Forward lines and defense pairings:
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Gallagher
Galchenyuk – Desharnais – Weise
Fleischmann – Eller – Byron
Flynn – Mitchell – Smith-Pelly
Emelin – Petry
Beaulieu – Barberio
Scratches: Greg Pateryn, Victor Bartley, Jacob De la Rose
Injured reserve: Carey Price, Tom Gilbert
For the first time this season, the Montreal Canadiens are out of a playoff position. They have fallen to tenth place in the Eastern conference behind the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators. And given that teams behind the Habs have games in hand, it could get worse before it gets better.
It was Montreal’s 20th loss of the season on Tuesday night. That’s more losses than the Penguins, Flyers and Hurricanes all teams who trail the Habs in the standings. And to add insult to injury, 20 losses is the same number as the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens next opponent.
How in the world did this happen?
Michel Therrien is fond of saying that evaluating a performance is not always about results. On December 26, following a 1-9-0 stretch, Therrien said, “You know what? We’re playing better structure-wise the last 10 games than the first 10 games. But we don’t have the results.”
Since then the Canadiens have stumbled along with a record of 3-7-1. The results still aren’t there. With just four wins in their last 21 games, at what point does a coach admit that the structure must change to turn around the result?
When you are a stubborn Michel Therrien, you don’t.
Parroting the company line, Max Pacioretty spoke about knowing that the system works because it worked in October. And the captain expressed confidence that it would work again.
In other words, the coach isn’t changing the system anytime soon. And there you have one of the key reasons that Marc Bergevin can’t delay the inevitable any longer. He must fire his friend.
Some fans are holding out hope that the return of Carey Price will be the panacea for the Canadiens. Perhaps the Habs brass is under the same impression. But on the current trajectory, the Habs may be kissing the playoffs goodbye if nothing changes.
Michel Therrien stood up for his players, particularly Andrei Markov and Mike Condon in his post-game presser. That was not the only thing that was out of the ordinary. The emotion in Therrien’s voice and his body language telegraphed that even he is aware that his job is hanging by a thread.
And with the Habs not playing again until Saturday, there’s plenty of time for Bergevin to make a move. Will the Habs GM vastly overpay on one more trade to save his coach? Or will he do the right thing to start to turn the season around?
The Canadiens will be in Toronto for a game with the Maple Leafs on Saturday.
▲ Alexei Emelin
▼ Mike Condon, Alex Galchenyuk, David Desharnais, Dale Weise, Andrei Markov