Missed Opportunity - Habs Fall Flat Against Sens

It's not like me to post game reviews, seeing as I'm more the ''game preview'' type. Add that to the fact that I was frantically flipping channels between the game and an all-new episode of ''24'' last night, and it kind of makes this blog a little more odd.

But there is much to be said concerning last night's game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.

In a game that could have seen the Canadiens gain a fair amount of ground over most of the teams in the Eastern conference playoff game, the Habs fell flat on their faces. No drive, no intensity, almost no will to win the game at all. It was almost like watching the Canadiens we regrettably got used to around and before Christmas time.

No, the Canadiens weren't really THAT bad. And no, we can no longer really blame these losses on injuries, like we could before Christmas. But after going a stretch of 10 games where the Canadiens looked somewhere between good and phenomenal, last night's performance left little to be desired.

The first period was so boring it would put Buzz Killington to sleep. The Canadiens could only muster 6 shots against Brian Elliott. If you can believe it, the Senators were even worse, getting the puck on Jaroslav Halak a mere 5 times, and scoring once on a Peter Regin tip-in.

The second period picked up slightly. The Canadiens outshot the Sens 13-11, but neither team managed to score. The third frame saw the Senators put the Canadiens away. While the shots remained competitive at 11-10 for the Sens, Erik Karlsson scored only his second goal of the season, but his second point of the night when he beat Jaroslav Halak less than halfway through the period.

That would be it for this one, as the Sens put the Habs away 2-0, to give Brian Elliott his 4th shutout of the season.

2-0 really isn't that bad. Jaroslav Halak did all he could really, and you can't fault the defense for tip-ins. Clearly the problem was on the other side of the ice. While proving their ability to score 5-on-5 in the ten games before last night, the Habs couldn't muster any offense on this night. Not at even strength, and especially not on the powerplay.

The Canadiens remain in second place in the league when it comes to the powerplay, but that can only be a testament to thing they accomplished earlier in the season. For yet another night, the Canadiens were shut out on the man-advantage, going 0-for-5 on the night. Yes, Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron return to the line-up this week, and yes, their presence should help the powerplay, but with a lot of their offensive tools healthy and producing at even strength, there really isn't much of an excuse for the shameful display the specialty teams have put forth.

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Beyond the in-game failures of the Canadiens last night was a bigger picture. Last night was a missed opportunity, to put one of the Flyers or Senators behind them, and to really put some space between them and the teams seeded in the 8th spot-down.

Tonight, the Senators face off against the Flyers. If the Sens win, the Canadiens and Flyers remain tied for 6th place and the Sens begin to run away with 5th place. If the Flyers win, there is a two-way tie for 5th once again and the Canadiens remain in 7th. So while a Habs victory last night meant a tie tonight for that coveted 5th spot, it also meant a little insurance going forward in a week that's only going to get tougher for the Habs.

Also tonight, Boston is in Atlanta to face the Thrashers, and once again, that game will have major implications for the Canadiens. If the Bruins win, they come within a point of the Habs, with a game in hand. A Thrashers victory would put them two points behind the Habs, and would give the Thrashers a five-game win streak.

The Habs destiny was in their own hands last night, and they blew it. And while it's no reason to panic, not with the buffer the Canadiens gave themselves in that six-game win streak, they failed to cash in on an opportunity when the stakes were at their highest, and that might mean something going forward, into the last few games of the season, and, of course, into the playoffs.

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As stated above, things only get tougher for the Habs this week, as they face the always-strong Buffalo Sabres. Many question marks are circling around the team and the line-up going into this game.

Should Carey Price get his first start since he was pulled in Anaheim two weeks ago? With Jaroslav Halak losing two games in a row (regardless of whether they were his fault or not), and in a back-to-back situation, you would think so. Then again, who knows what Jacques Martin is thinking.

Do Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron finally get back into the line-up, having fully recovered from their knee injureis? Again, after two losses and with the Habs in need of a scoring boost, you would think so. Then again, in a back-to-back situation, it might not be the ideal time to bring back two players who are recovering from knee injuries.

And if they do come back, who sits out? Tom Pyatt is one of the obvious answers, but do you sit out Max Lapierre, who really hasn't been that bad since he returned from his four game suspension? Does Travis Moen sit after leaving last night's game with a facial laceration? Or does Mathieu Darche play the role he's been playing his entire career and take one for the team?

These questions will be answered before the game tomorrow, but feel free to discuss what you think about both the above, as well as last night's game, in the comments below.

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On a side note, Habs' forward Travis Moen left last night's game after getting slashed in the face with a skate. According to Dave Stubbs on Twitter, Moen received 30 to 40 stitches after the laceration, but he expects Moen to play tomorrow night against the Sabres. If that isn't a beast of a player, I don't know what is.

Prax
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