Hide your faces – it was an ugly one.
It’s well known that the worst lead in hockey is the 2-0 advantage. Apparently, no one sent the Habs that memo, as they once again re-invented the wheel.
Up by three goals, just a little less than halfway into the last period, the Canadiens once again melted down allowing 3 unanswered goals to take the game into overtime, and then a shootout.
Now I will be fair here. There is no way that the second goal should have been allowed for Tampa. It was most definitely punched into the net by Victor Hedman; and his reaction after the review was more than enough to show that he was aware that he “got away with one”.
Having said that, the edge we saw from the Habs in their first four wins was not as apparent. They are beginning to take the foot off the pedal. It’s like they’ve been brought back to earth with a resounding thump, realizing that they are far from invincible.
There is no doubt that every team will have good and bad bounces, and that you can come out of some well played games on the wrong side of the score, but we have seen a distinct decline in the energy level of this team when it comes to the continued press.
On the Canadiens Post Game Show, broadcast on Montreal Hockey Talk, the question was put out to everyone as to whether this is a problem with fatigue, or Therrien being out-coached. I like Therrien, but I think it’s the latter. Every team is “fatigued” with the shortened schedule, and the lack of preseason play, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Habs bench boss has been out shined in the past four matches.
This team had the opportunity to send a well timed message tonight, and that message comes from the top down. They could have told the Eastern conference that even after losing three straight – they can bounce back, put the pedal to the floor, and bury their opponent as they’ve been able to do early in the season. Instead, they puttered, sat back, and squeaked out a win.
With one quarter of the season officially in the books, it’s not going to get any easier either. Looking at the next ten games, six are on the road, and the teams they face are no laughing matter. Granted, the Panthers (road game), Philly (home), and the Islanders (home) aren’t great threats on paper, they also have to face the Rangers twice (home and away), Carolina (home), the Penguins (home), as well as the Leafs, Senators, and Bruins (all on the road).
There has been a lot of talk about what game would be the litmus test for this franchise making the post season, and bringing some sort of glory back to the city of Montreal. But reality says that the true answers will only come over the next ten games. This team can go either way, and it’s in Michel Therrien’s hands to write the story.
There is pure raw talent on this team right now, and there are a few potential duds. How this team comes away from their structure will depend solely on how the captain of this ship steers it. If he can nurture the raw talent, and re-mold or disperse of the duds, this franchise could have a great run to the post-season.
But he has to step to the plate and lead this team. Utilize the talent that he has, at the right time, in the right place. It’s time for him to re-instill within all players on this team that there is never a time to let up. To find the right pieces of the puzzle to come together with fervor – and not complacency.