As I awoke this morning, with the sour taste of last night’s loss still in my mouth, I was ready to come on here today and basically tear the Canadiens apart. Save Carey Price, the ”team”, if you can call them that, that dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Buffalo Sabres last night, certainly deserves every bit of criticism.
But as I made my daily rounds around the net, around facebook and twitter and all the Habs-related blogs, it seemed as if there was another subject that was taking precedent over the piss-pour performance of the team. It seems as if a lot of the negative sentiment that followed the Canadiens Epic Failure, blowing a two-goal lead in the last three minutes of a game they dominated, all the blame, fell on the shoulders of one Carey Price.
Even The Montreal Gazette, the premiere English-language newspaper in the city, laid the blame on price, their web editor choosing a very inappropriate title for Pat Hickey’s post-game article: ”Price Blows it for Habs in Buffalo”. The title was changed shortly thereafter, but not before an outpour of support from Habs fans on Twitter, which was summed up nicely (with color images!) on NHL Digest.
Maybe the printing of this title was a mistake, as Pat Hickey’s article didn’t really lay the blame on Price, and even Dave Stubbs stood up to condemn the title, but it’s representative of a sentiment that has been unfairly thrust upon Carey Price all season. With last night’s shootout loss, Price’s record fell to 13-20-4. His save percentage is still a respectable .911 and his GAA 2.79, but the wins simply aren’t there. With such a record, and the surge that Jaroslav Halak has made this year, winning games for the Canadiens when it seemed as though everything was lost, a lot of people are quick to blame the young goaltender.
The 22-year-old is one of the youngest goaltenders in the league. One of the youngest to reach 100 games played and 50 wins in the history of the NHL. People need to understand that developing young goaltenders, no matter how good their pedigree is, takes time. And all things considered, Price hasn’t really been bad at all this season. His save percentage proves that. While he can’t be exempt from all the blame, seeing as the wins aren’t there, any person who has the audacity to blame him for what happened last night needs to watch a lot more hockey before sharing his opinion on a public place such as the internet.
For 57 minutes, Price stood on his head. In the first 20 minutes, he stopped 10 shots, while the Canadiens could only muster 7. In the second period, Price stopped 14 shots to the Habs 12. After 40 minutes, thanks to a wonderful performance from Andrei Kostitsyn, the Canadiens went up 2-0 and the game, as well as Price’s first shutout of the season, looked to be in the proverbial bag.
And while the Sabres really didn’t look all that good throughout the game, they still managed to out-shoot the Canadiens in every period, laying 17 shots against the Canadiens in the third frame. The Habs, once again, could only muster 8 shots.
The Canadiens started the game drawing four straight penalties, including one which they converted into a goal, on Kostitsyn’s second of the night. Unfortunately, they followed up by taking six straight penalties, including three high-sticking penalties, lazy, automatic penalties that basically cost them the game. The Sabres, ranked 23rd in the league with the man-advantage, poured it on and scored their first goal, from Tim Connolly, on one of those powerplays. Just over a minute later, and less than a minute to the conclusion of the game, with Ryan Miller on the bench, Steve Montador gets it passed price with about 4 blue sweaters shadowing over Price, and we have ourselves a tie game.
After a tame overtime period, Price was beat by Pominville and Vanek on the shootout, while Miller stopped Kostitsyn and Cammalleri, and it’s game over.
Stopping 40 of 42 shots, how anyone can blame Carey Price for this loss is beyond me. The fact that the team tends to simply give up on him game after game is a problem, and something that needs to be looked into in detail once the season is done. But it’s not Price’s fault.
This one falls flat on the shoulders of nearly everyone else on the team. From Jacques Martin, to the forwards, to the defense.
And for those people who will claim that it’s only one game, look at the loss against the Senators, or against the Leafs, or any of the losses before the Olympic break. It’s generally the same thing. The Canadiens lose because they let games slip by them. And watching them play against a team they might meet up with in the first round of the playoffs, it doesn’t induce a single ounce of confidence in the observer, as well as the fan in me.
Were the Canadiens playing over their heads when they won six in a row? Is this the team we should get used to heading into the playoffs? Or are really just a bunch of underachievers? The talent is there, the past success is there. This team shouldn’t be losing the way they are. And with only a handful of games left until the post-season, can they turn it around, once and for all?
Tonight, the Habs will face the Florida Panthers. 6-3-1 in their last ten, and 7 points behind the 8th place Bruins (9 points behind the 7th place Habs), tonight may be Florida’s last chance to get back into the playoff race. They will be rested, motivated, and hungry. The Canadiens, on the other hand, may be tired and not motivated in the slightest.
I will be at tonight’s game, grudgingly cheering on my favorite team. After the game is over, you’ll most likely find me on one of the nearby bridges on the edge of the island of Montreal. It’s a must win for the Canadiens, and the excuses for this latest sling of losses have run dry. Win tonight, and, for all intents and purposes, you eliminate the Florida Panthers from playoff contention. Lose tonight, and face the wrath of the three teams behind you that stand a chance at passing you.
Expect at least a few line-up changes for tonight. Halak will probably be back in, even though Price deserves another shot. Travis Moen skated this morning, which may mean he’ll draw into the line-up over Mathieu Darche or Tom Pyatt. Ben Maxwell and Max Lapierre are likely to be healthy scratches once again.
Puck drop is at 7:30. Can the Habs win this one? Do they deserve to? Share your thoughts below!
About the Author: George Prax, born and raised in Montreal, offers a unique point of view when it comes to blogging. A devout Montrealer, Quebequois and Canadian, Prax is and always be a die hard Habs fan, one who feels it necessary to offer his view on the Canadiens, the NHL, and hockey happenings in general. Expect many articles on the Canadiens, some from the point of view of a fan, some from the point of view of a blogger and some more distant, but expect them often, and expect them full of passion. Prax, who has somewhat of an infamous reputation around the online hockey community, also has interests in music, movies, television, as well as politics, and they are nearly as deeply rooted as his love for hockey. Prax is the senior content editor at The Checking Line, a website devoted to offering the best hockey discussion around the net, one that features bloggers from all over the league, and one that's constantly growing. Visit www.thecheckingline.com for more of Prax's work.