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New Year, Same Feeling

Regular season game #1

After a season that saw the Habs effectively out of the playoffs by Christmas, and a lengthy lockout, it had been over a year since seeing the Canadiens play a meaningful game. The excitement was there, as the fresh air and positive vibes brought by the new regime had yet to blow over. After the puck dropped, however, it was the same old, same old.

The Habs started slowly, and didn’t sustain any offense until the third period when they were already down 2-0 to the Toronto Marlies Maple Leafs. They couldn’t stay out of the box  early, and Michel Therrien didn’t help things by using aging rearguard François Bouillon for more than three and a half minutes on the power play. I thought familiarity was supposed to breed contempt? Apparently not in this case. That’s not to say that Bouillon was to blame for the team’s loss. For a team that has adopted “NO Excuses” as the motto for the year, it’s going to be an awful lot of fun watching people try to invent excuses on their behalf. Can’t call it rust, and we can’t say it was injuries. The first line was saggy all night, the second line was full of beans, but lacked coherence and the the bottom six can only do so much when it comes to scoring. The defense was only passably decent, and thank goodness for Carey Price (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

In a compressed schedule, we won’t have to wait very long to see where this season is going. If the Canadiens start out with a few consecutive losses, they’ll face a daunting climb to the playoffs. There is no room for three or four game losing streaks, and to go a few games without any points at all is the kiss of death. There is no such thing as “it’s still early”, and “there’s still time”, and thank goodness for that, as deluded Habs fans were still hung up on that lame edict after 50-something games in to last season’s debacle.

The Panthers are in town on Tuesday and it is critical that the Habs get in the win column. Why? Because they play 8 of their first 11 games at home. For a team that was absolutely ghastly on the road last year, they need to make hay at the Bell Center, or it’s curtains. Falling to 0-2 on home ice is something that can’t happen.

Not-so-bold predictions: some time soon we will see Habs fans on twitter asking for the lockout to be put back in to effect, and we’ll also see a litany of unfunny “did anyone tell the Habs that the lockout is over?” tweets. Book it. In fact, I’m sure if you look hard enough, those “jokes” were already made last night.

Still, all this being said, it was nice to see hockey back. But it’s time for the Habs’ rubber to hit the road or it will be panic time again.

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