It Hab-ened Last Night: Habs Back to Their Inconsistent Ways in Loss to Sabres
After putting up one of their best performances of the season on Saturday, shutting out the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 3-0, the Canadiens were right back to their losing ways last night, dropping an early two goal lead and a 3-2 shootout decision to the Buffalo Sabres.
The loss may be partially my fault for predicting that exact score. But the lab is still running the results. Sorry.
As implied above, the game started off promising, with the Canadiens taking a 2 goal lead by the halfway point of the game. Max Pacioretty would open the scoring a few seconds before the five minute mark of the 1st with his 10th goal in just 28 games (I told you guys he was the read deal. Twice, in fact!). Benoit Pouliot, also on a bit of a hot streak, would put the Canadiens up by two early in the second on a slick feed across the slot and passed Tyler Myers, for his 13th goal.
A few minutes later, things would begin to unravel for the Canadiens.
Drew Stafford, who has a ridiculous 9 goals in his last five games (including two hat tricks), scored his 24th in a dreaded late period goal, and in the closing seconds of a powerplay. Six minutes into the third, Jason Pominville would tie things up with his 13th, and as has become standard for the Habs and Sabres, we would find ourselves headed to a shootout.
The Canadiens would start off strong with goals from their first two shooters (Desharnais and Plekanec), but Thomas Vanek, who has yet to miss on a shootout attempt this year, and then rookie sensation Tyler Ennis would tie things up at two goals a piece. Before you know it, the teams would find themselves on their 10th shooters. James Wisniewski would miss, but Jochan Hecht wouldn't, giving the Sabres the extra point to put them in 9th place in the east with the Thrashers.
The Canadiens would still pick up a point, to put them one ahead of the 6th place Capitals, and tying them with the Bruins for the division lead.
But that could have easily been a full two points.
Would it be easy to blame the coach for putting Tom Pyatt and an ice cold Scott Gomez who barely scores as it is on a damn shootout? Yes, it would be. Especially for me. But the truth is that the Canadiens blew a two goal lead, and there really is no excuse for that.
The Canadiens weren't tired from playing the night before. They weren't on an emotional low following a fight-ridden game against a rival. They had two day between games, following a shutout against a team that often has their number, and they were facing a goaltender with six games of NHL experience in Jhonas Enroth. Even in the shootout it was clear that Enroth probably shouldn't be in the NHL, and that the Sabres were expecting a let down game on the road by resting Ryan Miller the night before a home game.
But the Canadiens did what they seem to do best, and that's make a back-up or depth goaltender look like a superstar. It happened last week against the Islanders, and now against the Sabres. With a two-goal lead, that's pretty much unacceptable. Regardless of the injuries on defense. With PK Subban playing nearly 30 minutes (I don't think there has been a defenseman who's played that much for the Canadiens in a game in years, Andrei Markov included), James Wisniewski being as solid as he normally is, and Hamrlik picking up the pieces, that shouldn't happen. And yes, the Canadiens have pretty much an entire top four out, with Markov, Gorges, Spacek and Gill all on the shelf, but this isn't because of any defensive liabilities. It's laziness and overall inconsistency.
And that's something that's started to creep up in the Canadiens game log once again.
After winning three games in a row to start the month of February, the Canadiens then lost three in a row last week, before winning on Saturday and, of course, losing last night.
Flash back to January. A shootout loss to Atlanta to start the month, followed by a three game win streak. After that, the Canadiens would basically be a .500 team for the rest of the month, losing almost every time after they won. Pass over an anomalous month of December with more losses than I care to recap, and it was pretty much the same thing in November. Other than one four game win streak, the Canadiens couldn't string together any type of streak.
Win one, lose one. It's the Canadiens motto.
Really though, when you consider the Habs have kept themselves a float thanks to that one win streak a month, it's not that big of a deal, but it's weird nonetheless. What's keeping this team from really streaking at all? Is it the coaching mentality? Is it the injuries? The problems with the second line that just won't go away, or something else?
Whatever it is, the Canadiens have less than two weeks to figure it out and attempt to address their needs from the outside, as the trade deadline is slowly creeping closer. With major deals (involving mostly the Leafs and Sens) already having gone down the last couple of weeks, the market could have dried up before Pierre Gauthier decides to get his feet wet. But the need for one player at each the forward and defense positions is as glaring as ever, and Gauthier is going to need to get to work in order to fill the voids.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens head West for the next week, for games against the Oilers, Flames (Heritage Classic) and Canucks, so the odds of a bounce back from this weird-looking "slump", if you will, are unlikely.
Fill up on coffee and energy drinks, boys and girls. We're in for some late-night hockey!
What did you think of the Canadiens performance last night? What are your expectations for the road trip ahead? Leave your thoughts in the comments below