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Eaten Alive (ode to Mikhail Grabovski)

Regular season game #11

It can be hard to distinguish anger from panic, but tonight, it’s all anger. Or at least it should be. For the second time, the Habs failed to show up at home versus one of their arch-rivals. The last thing the players see on their way to the ice when they leave their dressing room is a big “NO Excuses” graphic above the door. If the moment wasn’t enough to bring focus, if the coach’s last minute words aren’t enough to motivate, then that slogan is the final reminder that the onus is on the player to rise to the occasion.

It’s inexplicable that the Canadiens would come out this flat. The Leafs are not a good enough team for the Habs to say they met a far superior opponent. It’s too soon to claim fatigue, and it’s far too soon to say that the coach’s message is falling on deaf ears.

It would be easy to deflect attention away from the mess that were the Habs tonight by pointing at referee Tim Peel’s circus act, or at the antics by some of Toronto’s players in the third period (the Habs weren’t boy scouts, either). The focus should be kept squarely on the play of the Habs, who deserved to get pounded in exchange for their hollow effort. From the opening goal where Markov and Emelin looked like Fred and Barney, to the sixth goal where the Habs resembled Easter Island statues, there is not one aspect of the game that the Canadiens can salvage anything positive from. The so-called first line was again, totally invisible. For the week, Desharnais, Cole and Pacioretty combined for 1 assist and 17 shots in 9 games while posting a -13. Desharnais was a miserable 36% on faceoffs for the week. Talk about not getting the job done.

Now that the bloom is off the rose and reality is setting in, we see what happens to the Habs when they don’t feast on powerplay success, can’t win faceoffs (Leafs centerman Tyler Bozak had a 19-for-23 performance- how’d that look on the Habs?) and have only five more even strength goals than they’ve surrendered through 11 games, it’s no wonder that the 6-2 start feels like a distant memory.

Go ahead and be angry about this game. Be angry about the no-show on the scoreboard. Be angry about how the Leafs bit and kneed their way through an embarrassing third period. Be angry about whatever you want to be angry at, but don’t touch the panic button.

This was inevitable.

The Habs were not, and are not the equivalent of a 6-2 team. They’re closing in on the .500 mark, which is where they likely figure to be after 48 games. It’s just they’ve chosen to take the most painful route to get there. If there is any good news, its that losses like this prompt galvanization, internal changes, or speed up the inevitable.

Salt for the wound: don’t expect any suspensions for bites or attempted kneeings.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel


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