Though out his team’s slide to oblivion, Montreal Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau has maintained that the answer to what ails his team lies with the 23 players in the dressing room.
Nobody is going to do it for them, said the coach, prior to leaving for this current six-game road trip.
That was before the Canadiens fell 6-2 in Calgary Tuesday night, and 7-2 in Edmonton.
Following last night’s loss to the Oilers, Carbonneau stopped just short of issuing a plea to general manager Bob Gainey to step in and help stop the bleeding. But it was clearly a cry for help from The Coach following the Canadiens’ seventh straight loss on the road.
“I’ll sit with Bob and try to find a solution,” said Carbonneau when this one was over. “But it’s hard to make trades. You need two teams to do that.”
Words of desperation from a desperate coach.
First of all, let me say that Carbonneau’s lineup changes for last night’s game had me scratching my head in a big way. Mathieu Dandenault up front in his return to action after an arm injury? Okay, I could live with that one, even though the Canadiens have been horrible along the blueline, and Dandenault had been playing some solid D prior to his injury. But easing the veteran back into action as a forward made some sense, although I was surprised to see him on a line with Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec.
And then there was Josh Gorges. As a forward. Yes, he’s struggled on the blueline, but why move him up front? Why sit out Steve Begin in place of Josh Gorges, as a forward?
Well, that’s what the coach did: sit out both Begin and Sergei Kostitsyn. And waddaya know: both Dandenault and Gorges responded. Too bad nobody else did, save for maybe The Captain, who continues to work his tail off. Dandenault had a goal and two assists, while Gorges finished at plus 2 on the night.
Cold, comfort however, on a night when Carey Price surrendered four goals in the first period. Price finished the game, and why not? See what the youngster is made of. Sure he gave up fat, juicy rebounds all night long. But, yet again, he received absolutely no help from the players in front of him.
If the coach was looking to move two defenceman to the forward position, maybe he should have started with Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek. Because last night they certainly didn’t deserve to be patrolling the blue line. Komisarek was on the ice for the first four Edmonton goals, although he did finish at “only” -1 for the night. Markov finished at a -3. Throughout this entire 11-game stretch of nine losses, every single Montreal defenceman has played some brutal hockey: Hamerlik, Bouillon, Komisarek, Markov, Brisebois, Gorges.
All of them.
Perhaps Montreal’s steadiest defenceman during this stretch has been Ryan O’Byrne. Go figure.
Like Carbonneau, I have felt that the answer indeed does lie with the 23 men in this Canadiens’ locker room. The same way you can point 23 fingers when it comes to laying blame for this mess.
When Alex Kovalev took a high stick in the face and had to be helped off the ice last night, I could just hear Habs fans silently praying he wouldn’t be back. Kovalev has been an easy lightning road for what has been ailing this team. Often, for very good reason, as the result of his status as the most talented player on this team. Well, Kovalev came back, stitched up across the nose.
Misery loves company. And the Canadiens have been a miserable hockey team.
Now what? Well, there will be no trip to the bowling alley for this bunch today. Despite catching the red-eye and flying into Denver in the wee hours of the morning. The Coach fully intended to take advantage of his team’s scheduled ice time at the suburban Westminster Promenade Arena this morning, ahead of tomorrow night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
More help from down on the farm? You might be interested to know that, while the Canadiens were busy losing to the Oilers, the Hamilton Bulldogs were busy beating the Hershey Bears 4-2, led by the 36-save performance of the game’s first star, Marc Denis.
Just thought you might wanna know.