Habs Humiliated In 10-0 Loss vs Columbus

Photo by Jamie Sabau / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo by Jamie Sabau / NHLI via Getty Images

Habs Humiliated In 10-0 Loss vs Columbus

The Habs were humiliated in their first regulation loss Friday night, as the Columbus Blue Jackets routed them, 10-0.

The inevitable “well, they were due for a regulation loss,” sentiments are no help; this wasn’t a loss. This was a mortifying conquest by the opposing team. Of course they were due for a loss, but not this way, not this bad, and not this lackluster a performance.

I will spare you the period-by-period recap; there’s no reason to go there. It was a painful game to watch, I won’t make anyone relive it, whether they watched or not.

What I will do, however, is address the issues surrounding this game. There are a handful of conversation topics that have come up as a result of what happened in this awful game, but one stands out as The Main Issue:

Why Didn’t Therrien Pull Montoya?

This is the First, and Biggest Issue being talked about throughout the evening. Al Montoya was in nets because this was the first of a back-to-back weekend. On Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers are at the Bell Centre, and Carey Price was already scheduled to take them on as goaltender.

Keep in mind, as well, they have to travel from Ohio back to Montreal.

There are two schools of thought, and I’ll address them both.

The first is the obvious: why play Price when he has to be rested for the next night?

But here’s what many of us said, on social media, as the game unfolded: why not put him in? Carey Price is being protected this season. His injury last season, just about this time of the year, kept him out for the rest of the year, and was a direct indicator of why the Habs missed playoffs.

That having been said, Price is strong, and has had an incredible season so far. He is capable of playing back-to-back games – or a game-and-a-half, as it would have been – and being strong in both.  Many opinions have been expressed about this, and most people feel Price could have handled it. His calm demeanor is legendary, and if anyone in this league can handle pressure, it’s Price.

As a matter of fact, there were dozens of shots of Carey Price in the arena, standing just inside the entrance to the tunnel, watching the game, watching the scoreboard, pacing, chewing gum frantically, and looking – my interpretation here – frustrated and restless. At one point, in the second period, the camera panned to Price who seemed to be warming up.

By the third period, Price was nowhere to be seen. It has been theorized that he was asked to remove himself from the area, others say he removed himself voluntarily, so as not to be on camera and a subject of speculation. Whichever it was, it had to have been painful for him to watch Montoya get beaten that badly.

On the RDS post-game show, l’Antichambre, two analysts offered their opinions. François Gagnon believes it was less to protect Price than it was Michel Therrien‘s way of telling a lifeless team, “if you want to play like that, there are consequences.” In other words, the goaltender cannot – and will not – save a team that is playing so badly in front of him.

It also gives Montoya less credit than he deserves. Montoya’s numbers went from .955 to .908 within the space of 60 minutes. He played – and won – 4 very big games for the Habs before Carey Price recovered from his season-beginning flu. For Gagnon’s theory to be correct, it would mean that Therrien had less confidence in Montoya than the goalie’s save percentage demonstrates.

Were they protecting Price’s save percentage too?

The other analyst, Gaston Therrien (no relation), had another take. He believes it was wrong to leave Montoya in for the whole game. He said that Montoya had the right to question what he had done wrong to be out there like that, alone. That he should not have had to suffer that kind of loss on his own, even though the team was terrible all game long.

I agree with Gaston Therrien; despite Michel Therrien’s post-game statement that it was a team decision, a “difficult decision”, and that Stephane Waite (the Habs incredible goalie coach) had talked to Al about the decision, it was still wrong for them to hang Montoya out to dry.

The inevitable comparisons were made to the fateful last game of Patrick Roy as a Canadien, when Mario Tremblay refused to pull him, leaving him out for 9 goals, pushing him to the point of quitting the team. His loss still hurts Habs fans’ hearts, and this game was an all-too-painful reminder of why the team lost him.

In fact, this iconic picture, of Roy’s sarcastic acknowledgement of the crowd applauding a save that fateful night, was tweeted out, among numerous Roy references.

As Gagnon says, the back-up goaltender is a thankless job. But it should not have to be a humiliating one.

Many experts believe it was the right decision, to protect Carey Price so he can be well rested to face the Flyers Saturday night.

I have to wonder, though, if it was not a deeply discouraging experience for the whole team, and if that decision being made harmed their confidence even more than it should have.

Even 3 goals down, a good team can recover. With Price in nets, perhaps a fresh start in the second frame might have made a difference. Perhaps leaving Montoya in was a detriment.

But going into the 2nd intermission down by 8 goals, only to have 2 more scored in the 3rd, that was on the team. Not on the goaltender.

