It Hab-ened Last Night: Beaten & Bruised Habs Drop Third Straight Against Isles

The Montreal Canadiens welcomes the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre last night, losing 4-3 in a shootout.

We're going to let this one slide, just this once.

While Habs fans can't be happy about their team losing three in a row this week - especially after sweeping the prior week with three big wins - but last night's lost against the Islanders is justifiable.

The Canadiens, plain and simply, didn't show up. Likely still reeling from the incredibly emotional and physically draining Battle Royale the night before in Boston, the Habs had to jump on a plane after being beaten both on the scoreboard and in the penalty box, return to Montreal and face a rested Isles team that had been waiting for them, likely watching the vicious beating the Habs took the night before. The Isles had even said that they wanted to play tough against the Habs, likely sensing the presence of a wounded animal.

Despite everything working against them, the Habs still manages to gain three leads during the game. Max Pacioretty, one of the best players on the team in recent weeks, netted his 9th in the 1st, assisted by one of the other top performers for the Habs in recent games, David Desharnais, and Jaroslav Spacek. But just like they would the rest of the night, the Isles would tie things up only a few minutes later on John Tavares's 19th. The first period was penalty-ridden for both teams, with both the Habs and Isles trading powerplays and 4-on-4 play for a few minutes at the half-way point of the period.

In the second, Benoit Pouliot, another player who had a surprisingly good game in an overall bad experience against the Bruins, scored his 11th, with Ryan White accumulating his first point of the season, in his first game after his most recent call-up. Michael Grabner, who's finally having that break-out year, scored his 18th late in the period, but the Habs would quickly respond with Plekanec's 19th, unassisted, at the 18th minute.

Grabner would be the only scorer early in the 3rd, and before you knew it, it was time for the shootout, where Kyle Okposo would be the only scorer to take the game for the Isles, 4-3.

I'm having trouble letting this one go, to be honest. While, yes, the Canadiens were excused for the loss last night, it couldn't have come at a worst time or against a worst team (quite literally). The Isles are just bad. They have, quite literally, no goaltending. Roloson was traded, and we all know what happened to DiPietro and then Evgeni Nabokov. Even their top prospect, Kevin Poulin, is out for the year, leaving them with 22-year-old Mikko Koshinen between the pipes. The Isles recently picked up Al Montoya to temporarily mend the wounds, but last night, it was Koshinen making his second career start, after a horrible start against an impotent Leafs team two night prior.

On this night, however, the Canadiens would make him look like Patrick Roy, as the 6'5" keeper would make 37 saves in the win and stop all four Canadiens shooters. While most would likely say that, hey, 40 shots is pretty good, it wasn't good enough on this night. The Leafs scored five goals against Koshinen on Tuesday, and the Canadiens certainly have more offensive weapons than they do. Knowing what the Isles were going to do after watching the Habs get trounced physically the night before, Martin should have told his troupes to relentlessly attack a young, inexperienced team, pepper the goalie with shots until he caves. But instead, at multiple points in the game, the Canadiens would have complete control of the game and the puck, and would hesitate taking shots. Passes were being shot into teammates skates, everyone would be out of position, it was just one big mess.

And the end result, a 4-3 loss and a loser point, was much better than what should have been expected from that performance.

The Canadiens were without Hall Gill, and Matt Darche, both healthy scratches from the nights before, and to be honest, there were a few more who looked like they needed a rest. Price was also on the bench, or in his case, the stool, as Alex Auld played played as decent a game as you can expect. PK Subban saw his ice time reduced to 23 minutes after taking two bad tripping penalties in the first, with Wisniewski and Hamrlik taking the lead with 28:36 and 27:07 of ice time, respectively.

It was an odd game to say the least. And like I keep trying to tell myself, I want to let it go. But three blown leads against one of the worst teams in the league is a tough pill to swallow no matter how legitimate your excuses are, no matter if the coach says that many players are playing with injuries (I don't even want to think about that) or how mentally spent they may be from a fight-ridden game the night before. It's not like they took an early deficit, they clearly had the ability to come back and take leads all throughout the night. But in the end, they couldn't put it together.

And now, they sit in 6th place in the East, with the Bruins getting further and further ahead with the division lead, and the teams behind them going nowhere, even the 9th place Thrashers with 58 points and the Sabres with 57 points and three wins in a row. The Canadiens have two upcoming home games against the Leafs and Thrashers, and needless to say they're must-wins. The next three games are on the road in the west - including the Heritage Classic - and road games aren't exactly their forte. It all starts Saturday against the Leafs, and you know that Burke's truculence is going to kick in during that game.

The Habs can't afford to get into a funk now, or get depressed about the physical beating they took on Wednesday. Some would like to think that it was an isolated incident, and to a certain extent it was, but now, teams think the Habs can be bullied, and it's likely to start happening a little more often. And with the playoff spot on the line, the Canadiens need to be winning more game than they're losing.

I said it yesterday, and I'll say it today. The Habs need to beef up, and they need to beef up soon. And simply calling up Ryan white isn't going to cut it. Your move, Gauthier.

Prax
www.betterwithpopcorn.com
www.twitter.com/GeorgePrax