Another Habs Loss, Hopes Dim For The Season

Photo: Patrick Smith, Getty Images

Photo: Patrick Smith, Getty Images

Another Habs Loss, Hopes Dim For The Season

The Habs, back from the All-Star break, posted another loss Tuesday night, this time against the Philadelphia Flyers. This loss just continues the downward spiral all Habs fans are experiencing when it comes to hopes for a post-season run.

As far as a recap – well, the Flyers scored twice, the Habs caught up (with Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry scoring the two goals) and the Flyers went ahead in the 3rd period with about 8 minutes to go. Even with a 5-minute power play, the Habs failed to even the score, and the Flyers sealed it with an empty-net goal in the end.

So, how does a Habs fan, a writer, and an unapologetic apologist of the team, reconcile the hopeless optimism with the dashing hopes of reality?

It’s not easy. It’s one thing that has kept me from writing; uninspired, trying to find the positives, it’s really not easy to find the balance.

But you all understand, right? You’re feeling it too.

Some of you are feeling the hopelessness. I get that. It’s hard to have any hopes when things continue to fall apart. Completely reasonable.

Some of you – like myself – continue to cheerlead. Habs fan forever! Win or lose! And that’s entirely warranted. After all, we’ve been down this road before; in 2012, the Habs were at the bottom of the heap, and still we supported the team.

I don’t think any of us can really, totally turn our backs on the Habs; I would challenge a true Habs fan to do so.

I saw many people “threaten” to “never watch another game until this coach is fired” and yet, those same people are on social media even now, talking about the game in Philadelphia. So no, as much as it’s tempting, it is not an easy thing to walk away.

However, reality is what it is. This season has gone from seeing our team at their top-of-the-league all-time best to sinking lower and lower in the standings, and playoff hopes dimming by the game.

It isn’t possible to ignore that. And as much as I have not joined the “fire Therrien” battle cry, I question his decisions.

We’ve heard them all: David Desharnais being overused, Alex Galchenyuk not used enough (or properly). Lines being juggled mid-game, mid-period, mid-shift. Effective lines broken up, older, less effective lines reunited. The special teams being made up of all the wrong players. Andrei Markov – despite the nice goal against the Flyers – is slowing down and making mistakes. Greg Pateryn not being used enough.

The power play, the power play, and the power play.

At the end of the 2014-15 season, GM Marc Bergevin stated, in his closing press conference, that the coaching team would stay the same. At that moment, and I can recall exactly where I was when I heard him speak, I said aloud, “not even a new special teams coach?”

I have been questioning that every game this season. Even during the Great Win Streak Of October-November 2015, I questioned the power play. The Habs were winning despite the dismal nature of their power play, not because of it.

It’s even worse now.

Take Tuesday’s game, for example. At 12:16 of the 3rd period, the Flyers newly a goal ahead, Radko Gudas clipped newcomer Lucas Lessio, sending the rookie to the ice on all fours. Lessio was not happy – from his knees, he grabbed at Gudas to try to retaliate, but he was clearly injured.

(It was at that point I was yelling at my television for the referees to stop the play because someone was hurt; was I alone? Probably not)

Lessio had to be helped off the ice (and for those of us who lip-read – and those who don’t – it was very obvious what he was saying), and a replay was shown.

That’s not a clean hit. That’s a completely dirty hit to the knee, and Gudas is apparently known for dirty plays:

When the commercial break ended, the referees were talking with the Flyers’ bench, and coach Dave Hakstol looked none too pleased. Gudas was ejected from the game, given a game misconduct, and snapped his stick as he went to the dressing room. Temper after a hit like that? He’s lucky he wasn’t taken down by a Habs player. (Calling John Scott, anyone?)

Well, he could have snapped a guy’s knee in two places too. Even now, we don’t know the nature of Lessio’s possible injury. A hit like that is a career ender.

Gudas’s fans seem to think the call was unwarranted. I think we can all say otherwise.

Photo: Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Len Redkoles / NHLI via Getty Images

And for 5 straight power-play minutes, not only could the Habs not even the score, the Flyers got too many chances for short-handed goals during their penalty kill. When the opponent’s penalty kill is more effective than your team’s power play, there’s a problem.

But let’s add Lucas Lessio – newly called up, a rookie on the team, and showing promise – to the now-injured list (it’s likely he’s out, but for how long is anyone’s guess).

And no, there is no excuse – but look at the injuries the Habs have experienced this season alone:

  • Carey Price (elite goalie, best player ever)
  • Dale Weise (fiery, newly successful, all-heart guy)
  • Brendan Gallagher (difference maker, game changer, all ’round top-skilled guy)
  • Daniel Carr (out for the rest of the season now, one of the more effective mid-season scorers)
  • Paul Byron (arguably the best skater on the team, short-handed specialist, all heart)
  • Torrey Mitchell (strong player, talented hands)

And now, possibly Lessio, just 2/3 of his first game played with the Canadiens. The Habs are going through the farm team faster than games can catch up!

I suppose we were lucky last season, with few-to-no major injuries.

But luck isn’t what wins hockey games. Something is definitely wrong in Habsland, and as a never-gives-up fan, I really do hope they can figure it out soon; I miss the winning feeling.

I have no solutions. Maybe it is the coach. Maybe I’m the last hold-out against the call for his head.

Or just maybe I will soon join it.

Next game is Wednesday night – yes, just 24 hours and a trip home from Philadelphia – at the Bell Centre, when the Buffalo Sabres come to town. Perhaps that would be a good time for newly crowned All-Star Hero, John Scott, to join the Habs and face his former team.

Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. Let’s hope the home crowd is welcoming and inspiring and the Canadiens leave us all singing the olĂ©. I’ve missed that tune.

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