Habs Squander Everything in Loss Against Leafs
Another game, another loss for the Montreal Canadiens.
More squandered leads, more lazy plays, and another failure to capitalize on opportunities that should have meant a tick in the win column for this team, at home, against the Toronto Maple Leafs
It was an exciting affair that included 9 goals, and (at times) end-to-end hockey. The Habs and Leafs traded leads and goals, and even runs at each others goals; James Reimer would not return to the game after the first period, thanks to an accidental shot to the head at the hands of Brian Gionta at the top of the game. Travis Moen would put up two goals, Lars Eller 2 assists and Andrei Kostitsyn a goal and an assist, on the side of the Habs. Mike Cammalleri would also score.
For the Leafs, David Steckel, Phil Kessel (bringing his total to a whopping eight goals), Dion Phaneuf, and Nikolai Kulemin would score in regulation before Mikhael Grabovski would put the Habs away early in overtime.
It was a night where the starts and the ends to each period would be more exciting than the rest, and a night where neither team seemed ready to take the lead and run with it. For the Leafs, it was thanks to the injury to their goaltender. For the Habs, it was for the exact same reasons that have kept them out of the win column on most other nights.
The end result was a 5-4 loss which saw the Canadiens squander three leads, irrationally bench some of their top performing players, and of course fail to take advantage of the powerplay opportunities that kept winning them games last season.
With Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes for two periods, there was no reason the Canadiens couldn't walk out of this game with two points. Forgetting, for a second, the added motivation of breaking a slump which has lead them to one of their worst starts in franchise history (think about the length of that history, for a second, and some of the team the Canadiens have iced in a span).
It wasn't all bad. We got the best performances of the season out of some players, Lars Eller, Travis Moen, and even Erik Cole, who was unfortunately on the ice for the game-winning goal, but contributed 5 hits in only 10 minutes of ice time.
But there's nothing to be happy with following tonight's game. The Canadiens lost, yet again. It's as simple as that. And we can continue to lay the blame on injuries, or the players for their lack of consistency or for not showing up for another full 60 minutes, but throughout all of this, there's been one constant among plenty of variable.
Our good friend Kyle Roussel gave us 22 reasons to fire Jacques Martin over a year and a half ago, and if you go down the list again today, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that's changed, except maybe his inexplicable grudge against Erik Cole. Not only did Martin sit him more often than he played him, but he actually made him serve a bench minor as well as a penalty to Carey Price, and seemed annoyed when the press brought up his lack of ice time in the post-game interviews.
Martin is notorious for being inflexible with his coaching style, and now more than ever, this is clearly evident. From his obsession with his teacher's pet players (and don't fool yourself, Travis Moen isn't going to keep this pace up), to inexplicable grudges against other players for not fitting into "the system" (see: Andrei Kostitsyn and of course Erik Cole), to sitting on actual goal deficits instead of opening up the offense, Jacques Martin is holding this team back.
For the better part of two years now, Jacques Martin has figured out a way to do just enough to keep his job. Squeezing his team into the playoffs, riding the coattails of his assistant coach, or goaltender, excusing himself thanks to injuries. But it's finally all coming to ahead. A 1-5-1 start to the season is simply inexcusable.
There may be conflicting schools of thought as to what such an early-season slump may mean for the Canadiens in the long term, but whether you think that it means they'll miss the playoffs, or whether you think that it means nothing at all, one thing's for sure. It can't be a good thing. And things are going to have to change soon, or else the playoffs, and therefore a successful season, are going to be way out of reach for this team.
The next seven days include games against the Florida Panthers (a team the Canadiens seldom have luck against), the Philadelphia Flyers, and a home-and-home series against the Boston Bruins. The schedule alone speaks for itself, but it's safe to say that if the team can't come out of the next week with at least three wins, well, let's just say that the Habs and their fans can already begin to make spring golf reservations. These days, points in October are just as important as points March, and any severe deficit at the end of the month is going to be incredibly difficult to make up. The Canadiens can't afford to keep this up. By the looks of the teams they have to face next week, fans shouldn't expect to see them do any better. After all, if they can't beat the Leafs at home in a must-win situation, without their damn goalie, what makes anyone think they can turn it around in just another week?
So, the question must be asked. How much longer does this team go without making any significant changes, in order to salvage a season that is inching closer and closer to slipping out of their grip? How much longer can Jacques Martin (and even Pierre Gauthier) keep up their charade?
We can only hope that it won't be that much longer.