Sunday, February 1, 2009

Asleep at the Switch

My apologies to my regular readers... I've been feeling uninspired but that has changed.

The Canadiens trainwreck made two stops at the Bell Centre this weekend with mixed results. Christopher Higgins, who has been unceremoniously stripped of his assistant captaincy, scored a huge goal to salvage a shoddy effort against the LA Kings and often maligned captain Saku Koivu devastated the Kings by ending it in regulation just over a minute later.

The real story of the game was Denis Gauthier's appalling head shot on Montreal's Josh Gorges, the fourth serious offense on the LA defenceman's resume. A lack of respect is rampant among NHLers and it's hard to understand.

Even harder to understand was the Canadiens decision to allow Gorges back on the ice after the incident. Even if they were able to determine that Gorges didn't suffer a concussion on the play, one would think they would keep him out of action for the rest of the game, if only as a precautionary measure. Higgins had a succinct assessment of the incident following the game,

"You saw his face after the hit and he wasn't on earth, he was someplace else."

Christopher Higgins isn't a doctor, and neither am I but we both know Gorges was messed up. He skated into the glass after getting up and likely didn't have the clearest of ideas where he was.

The question for me is how the Habs could be irresponsible enough to to put Gorges back on the ice. Luckily all it cost the team was a turnover by the dazed rearguard that led directly to an LA goal and not another crushing blow to the head of one of the teams more promising youngsters. We're talking about the long term health of a human being. Not hockey, but rather the ability to function normally for the remainder of one's life, hopefully a life that will go on long after his NHL career.

That's that.

On Sunday the Habs were lucky to remain in a game against Boston in which they were outclassed in virtually every aspect of the game. The 3-1 score didn't do it justice. Carey Price turned in a good performance but his teammates snoozed their way through sixty minutes of hockey, looking disinterested against a divisional arch-rival who are now 18 points clear of a Montreal team that suddenly seems in danger of missing the playoffs in their centennial season.

There are plenty of teams in the conference who want to be in the Stanley Cup playoffs more than the Habs given the way they're playing at the moment.

The bad news doesn't end there. Robert Lang had a busy day, winning the January segment of the Molson Cup, scoring a goal and suffering a potentially career ending injury. The severity of the tear to his achilles isn't yet known but at his age a full tear could spell the end of the line for a guy who's been a bright spot and leads the club in goal scoring.

Alex Kovalev had an awful game and Guy Carbonneau was asked if he thought the Artist played differently without the captain's "C" on his jersey. Instead of dismissing the notion out of hand as I expected him to, the coach was frank and said,

"“I hope that’s not the truth. Because then we’re in trouble because I’m not taking the C off Saku. If somebody needs a letter to perform well on the ice, I have a tough time with that. Alex is a professional. He’s not a rookie. Right now, he’s struggling, but we need him if we hope to go far.”


Things are not right at the Bell Centre and the road ahead looks grim. The Canadiens play 13 times in the last 26 days in a February schedule that includes dates with some of the leagues top teams and a six game Western road trip that concludes with stops in Pittsburgh, who make their first visit of the year to Montreal on Tuesday night and Washington to take on a terrific Caps team that features the best player in the game. Add games against San Jose, Philly and Ryan Miller's Buffalo Sabres and you've got the recipe for a meltdown.

It's gut check time.

Let's hope the Canadiens handle the upcoming adversity better than they did the Josh Gorges situation.