It's getting harder and harder to stay positive when we review the latest Canadiens' game. It's difficult to see this discombobulated and impotent bunch suddenly turning it up a few notches for the playoffs, that's probably why. Playing a Devils team that had every reason to lie down, its season being practically finished except for the necessity to play out the string, the Canadiens were the team that seemed uninspired. It turned out we were the pigeon ready to be plucked, not them.
That ennui may have seeped into the RDS broadcast crew. There was a screen graphics template shown onscreen while the Canadiens were in the attacking zone late in the game, and it stayed up for a few seconds. These kinds of technical gaffes are rare at RDS, they're usually a slick team, but it even affected Pierre Houde. The reliable and polished play-by-play man referred to Carey Price as "Patrick Roy" early in the first period, and later misidentified Brian Gionta as Josh Gorges. The latter had made me sit up, wondering what Josh Gorges was doing so far up in his zone blocking a shot. Someone needs to explain to these boys that while the Canadiens' season may not last much longer, they still need to broadcast the games and do a credible job of it, all the way to the end.
We saw Carey Price trying to rebound, recapture his form from earlier in the season, when he was technically sound and unflappable, but as the analysts showed, he seems to lack confidence, and instead of attacking the puck and looking big in nets, he seemed passive and confused. On the Patrick Elias powerplay goal to open the scoring, we saw the old mistakes creeping back into his game, as he sagged lower and lower into his crouch while Mr. Elias held the puck for a second longer, until Carey had committed to the butterfly and the Devil coolly sniped the top corner blocker side, which is the 'book' on him.
Another interesting aspect tonight was how the refs protected Martin Brodeur, calling the Canadiens for three goaltender interference penalties, on which the Devils scored twice. Now we have nothing against the refs doing their job and actually using their whistle and protecting the goalies, but after seeing so many teams crash our crease and bang Carey Price around, it was odd to see them call the game so tightly. Evidently, while Carey is held in high esteem around the league and by media talking heads, the refs still think he needs to eat his Wheaties, while they are deferential to Mr. Brodeur.
So while Carey didn't quite deliver, we can't really pin this loss on him, as the Canadiens had a chance to win the game in the third, but it never really seemed likely. They didn't storm the net with desperation, but rather flubbed and fumbled while trying to gain entry into the Devils' zone, or trying to recover the puck in their own zone and break out. The powerplay has cooled off markedly, and the penalty kill which had firmed up shortly after Jeff Halpern's arrival, is now mired in an abysmal streak. All three scoring lines, which had done so well to share the scoring load, have grown cold at the same time.
I don't really have any answers, can't see how sitting a particular player in the pressbox or shuffling the lines will help. But that's why I'm not on the coaching staff, and merely a fan with an axe to grind.
The only saving grace is that the Bruins also lost, in an equally dispiriting fashion (nice bankshot off your goalie into your own net, Zdeno, brilliantly, elegantly done, as usual), so the second seeding in the division is still up for grabs. And who will give me odds that Cam Neely fires Claude Julien and parachutes down from the box to behind the bench, right before the playoffs? I'll take bets at 5-to-1.