One minute the Canadiens are tied for 1st in the east, then they play one game against the Ottawa Senators and the next thing you know, they find themselves in 5th place in the conference standings…
You wanted parity in the NHL? You got it folks ! Are the Ottawa Senators a better hockey team than the Canadiens ? Is any other team in the East for that matter? If wins and losses are an indication, an argument can be made to the "no" side….
The Habs have chugged along all season, shirking off bad beats and learning along the way from the previous games mistakes, but they are not an elite team, nor one with lots of experience. They are playing and learning how to win, and are getting really good at it. The problem is they are being compared to teams like the Senators who can be considered an elite team with players like Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson leading the way, or The Rangers with Jagr, Shanahan, Gomez and Drury. How about Carolina with Brind'Amour, Cole and Staal ? Know what the difference is between them and these young Canadiens ? EXPERIENCE. More importantly, playoff/Stanley Cup Final experience.
The Young core of this Montreal team has to start learning (and they are) what it's going to take in order to take it one notch higher to make it to the springtime parade in their own home town.
A perfect example was last night's 3-0 loss to Ottawa. It was clear that Ottawa clearly wanted this game more than the Canadiens (until the end of the 3rd when a small burst of pressure was mustered by the Habs, but too little, too late.)
Spezza dominated his favourite whipping team yet again and the only thing missing on this night would have been another highlight reel goal, but alas, that ship sailed to Edmonton last summer due to free agency.
You know what the Canadiens' problem is ? they respect the Senators too much. Just like they respected the Anaheim Ducks too much when they last played them (thank goodness it's only once a year!).
There is no hatred there, just pure awe and too much respect. Where were the big hits on a supposedly injured Daniel Alfredsson? Why were we not crashing the net on a shaky-at-best Martin Gerber? Why did it look as if all passes were rushed, inaccurate and either off the skate or too out of reach? Because they were! The last time I witnessed this lack of self confidence was the aforementioned game I alluded to in another post against the Redwings. But I thought we had moved on from that lesson.
The Canadiens have to learn that from here on in, there are no easy games (The Bruins and Predators learned that last night) and they are no longer underestimated as they may have been at the beginning of the season. They have to learn to hate every opponent they face and throw respect or adulation out the window or the next experience they will encounter is an early exit from the playoffs.
The Habs CAN play with any team in the NHL. They have proven that to their fans. It's time they begin to believe it themselves.