Let the games of the Second Season begin!!! I suppose that when someone utters the term “2nd season” it is in fact the playoffs that are being referred to. In this case, however, the term represents the post-All Star Game stretch during which many teams will have to leave it all on the ice in an effort to qualify their teams for the playoffs.
Tonight’s contest, featuring a matchup between 11th place Montreal and 14th seeded Buffalo Sabres truly represented a must win game for both teams. Momentum and points are both critical. This was the third of 6 engagements between these teams with Buffalo having emerged victorious in both of the previous games. As the expression goes: “never two without three” right?
The First Period
I was hoping for a more exciting and energized first period after having gone 6 days between Hab games. While the well-rested Montreal squad came out of it holding a 1-0 lead, they only managed 8 shots on goal to the 11 that were fired at Carey Price. The netminder was certainly up to the task, making a highlight-reel glove save off of Mike Weber. Carey was probably very grateful to his goalposts which were crisply struck by Pominville and Mike Weber.
At the other end of the ice, Max Pacioretty scored his 18th of the campaign. He converted his own breakaway rebound to beat Ryan Miller low to the stick side. It was an inspiring goal to watch. Seconds before, Max-Pac had been levelled to the ice on a hit but he recovered well and quickly enough to streak in alone on the Buffalo goaltender and managed to make it count.
Both teams had first-period power plays but neither could cash in on the opportunities. It remains a mystery to me why anyone would refer to Yannick Weber as a “power-play specialist”. I hope to be wrong on this, but i simply cannot imagine him morphing into either a Mark Streit or a Sheldon Souray. The Habs’ man-advantage play was, predictably, painful to watch. Only PK Subban seemed intent on putting the puck into the opponent’s net. I am sure that he will be blasted by the media for trying to do it all himself. What, pray tell, should he do when no one else can get the job done? I support his efforts and initiative 100% and i hope that he continues to rush with the puck from one end of the rink to the other.
The Second Period
The highly touted, yet struggling, Ville Leino scored only his fourth goal to tie it up at 1 apiece with 4:01 elapsed in the second. On that play, Raphael Diaz certainly did not look like he deserved his invitation to the All-Star festivities. The Sabres never looked back. The goal, coming immediately after Alexei Emelin sacrificed himself and singlehandedly stopped a point-blank Pominville shot, burst the Canadiens bubble.
Buffalo went on to dominate the remainder of the middle frame. While Montreal did have a couple of solid scoring chances, the home team was outshot 18 to 7. This statistic in and of itself represents that Buffalo wanted this game more than did the Habs. Such a shot disparity is unacceptable when so much is at stake, when each point can mean the difference between a playoff berth and early tee-times. The only positive to draw from the 2nd period relates to Carey Price. He was fun to watch. In stopping 28 of 29 shots in the first two periods alone, the masked-man demonstrated that the team can count on him. I suppose that we should also not discount the work of tireless Eric Cole who continues to bedazzle every time he rushes to the net with or without the puck.
The Third Period
Early in the third, Paul Gaustad gave his Sabres a 2-1 lead. Hal Gill seemed to have position on his man Gaustad yet the latter managed to put the puck in the net with relative ease. The insurance goal was added into an empty Canadiens net by Patrick Kaleta with 52 seconds remaining in the third. As you already know, no extra time would be required to settle this one. While the Canadiens did manage 13 shots in the final frame it was, as we have witnessed so many times this season, a case of too little…too late. Sure, there were a couple of scoring chances and a couple of moments during which the team looked a bit threatening but failure to make this count rendered Price’s outstanding performance moot.
He stopped 38 of the 40 shots that he faced and what more can a team ask for? He was the only Hab who did not get to relax and recover during the All Star Break (OK i acknow, ledge that Raphael Diaz participated in skills competition) and yet he was the one who turned in the most energized performance. This cannot be allowed to continue. While the Habs did not play horribly, they failed to dominate which they absolutely have to do. The hunger which seemed to take its place within the team once Cammalleri was traded was not in evidence tonight. Is it rust? Is it lack of passion? Is it a case of playing scared? I cannot purport to know the answer.
While I have stood steadfastly by this sinking ship, I must admit to being a bit discouraged by this loss. How do you lose to the 26th ranked team when failure is not an option?! I don’t get it… On l’Antichambre it was noted that, on a period by period basis, a fan has absolutely no idea which Montreal team is going to show up on the ice. This emotional roller coaster is killing me! I have a lot of feelings to share in my group therapy tomorrow morning!!!!
- Next up: Habs are visitors in New Jersey on Thursday night before facing the Capitals and Jets at the Bell Centre on Saturday and Sunday respectively
- Neither Travis Moen (injury), Chris Campoli, nor Petteri Nolelainen were dressed. They were replaced by Yannick Weber and Andreas Engqvist who was recalled from Hamilton. On that note, is Engqvist truly the best that we can do when we call up a player? Sure he is effective in the AHL but has roven nothing whatsoever as far as his ability to perform in the big league is concerned.
- Montreal continued its penalty killing excellence by preventing Buffalo from scoring on all three of its opportunities with the man advantage.
- The loss, in conjunction with results from around the league, lands Montreal in 14th place in the East. Ouch! Catastrophe! Maybe I was wrong…maybe this team just does not have what it takes…while i am not giving up just yet, i must be open-minded enough to see things for what they appear to be…i use the word “appear” intentionally here…i will make up my mind within the next 10 days…