If the Montreal Canadiens lose but don’t get blown out, did it really happen?
That appears to be the mindset of the Habs early this season as the New York Islanders put the boots to them on home ice 6-2.
Blown out. Again.
The Montreal Canadiens have played 12 games this season. They’ve allowed more than four goals in half of those games. In losses this year, the Habs have been outscored 39-11.
That is pathetic.
It’s not just that they’re losing, it’s the way they are losing that is soul-sapping for their fans.
The boos the home team received at the end of the second period were quieter than they should have been as several seats were left unfilled at the Bell Centre.
Rinse, repeat and recoil
As was the case in several of those lopsided losses, the Montreal Canadiens played a third of the game. Despite going down 1-0 in the first period off a comedy of errors by David Savard, the Habs had to have felt like they were down but not out against last year’s Eastern Conference finalists.
But 1-0 against the Islanders shouldn’t be akin to climbing a mountain.
Four minutes into that second, that mountain became Everest. The Habs were caught puck watching and Oliver Wahlstrom jumped into the fray off the bench. Unassailed he received a pass in the slot and ripped the puck past Jake Allen to make it 2-0.
The Montreal Canadiens were caught puck watching again for New York’s third. Mike Hoffman’s high tip looked goal bound but it was accidentally blocked by Christian Dvorak. The Islanders went the other way on a 2-on-1 and after an initial save by Allen, a lack of communication by three Habs players in front of the net left two opponents alone in front. Brock Nelson banged in a rebound to make it 3-0 for his second of the game.
The way the Habs have scored this year, most fans likely knew it was over. But could the Canadiens push back and make sure they didn’t get smoked again?
It started out well as Jeff Petry blew up Matthew Barzal with an open ice hit just outside of the slot. That seemed to energize the Canadiens momentarily.
But the Habs lost the plot after their best goal-scoring chance of the game was turned aside. Christian Dvorak was sprung on a breakaway trying to light the fuse for the Bell Centre bomb to get the team back into it. But it fizzled out as his forehand, backhand deke was followed by Ilya Sorokin all the way.
After that, they were done.
He was certainly no Serge or Denis.
It’s been a tough start to the year for David Savard but he was diabolically bad last night. A calamitous first period by the Habs defenceman that led to a goal against could only have got better in the second. And for ten minutes, he was.
But his shot towards the net was blocked by Anthony Beauvilier at the point. He blew by Savard with ease and Nelson finished off a slow moving pass on the odd-man rush for the hat-trick.
His defensive partner Kulak didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either and both were culpable on the New York’s fifth. The pair were confused and slow to decide who to cover. Canadiens killer Jean-Gabriel Pageau found himself in acres of space five feet out and roofed the puck past Allen.
Allen was mercifully pulled in the third period and if not for backup Samuel Montembeault, it could have been 7-0. Nick Suzuki’s goal and silky assist on Tyler Toffoli’s 5-on-3 power-play goal late on gave him 10 points in seven games. But that was little more than consolation and did nothing other than make the scoreline appear marginally acceptable. Until Nelson’s fourth of the game reflected fairly New York’s comprehensive victory.
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens got a rude awakening that the road the rest of the way isn’t going to get any easier. The Islanders were more like the Outsiders, keeping the Habs out of the dangerous areas even when they did get some extended zone time. The better teams they will play after an easy schedule to start will be licking their chops to take on this fragile team.
It’s November and the Habs haven’t won two games in a row yet this season. Maybe their general manager can come into the room and chew them out. Whatever that’s worth. The search for consistency for the Montreal Canadiens continues.