Forward lines and defense pairings:
Pacioretty – Plekanec – Gallagher
Eller – Galchenyuk – Carr
Fleischmann -Desharnais – Smith-Pelly
Flynn – Mitchell – Byron
Beaulieu – Subban
Markov – Petry
Barberio – Emelin
Scratches: Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn, Sven Andrighetto
Injured reserve: Carey Price, Tom Gilbert, Dale Weise
So what’s your excuse? There were many floated on social media following the game to try to explain not only a weak effort against the Flyers but the nosedive taken by the Canadiens over the past month and counting.
Injuries. Let’s start with this one as it is perhaps the weakest by far. The simple fact is that injuries are a part of the game. Every team experiences them. If a couple of injuries turn a team from best to worst then that speaks to 1) the inability of the coach to develop compensatory strategies and to motivate his players and 2) the failure of the general manager to have the depth to cope.
Both apply in the case of the Canadiens.
Goaltending. This has been an issue, a big one. But only relative to the extraordinary goaltending that Carey Price provides. In his absence the netminders have been no better than average. Scrivens made some big stops in this game but his subpar technical game provided opportunities as well.
Lack of emotion. This is something that was referenced post-game by the coach. Michel Therrien said, “Emotionally we were not there.” Of course an early week game against the Philadelphia Flyers isn’t going to provide the same adrenaline boost that the players had when participating in the Winter Classic. The Canadiens benefited greatly from playing their most bitter rival on the national stage on New Year’s Day. But if you require that level of emotion to win, you aren’t relying on the fundamental strategies and talent to consistently be a winning team.
Eller. If you tuned into Antichambre after the game, you were provided with their reason for the loss (all losses) as they spit out the name Lars Eller. Listen, if you still enjoy watching the irrational, bigoted rants of a group of xenophobes, then perhaps you are one too. AC ceased to be a hockey show a long time ago and now only provides a platform for hate-filled, political extremists.
Let’s set all of those mindless excuses aside. It’s time to face the fact that the Canadiens, at this point in the season, will struggle most nights to compete, against even teams like the Flyers. They have been stripped of confidence, are fragile and do not trust the system that they are playing.
And they don’t have hockey’s best player to cover for all of the dumb decisions that continue to be made behind the bench.
The first goal of the game was as a result of one of those decisions. With a spot open on defense, Michel Therrien has chosen to dress Mark Barberio. The Canadiens marketing department loves the chance to promote a local player.
What about Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi? Both are on a short leash. Pateryn made one mistake in his own end and has been banished for weeks. Tinordi’s only ‘crime’ was standing up for his captain in the Washington game.
While Barberio skates well and is always ready to contribute to offense, he is a disaster defensively.
So what happened on the first goal of the game. Predictably, many were only too happy to bash Andrei Markov for creating a turnover. In reality, Markov was blameless. Cast some criticism the way of Alex Galchenyuk if you wish for the bad pass, putting it in Markov’s feet.
But the player responsible for the goal was Mark Barberio. As Galchenyuk and Markov entered the Flyers zone, Barberio was at the red line. Inexplicably, Barberio blew past both teammates and set up shop directly in front of Michal Neuvirth abandoning his role as the last line of defence.
It’s the kind of error that Barberio makes on a nightly basis in the AHL. The difference is that NHL teams are better equipped to make teams pay for mistakes like that.
And pay the Canadiens did. Yes, at this point the team is fragile enough that they become deflated after an initial goal.
Subsequent poor decisions only insured that the Canadiens were not in a position to comeback including Brian Flynn and David Desharnais on the power-play.
The Habs head back to Montreal for a home game against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.
▲ Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, Alexei Emelin, Daniel Carr, Paul Byron
▼ Mark Barberio, David Desharnais, Tomas Fleischmann, Devante Smith-Pelly, Nathan Beaulieu, Jeff Petry