The Montreal Canadiens are in 2nd place overall in the Eastern Conference and have won 2 out of 4 games during this western road trip (.500 being the acceptable grade for any extended road trip) but when Coach Carbonneau was asked about his team's performance to date, he had this to say : " We still have too many passengers on this team"
While some see Carbo's attitude and comments as a "glass is half empty" type of approach, I say "Kudos" to the ex-Canadiens captain who should know a thing or two about winning a Stanley Cup in the NHL.
While I would be the first to pontificate about how the Habs are surpassing every pundits wildest predictions and bragging about my reserved seat on Ste Catherine's street for the April Stanley Cup Parade, it is important that the actual players vying for this holy grail take a slice of humble pie and realize that they have never won a game they didn't have to work for.... all year.....
Sure, the Canadiens have had their share of wins that they didn't deserve, but most of the time, we had our goaltending to thank for that. As it was with this recent road trip.
San Jose: A game we could have had, were it not for an off (and I mean really off) night for Carey Price. But we did score 4 goals..
Phoenix : A slow first and second period where we were grossly out-shot 13-30. Carey Price got the 1st star, deservedly so, keeping the Habs in it until a rarely seen team effort which saw the Habs awake out of of it's sun-stroked stupor to score 3 unanswered goals to make the game look less close than it actually was. P.S: what was Shane Doan so mad about towards the end of the game? He was going after anything in a red sweater as if he was a ticked off bull and finally took it out on Roman Hamrlik who is not know fro spewing lewd comments about other players wives...
L.A : Enter Yaroslav Halak, enter another evening where the Canadien's goaltender got the 1st star. The defence allowed Halak to face 37 shots including a barrage of 4 consecutive saves before the play was whistled down. Guys, it's nice to say your goaltenders are the night's 1st stars, but when it is the norm rather than the exception - You are doing something wrong!! It's called playing responsibly defensively, something that Carbonneau (a former 3 time Selke trophy winner) has been preaching from Day 1.
Anaheim : Canadiens get out-shot 37-21, Carey Price is the game's 3rd star in a 3-1 loss..... Seeing a trend here? Good news? Alex Kovalev got the Hab's lone goal (his 30th) giving Montreal fans a shot at seeing someone score more than 30 goals in a season since Vinny Damphousse wore the colors back in 95-96.
Bottom line, as I stated in an earlier post, the Habs won the games they should have (Phoenix and LA) and could have won either of those other 2 games if the bus had fewer passengers and more drivers. They did, however prove (hopefully to themselves) that they CAN compete with the western conference. They were by no means ever outclassed or out-muscled, they were just out-hustled by teams that were already in playoff mode on nights when even stellar goaltending (Anaheim) couldn't save them.
If you think you are experiencing dejà vu tomorrow evening, if you think you are experiencing déjà vu tomorrow evening (gotcha ! ) you are not. The Habs find themselves in a rematch with the Jersey Devils for 1st place overall tomorrow night. As the last time these two teams met, Jersey was ahead by one point and the conference lead is up for grabs. Habs have beat Jersey twice the last two times they met.
It should be a devil of a game...