Please Don't Let That Hab-En Again (Plus Habs @ Sabres Preview)
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens went into a game against the Calgary Flames in what many expected to be a sure win. Not to sound overconfident, or disparaging towards the Flames, but the odds were sort of stacked in the Canadiens' favor.
The Habs have one of the best home records in the league (16-6-3 after last night's game), and anyone from an opposing team will tell you that playing at the Bell Centre is very intimidating. Moreover, the Canadiens are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, and after a dismal month of December, they've only lost one game in regulation in January against the Penguins last week. The Habs are 10th in point percentage in the league (no really), and currently sit comfortably in 6th place in the East, only two points behind the Boston Bruins for the Northeast Division lead.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Calgary Flames are having one of their worst seasons ever, in 14th place in the West with a 20-20-6 record. They've had some success in their recent Eastern swing, but back-to-back wins in Ottawa and Toronto came only after a four game losing streak. The Flames that been incredibly inconsistent as of late and most were expecting their recent Eastern luck to run out heading into the Bell Centre last night, in what was probably going to be a pretty boring, defensive game.
Sounds like an easy two points for the Habs.
Well the Habs sure made you think that in the first half of the game. For the first time in what seemed to be forever, the Habs actually scored more than three goals, netting four on tender Miikka Kiprusoff, who would be pulled after Jeff Halpern would score his 7th of the season in the 6th minute of the seventh. Eller (3) and Cammalleri (13) scored in the first, with Andrei Kostitsyn (12) opening the second period scoring, seemingly responding to TCL's Phil T's call to trade Kostitsyn last week.
Four goals through 27 minutes of play, and everything looking fine for the Canadiens, right?
Seven minutes after Halpern would give the Canadiens one of their biggest leads of the season, and Kiprusoff would be replayed with 27-year-old rookie Henrik Karlsson, Rene Bourque (no, RDS, he's from Alberta) would open the scoring for the Flames. Then with just about a minute to go in the second, captain Jarome Iginla would make it 4-2, scoring the Canadiens' worst enemy this season, the late-period goal. Things would get even worse in the third, as the late-period goal's best friend, the early-period goal, would decide to make two appearances, crippling the Habs with a Kotalik goal (only his 3rd of the season) followed by a goal from former Hab Alex Tanguay. Alex Auld would make way for Carey Price after that one.
If you were in our liveblog last night, then you would probably know how most Habs fans were reacting to this epic collapse (pretty badly). But thankfully for the Habs fans, they would be able to put away the guns by the time overtime rolled around, as PK Subban would score in OT on a nice feed from Scott Gomez. Notice the "archer" celebration from Subban after the goal, and count the minutes before people start complaining about it.
Either way, with or without two points, last night was embarrassing for the Habs and their fans. Forgetting for a moment that the Flames aren't exactly a powerhouse this year, there's absolutely no excuse for blowing a four goal lead against any team, yet alone one sitting in the West's cellar.
But we could sit here all day and complain about how that wasn't supposed to happen. Truth is, it did. And it isn't the first time the Habs were embarrassed this season, and it probably won't be the last. There are some major problems with this team, starting behind the bench, and if you don't see them 47 games into the season, then I don't know what else can be said.
ALSO READ: Newman's Flames Recap
HABS @ SABRES
Whatever happened last night, the Habs will look to put that fiasco behind them with a trip to Buffalo for the tail end of the first of two back-to-back situations this week.
Just like the Flames, the Sabres haven't exactly been playing top notch hockey this season, sitting in 11th place in the East with 43 points, and a similar record to the Habs competition from last night, at 19-20-5. Just like the Flames, as well as the Habs, the Sabres have had trouble scoring goals this season, and suffer from serious deficiencies on the back-end. And just like the Flames, the Sabres' former Vezina winner hasn't exactly been putting up Vezina numbers.
Should we expect a similar result tonight as we got yesterday? All the pieces seem to be there, but then again, the Habs have had surprisingly good luck with the Sabres this season, beating them all three times in their prior meetings by scores of 2-1, 3-2 and 3-1.
The Sabres leading scorers are Derek Roy (10-25-35) and Thomas Vanek (17-18-35) and Ryan Miller, who's expected to start between the pipes, has a 17-4-4 record with a .911 SVP and a 2.72 GAA in 35 appearances. As mentioned, not exactly the Vezina numbers he put up last season. The team is coming off a 5-3 loss in Long Island, but has had a respectable record of 4-2-1 in January.
If the Canadiens have absolutely any heart, they're going to be damn pissed after last night's sorry excuse for a performance in the second half of the game. It's nothing that we shouldn't come to expect, late period and late game collapses and a lucky win in overtime, but with the number of games remaining getting shorter, then you would hope that some of the people on this team would start to wake up and smell the coffee. Whatever they did last season in the playoffs is done and in the books. Now the Canadiens have to deal with what's ahead of them, and it isn't pretty. The teams they beat in the playoffs last year aren't going to let that happen again. And the Flyers, well, they're just going to beat the Habs again, the way they're playing. That is, if the Habs even make the playoffs. It's way to early to talk about that.
Not to sound pessimist, but this team manages to look bad even when they win. There are a lot of parts of their game that need to change, or general manager Pierre Gauthier is going to have to step in and make the changes himself before the February 28th trade deadline.
Don't forget to join us tonight for a liveblog, and leave your predictions in the comments below!