. Price gave up 2 goals, but held up the fort for the rest of the game, making 21 saves in 31 minutes of ice time.

Once the game was out of reach, the Canadiens sunk even lower, seemingly trying to blame the loss on refereeing by going after them. Scott Gomez sat out 10 minutes of the game with a misconduct for something said in a scrum, and Tomas Plekanec received a double minor; two for interference and two for complaining about the penalty.

I'll be the first to tell you that the refereeing has been less than perfect thus far in this series, but clearly this game wasn't lost on blown calls, and Plekanec and Gomez, of all people, will have to control themselves throughout the rest of this series. Plekanec, with a goal in each game so far, has been a key offensive player for the Canadiens and they can't afford to lose them for an extended period of time because he doesn't like a penalty. Same goes for Gomez. Sitting 15 minutes - he fought in game 2 - Gomez took a lot away from the Canadiens while he was out of the play. He's a key player 5-on-5, on the powerplay where he carries the cup and on the PK as well, and he can't be running around like he's a goon.

And while a disciplined Gomez and Plekanec may have helped the Canadiens once they were down, they aren't the only ones to blame.

On the backend, the defense simply crumbled. Marc-André Bergeron responded to a couple of good performances in games 1 and 2 with one of the saddest performances from a defenseman that I've ever seen. We all know that he's not a shutdown guy by any means, and that he is likely to cough up the puck when he's out there, but last night, you would be hard pressed to find a shift of his where he didn't make a mistake, and it cost the Canadiens dearly, on the 2nd and 3rd goals, among others. Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik, who were held to limited ice time, didn't look like the tandem that shut down Alexander Ovechkin in game 1. Hal Gill, who took over the role of shutting down Ovechkin, is about 30 times slower than him and was left in Ovechkin's dust on goal #4.

Let's not even get into some of the coaching decisions made by Jacques Martin, and who was benched for the majority of the game for no reason, versus who was given a large chunk of the ice time.

"It's the playoffs -- it doesn't matter if the score is 10-1 or 3-2, it's one game," said Plekanec on the subject of the game. "We'll regroup." Obviously easier said than done.

"When you look at it, it's probably 12 minutes of bad play that cost us the game," Martin argued. "There are some things that we did that were good, but it's one game and we have to be prepared to battle Wednesday.".

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WHAT'S TO COME

So, what needs to be done? While *some* in this city are already hollering for the call-up of PK Subban, we all know that isn't logical. Let him play the damn playoffs in the AHL, let him make his run for the Calder Cup, and save him the disgrace of having a minor impact on a series that the Canadiens probably won't win anyway.

Going into tomorrow's game, I fully expect to see Carey Price between the pipes. Moreover, I would hope that Ryan O'Byrne will find his way back into the line-up, and Marc-André Bergeron back in the 4th line. Mathieu Darche is best suited for a seat in the press box, and Sergei Kostitsyn, despite being on Jacques Martin's bad side, couldn't hurt this team any further in game 4.

It would also be nice to see some line and defense pair juggling. Spacek and Hamrlik have been together since the dark ages, and the Plekanec-Cammalleri-Kostitsyn trio was a combined -12. Let's see what these guys can do with new partners!

All of this might be asking for a little much, but if the Canadiens go into tomorrow's game without changing a thing, they're going to lose. Bruce Boudreau says that "(The Canadiens) have got one of the smartest, if not the smartest, coach in the NHL. They'll make adjustments and they'll come out with a lot of energy on Wednesday."`. But that obviously remains to be seen.

Habs fans can only hope that tomorrow's game will be tighter, more physical and closer on the scoreboard.

More to come, and don't forget about tomorrow's live blog!

Prax
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