With 18 games left in the regular season, the Canadiens limped into Atlanta for tonight’s contest against the Thrashers.

The Habs’ “thanked” Bob Gainey for not touching the team’s current roster at at the trade deadline by laying an egg in Buffalo Wednesday night, falling 5-1 to the Sabres behind Carey Price.

Once again, this loss was a team “effort,” and I use that word loosely.

The Habs’ flew the flu-ridden Jaroslav Halak into Atlanta in time for tonight’s game, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to go against the Thrashers.  And even if Halak IS ready to go tonight, there is no guarantee that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off; riding a personal four-game winning streak before falling ill.

Habs fans are dreaming in technicolor if they think Halak, as well as he’s been playing, can singlehandedly lead this team to the promised land, AKA, the playoffs.  Yes, you need a hot goaltender.  And after being little more than a .500 goalie for much of this season, you would certainly have to classify Halak as a hot goaltender.

It’s the performance of the players in front of him, that has me concerned.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the Canadiens, as a team, didn’t deserve to take eight out of a possible eight points over their recent four-game winning streak.  Not with six defencemen who continue to run around in their own end and simply can not clear opposing bodies out from in front of their  net.  Not with 12 forwards who, with the exception of Tomas Plekanec and, to a lesser extent, Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu, can’t find the net.

Bob Gainey is counting on this group of players to get it done, and the coaching staff to help them get it done.  But, at the end of the day, does this team have enough TALENT to get it done?

Probably not. 

Not when Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay, the team’s two key off-season acquisitions, are nursing long-term injuries.  Yes, I know that Tanguay could return as early as this weekend.  But if you think this is going to be the same Alex Tanguay who tore it up while playing with Saku Koivu at the start of the season, you are sadly mistaken.  It’ll be the summer before Tanguay is 100 per cent healthy.

Not when players you count on to lead the way up front,  like Andrei Kostitsyn and Chris Higgins, fail to give you much more than spotty production, at best. 

And don’t get me started when it comes to Georges Laraque, who is likely done for the season with a back injury.  How anyone could think that he was the missing piece of the puzzle as an off-season acquisition, is beyond me.

More importantly, where are the Guillaume Latendresse and Sergei Kostitsyn, who started the season in such promising fashion?  Well, Latendresse is hurt, unfortunately.  And Kostitsyn is in Hamilton.

Do you miss them?

I didn’t think so.

And we haven’t even scratched the service when it comes to the hugely inconsistent play of defencemen Mike Komisarek, Roman Hamerlik, Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov.  To his credit, Markov DOES lead this team in points production.  But then again, what does that say about your forwards???

Do the Habs have the horses to hang on to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, with no less than five teams breathing down their collective necks?

No.  Not with the kind of effort they put out in Buffalo the other night, that’s for sure.

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