HABS END HOMESTAND WITH A THUD


It says here that you’re not going to win too many hockey games when you can only score one goal.

For the second straight game, the Montreal Canadiens could score but one goal. And for the second straight game, that goal scorer was Patrice Brisebois, who might not be Sheldon Souray or Mark Streit. But at least he put the puck in the net, which is more than can be said for any of his teammates over the last 120 minutes of hockey.

The Habs made Simeon Varlamov look like Jacques Plante as the rookie goaltender stopped 32 shots in his very first NHL game. Jaroslav Halak made his third straight start for the Canadiens as a result of the flu bug that has bitten Carey Price, and a lower-body injury that Price is currently dealing with.

Marc Denis, called up from the Bulldogs, was the backup.

Nicklas Backstrom and Michael Nylander, with the winner with less than three minutes to play, were the only Capitals able to beat Halak on this night. But then again, you’re not going to win too many hockey games . . . (…fill in the blanks).

Montreal head coach Guy Carbonneau was clearly fit to be tied when this one was over, as a result of the season-long lesson in futility that has been delivered by this team’s power play unit: 0 for 8 last night; 6 for 77 in their last 17 games. Alex Kovalev, without a goal since November 1st, stretching 19 games, didn’t feel The Coach was sending a message when he put fourth-liners Steve Begin, Tom Kostopoulos, and Maxim Lapierre on the ice for a couple of power play shifts in the second period, after the Habs blew a four-minute man advantage situation.

Carbo begs to differ. He WAS sending a message.

“Right now our power play is non-existent,” lamented Carbo when this one was over.

With Saku Koivu out for at least two weeks (before he’s re-evaluated) with a lower-body injury (likely a foot or ankle) Ben Maxwell made his NHL regular-season debut after being called up from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs and played on a line with Matt D’Agostini (who has looked impressive in a Montreal uniform in the handful of games he’s played since joining the Big Team) and Andrei Kostitsyn. Maxwell looked like a deer caught in the headlights in the first period, but managed to settle himself down and generate a couple of scoring opportunities in his 12:28 of ice time.

“I’ve got to be a little stronger, a little faster and a little smarter out there,” said Maxwell. “Tonight I felt like I was running around a little too much.”

The clock would appear to be ticking on Maxwell’s stint with the Habs. The prevailing theory is that if Koivu is out for any length of time, Maxwell will be sent back to the Bulldogs and Kyle Chipchura will get the call to join the Big Team. A groin injury prevented Chipchura from re-joining the Habs this time ’round.

And, with Koivu out, Kovalev found himself wearing the Captain’s “C.”  Going into the game, Carbonneau was asked if he hoped if the “C” on Kovalev’s jersey might inspire the enigmatic number 27.

“I hope not,” Carbo responded at the time, adding, “I don’t believe you need a letter to get going.”

Well, as it turned out, the letter didn’t “get Kovalev going.”  Then again, over the last 120 minutes of hockey, no one else on this team has been able to get anything going, either, on the score sheet at least, other than Brisebois.

Yes, the effort was there for the most part, at least after a listless opening period.  But the results weren’t.

So, what began as a very promising seven-game home stand closed with a thud with back-to-back losses to the Tampa Bay Lightening and Washington Capitals. The injury-riddled Canadiens hit the road tomorrow as they prepare to meet the ‘Caines Tuesday night.

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About ahefter

I have covered hockey extensively during my 30-year sports broadcasting career. From the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid to the Edmonton Oiler dynasty years, I've shared my views on hockey with listeners in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You can "catch me in action" on Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n5BdB9ngYw My radio stops include TSN 690 Montreal, CJAD Montreal, CKNW Vancouver, and CKEY Toronto. I also ran the Canadian Press sports desk (radio). My travels as a network reporter have taken me to four Olympics, most recently Vancouver 2010. I'm currently an Applied Assistant Professor within the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.
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