As tough as the schedule was in the month of February, the month of March was supposed to be a breeze for the Montreal Canadiens, especially considering they closed out a brutal month with 4 straight wins against pretty good teams.
The month of March consists of 13 games, 9 of which are at home.
6 games are against teams that are out of the playoff race,
namely the Thrashers twice, Islanders, Sens, Leafs and Lightning.
5 games are against teams that are battling for one of the bottom playoff spots,
namely the Sabres twice, Stars, Oilers and Rangers.
Only 2 games are against “elite” teams, the Devils and the Blackhawks.
Unfortunately, the games aren't played on paper; they're played on ice.
On the eve of the trade deadline, the Canadiens were embarrassed in Buffalo, losing 5-1. Following a classic bag skate, the Habs never got anything going in Atlanta, this time losing 2-0. To be fair, the effort was better, but the team just seemed mentally exhausted. They made the simplest things look difficult, and consequently they just could not get anything going. They played one of the worst teams in the NHL and could only fire 13 pucks on net in the first two periods. Not to mention, the team had a grand total of 5 hits over the course of the game. No, that is not a typo, 5 hits. They were not getting engaged in the play, they were not pushing the pace and they deserved the result that they got. There is just nothing going on, and frankly, it's a little frightening right now.
The theme of the entire season has been inconsistency, which is the direct opposite of last year's theme. The goaltending has been inconsistent, the defense has been inconsistent, the forwards have been inconsistent and the powerplay has been inconsistent. Hence, the team's performance has been inconsistent as well. Naturally, the suggestion would be that the team is in need of a shakeup, but Bob Gainey missed his chance to do that, which would have been 2 days ago at the deadline. Let me make one thing clear, I did not believe Gainey should have sold the farm to bring in high end / short term solutions, because to be honest, I think he realizes that this team is likely not winning the cup this year. Stranger things have happened, but there isn't much he could have done to end up comparable to Boston or New Jersey. I agree that it would have been irresponsible to sell the farm to bring in rentals, however, seeing as every other team improved drastically, Gainey should have made sure he addressed one of their needs, and that's the only thing that boggles my mind. Now he's in a situation where his team is struggling and every team around his is improving. If this team ends up not making the postseason, it will be more than fair to put part of the blame on their general manager's reluctance to add some low risk, high reward guys to the roster when it was clear there were glaring needs.
Even though Montreal sits in 5th place with 75 points, the Panthers, Rangers and Penguins have 74, while the Hurricanes and Sabres both have 73. It seems so long ago that after 44 games, the Habs had a 27-11-6 record and were rolling along in the regular season. Since then, the team has gone into cruise control and fallen asleep at the wheel. Perhaps the players, and fans for that matter, have just taken it for granted that the Canadiens will be able to turn it on once the postseason rolls around, but at this point, making it into the playoffs isn't exactly a guarantee anymore. They need answers, and they need answers fast. At this point in the season, there is nothing that the coach can really do that will change things and there is nothing the general manager can do that will change the dynamic of the Montreal Canadiens. This is all on the players. They are the ones who play the game, so it is up to the leadership of the team to get everyone to come together and play their absolute best for the remaining 17 games. There was a reason why not one player was mentioned by name in this blog; this is about the team now, not about one player. To quote Brian Burke, “No complaints, no excuses.” – just play the game the way you can!
GO HABS GO!
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.