March 6, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Montreal Canadiens left wing Thomas Vanek (20) passes the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes during the third period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens Will Quickly Bounce Back From Tough Road Trip

Mar 8, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle (22) defends against Montreal Canadiens left wing Thomas Vanek (20) during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Montreal Canadiens had a four game road trip come to an unceremonious end last night, as they fell 4-0 to the Sharks in San Jose. It was a tough week for the Habs on the ice, going 1-3-0 on the four game trip out west, but it is no need to panic for Habs fans.

The trip started with a hard fought 2-1 loss against a good Los Angeles Kings team. The Habs fell behind less than two minutes into the game, but were able to shut things down and hang around until the final buzzer. They just could not find that goal in the third period that would have tied things up and sent it to overtime.

March 6, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17) scores a goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj (30) during the third period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal then entered Anaheim, a team who almost never loses at home, with their third string goaltender in net. Dustin Tokarski made his first start as a Canadien and was solid in helping the Habs beat the powerful Ducks 4-3 in a shootout.

The Canadiens traveled to Phoenix the next night looking for a win against the weakest opponent they would face out west. The Habs found themselves trailing by one goal with ten minutes to go in the third period, but that is when the wheels fell off for the rest of the trip.

The Coyotes would score a pair of late goals to stretch their lead to 5-2, and then came the uninspiring effort against the Sharks. Montreal was vastly outplayed by San Jose, and looked like they wanted out of California before the game even started. The Sharks first goal was a dump in that Budaj decided to hand over to Tommy Wingels who poked it home for the eventual game winning goal.

Mar 5, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov (79) celebrates with his teammates after scoring the winning goal during the shootout against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. The Canadiens won 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Winning one out of three is not exactly what you hope for as a fan when the Habs head on a road trip. That being said, there are a myriad of reasons to believe this is not the type of performance to expect when the Habs return to the Eastern time zone later this week.

For starters, the Canadiens played the entire trip without their starting goaltender Carey Price. The Habs leaned heavily on Price throughout the season to carry them to wins. Peter Budaj had been admirable in spot duty, but it is clear that starting six of seven games since the Olympic break is catching up to him.

Budaj was solid in starting four in a row coming out of the Olympics, minus his start against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he has allowed seven goals on 34 shots in the past two games against the Sharks and Coyotes. Price can’t get healthy soon enough for this team.

Mar 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings left wing Kyle Clifford (13) is defended by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi (24) at Staples Center. The Kings defeated the Canadiens 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The trip to California is no vacation for any NHL team these days. San Jose and Anaheim have the two best home records in the league and the Coyotes and Kings have been two of the top defensive teams for years. It is not like the Habs left Montreal last week and we all thought they were going to go 4-0-0. Winning one of four is a bit disappointing but let’s be honest, if we knew Price was not going to play any games, hoping for a .500 record would have been a bit of a stretch.

The Canadiens also made several trades in the past week and were trying to fit two new players into the lineup. Adding a sniper like Thomas Vanek and defensive specialist Mike Weaver will be good for the Canadiens in the long run, but trying to fit them into the lineup on the fly proved to be difficult.

Once the Habs get back home and have a few actual practices, Vanek will be able to develop a little bit of chemistry and get used to playing with his new linemates. Vanek looked a little lost at times in his two games in a Habs sweater, but with three days to practice with his new team, Vanek will be back to his old self by Wednesday.

It was a tough week of Habs hockey out west, but once Price returns to the lineup and Vanek has some time to get familiar with his new surroundings, the Montreal Canadiens will hardly resemble the team that failed to show up in San Jose last night.

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