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Pushing the Panic Button in Montreal

Mar 23, 2009 – 1:00 PM
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Adam Gretz

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On Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens continued their season of disappointment by getting crushed by Toronto, 5-2, on home ice. The recent struggles have left more than a few fans, like the fine folks over at Four Habs Fans, slightly perturbed.

Entering Monday night's action, Montreal could wake up on Tuesday morning on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture if Florida can knock off Carolina. So, where has it all gone wrong for the Canadiens in what was supposed to be a season of glorious centennial celebration?

Andrei Markov is leading the team in scoring: No disrespect intended to Andrei Markov -- he's a fine player -- but there are only two teams in the NHL with a defenseman leading them in scoring -- the Canadiens (Markov) and the New York Islanders (former Canadien Mark Streit). No defensemen led their respective team in scoring the past two seasons. The issue isn't that Markov is scoring, it's that nobody else on the team is. Where have you gone, Alexei Kovalev? It's worth pointing out that Alex Tanguay might hold the top spot had he played more than 41 games this season.

Carey Price has forgotten how to stop pucks: After getting voted into the starting lineup for this year's All-Star game, Carey Price has collapsed on himself in the second half of the season. After posting a 15-5-5 record to go with a strong .919 save percentage in the first half, the 21-year-old goaltender has been terrible in the second half. Since the All-Star break, Price has posted a dismal 4-9-3 record and a horrendous .881 save percentage. He's given up five or more goals in seven games in the second half, and has lost starts to backup Jaroslav Halak.

The power-less power play: After having the top power play unit in the NHL a season ago -- by a wide margin -- the Canadiens have dropped all the way down to No. 21 this year. Pre-deadline addition Mathieu Schneider has helped improve it slightly.

Bob Gainey has run out of scape goats: Guy Carbonneau ultimately took the fall for the Canadiens problems on (and off) the ice because, well, you can't fire 23 players halfway through the season. After trading veteran netminder Cristobal Huet for a second-round pick at last year's trade deadline, and turning over a potential Stanley Cup team to a 20-year-old rookie (Price), Montreal suffered a second-round exit at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. At this year's trade deadline, Bob Gainey added only the services of the 39-year-old Schneider and kept his team, for the most part, as is -- and then essentially threw Carbonneau under the bus for not getting the most out of his players.
"We've got a number of players who have been a little below their potential this year for different reasons, this is their time to prove me right ... and for the coaches to take the players that they have and squeeze as much or more out of this team than we've seen to this point,"
Since Gainey took over behind the bench, the Canadiens are 1-3-2.

The good news for Montreal is the remaining schedule is somewhat favorable. The Canadiens open a four-game home stand on Tuesday that includes contests with Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Buffalo, while six of their remaining 10 games are with teams currently out of the playoffs. Trouble is, with the way Montreal is playing right now, does it really matter who lines up on the other side of the ice?
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