The Team Was Terrible

Let’s not sugar coat it: the entire team played terribly. That first goal was not debilitating. Any team can come back from a 1-0 lead. The second was a little more disconcerting. But going into the first intermission 3 down already had the Downers among you (you know who you are) declaring the game over.

In the first period, by the time the first goal was scored halfway through, the shots were already 16-3 for Columbus. Not a winning formula. The shot count ended up at 40-30 for Columbus (with 10 goals, that means Montoya saved as many as Sergei Bobrovsky did), but even with 30 shots, they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

There were a few exciting moments when we all thought things were turning around. Some scrimmages, some opportunities, but nothing worked.

However, the tone of this game was even more of a concern. There were hardly any hits. Defense was invisible. No shut-out buster. No desperation, no emotion.

In fact, it took 56 minutes for the emotion to come out, when the teams tangled behind Montoya’s net in the 3rd period. Why it took that long is anyone’s guess.

One problem (did I say one?) was the lack of discipline. The Blue Jackets boast the league’s top power play, at 35%, and the Habs gave them 5 chances to execute it. They scored 4 of their goals on power plays – 2 on Brendan Gallagher‘s double minor alone – and that just cannot happen.

What Happens Next?

The next game, a home game against the Flyers Saturday night, will be crucial. How a team bounces back from a crushing defeat like this one is always what’s under the microscope. I would look for Daniel Carr and Joel Hanley to be in the line-up, as they’ve been called up and should be put to work now that there’s been such a bad loss. Likely to sit: Artturi Lehkonen (for Carr) and Jeff Petry (for Hanley)

But we have to look at the facts here: if, as I suspect, the Habs will be better on Saturday night – if only to prove to the home crowd that Friday was an anomaly – then we have to question, once again, if this team is no better than its goaltender.

To be fair, the goals cannot be blamed on Montoya alone. There were many (take your pick among the 10 scored against him) that he just could not have saved.

But we’ve been down this road before: Carey Price carrying the team. Price being the reason for the team’s successes. Price’s absence being the reason for the team’s defeats, and having missed playoffs in 2015-16.

Should we not be concerned that a team like the Montreal Canadiens cannot seem to break away from the spectre of its goaltender being the end-all-be-all, the reason for wins and losses, the very definition of success?

We should be. And we are.

Much analysis has already been fueled from this game, and there will be much to come as well. The coaching staff. The lines that don’t work or are constantly changing – that’s directly on the coach’s shoulders. The “Fire Therrien” rumblings on social media are back en masse.

Pointing the finger at any one player, especially on a night like this one, is futile. The plus-minus statistic is useless, and rarely indicative of a player’s worth. No matter who was on the ice for those 10 goals Friday night, the whole team should be at -10, because no one stepped up.

Let’s not blame Montoya, either. In fact, let’s show him the respect he deserves, having stayed out there for that bruising embarrassment, having no choice but to do what he could, but with no team in front of him to take the burden of the loss either.

And let’s look forward to the next game. There were bound to be losses. Nobody predicted this kind of loss.

As Dave Stubbs posted, the last time the Canadiens gave up 10 goals in one game, you’d have to look all the way back to the year 1942:

Let’s hope it’s another 74 years till the next.

Tune in Saturday night, puck drops at 7:00 p.m. versus the Philadelphia Flyers.

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3 Responses to Habs Humiliated In 10-0 Loss vs Columbus

  1. well i guess letting Condon go on waivers now looks ridiculous, what he did last year under the circumstances was amazing.now that Montoya’s confidence has been totally destroyed what did we gain…all we proved is without Price we are not even a playoff team..DD proved he does not belong in the NHL, Markov proved he is over the hill and Therrien definitely proved he is not a coach and needs a new job somewhere else.Not only did this destroy Montoya’s confidence it had to hurt Price’s as all he could do was watch his fellow goalie be humiliated and not go in to try to stabilize the wound. In fact he was not seen near the bench for the 3rd period..i imagine he did not agree with leaving Al out there, as Montoya may not be the same again.What goalie wants to be there for 10 goals..the last time we let in 9 we lost Roy because of an idiot for a coach….same here..until Therrien is gone we do not stand a snowball’s chance of a cup..he is poison..

    Bay_Bye November 5, 2016 at 8:42 am Reply
  2. Straight up habs are trash without price. They got lucky in 93 with Roy. Unfortunatly price likes to choke in playoffs so they cant rely on him to win a cup. Leafs will win a cup before montreal, gaurenteed.

    Blue jacketz November 5, 2016 at 9:48 am Reply
  3. guarantee the leafs b4 the habs..are u delusional ..u were probably not born the last time the Leafs won the cup so spent your whole life cheering for a loser…
    Matthews will not even win the Calder..Laine will….how can u win with no goaltending..you traded the best you had Raske to Boston 4 nothing in return…

    Bay_Bye November 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm Reply

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