Habs host Dismal Canes; 20 game mark review

The question of the day for Montreal Canadiens fans: Is it time to panic?

Most experts say that the 20 game mark is around the time when teams start to evaluate themselves, their performances to start the season, and where they see themselves going forward. The Montreal Canadiens reached that 20 game mark on Saturday night in Nashville, and needless to say, they reached it with an exclamation point.

In the 2-0 shutout, they let Carey Price face 55 shots (Price tied a franchise record with 53 saves), respondinng only with 20, half of which came in the 3rd period. The team mailed it in early in the first (as evidenced by the 24 shots they let up), and took some stupid penalties in the second and 3rd. No drive, no passion, no desire to win. While some players weren't half bad in the loss, when you lose so baddly, you can't give anyone any credit, other than Carey Price who did everything he could to keep the game from being a total embarrassment.

As a result, the Canadiens currently sit in 12th place in the east, with 9 wins and 11 losses, 4 points behind the 8th place Tampa Bay Lightning. They've scored 10 less goals than they've let up, and they've only won 2 of their 9 wins in regulation. Their special teams leave little to be desired, and their top line that's worth $18 million, while all in the top 4 scorers for the Canadiens, have combined for only 40 points in the 59 games they've played between them.

The record and the stats aren't that bad, but they aren't nearly good enough for a team that made a lot of bold changes in the off-season, changes that were supposed to at least ensure a consistent playoff presence for the Habs. And while you could argue that the record isn't that bad, considering star defenseman Andrei Markov is on the shelve, as are 2 other key defensemen, that excuse starts to wear thin when you see teams like the Thrashers, Lightning, Coyotes, Islanders, Avalanche, and others, doing visibly better than this squad.

All this being said, Habs fans, is it time to push the panic button? Is it time to give up on Bob Gainey's science experiment and try to salvage the season with some trades and moves that will calm this team down?

Personally, I'm willing to give them one more game.

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THE CAROLINA HURRICANES - WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

I can't explain why the Hurricanes are so bad. Yes, they have some key injuries. Yes, they're a squad that's getting older, and that might not be as purely talented as they look, and yes, Eric Staal, Cam Ward, and others may be a little overrated. But they shouldn't be as bad as their record indicates. 3-12-4? Winless on the road in 9 games? A 12 game losing streak that was recently snapped? 72 (!) goals against? Player stats that are too depressing to even sift through?

There was a reason I predicted this team would contend for the Southeast title prior to the season, and I stand by that reasoning. It's just one of those things where a team needs to bomb a season. The Flyers did it recently, and they're better now because of it. The question is, is Jim Rutherford capable of making sure this is a one season thing, and not a one decade thing? Time will tell, but for Canes' fans sake, let's hope Rutherford is able to stay calm, and weather the storm (pun TOTALLY intended).

Now, the Habs are lucky to be facing the league's worst team, especially considering the rest of their month of November is as tough as it gets. Two games against the Caps, games against both of last year's stanley cup finalists, and the Blue Jackets. December doesn't get much better, with 17 games in 31 days, including four back-2-back situations, and several games around Christmas time, with very few gimme games.

Simply put, the Canadiens need to win tonight, and they need to win by a large margin. They need to dominate the Canes, and they need to show people that this group can, and will win together.

If they lose tonight, then go ahead and press the panic button. Go ahead and make some trades to try and solidify this group, and go ahead and identify the players that aren't doing anything to help the team, and ship them off.

Tonight is this group's final chance. Are they strong enough to respond to the task? Find out tonight at 7:30 on RDS.

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LINE UP NOTES

Line up notes, courtesy, as always to Habsinsideout.com:

Cammalleri - Gomez - Metropolit
Pacioretty - Plekanec - Kostitsyn
Latendresse - Lapierre - Moen
Stewart - Pyatt - White

- Glen Metropolit gets a Guy-Carbonneau-esque new role, as the usual 3rd line center gets a tryout next to the little 2, with Brian Gionta scratched tonight once again.

- Brian Gionta had an MRI, the results will be known today, but CKAC is reporting that his absense could be ''prolonged''.

- Latendresse lucks out once again.

- Ryan O'Byrne is practicing with the team, and while there was no word on whether or not he would play, he was practicing with Mathieu Carle, which suggest he's still a few games from returning.

- Carey Price in goal for the Habs, facing former Hab Michael Leighton.

Enjoy the game, if you can.

Prax
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