All great magicians need misdirection. It’s what they use so that you look where they want you to look. They direct the audience’s attention towards what they want you to see (the trick) as opposed to what they don’t want you to see.
The disallowed goal, and the way it was disallowed, allows the Montreal Canadiens to make that the talking point after Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss. If Brendan Gallagher’s goal had counted — or if they win in overtime or the shootout — the result would have been the same, but replace “outrage over disallowed goal” with “two points.”
What the Canadiens should be thinking about — at least internally — is what kind of team do they want to be?
Do they want to be a team that struggles to beat the Ottawa Senators? That has to rely on key saves and the other team’s defensive breakdowns just to get themselves back in games against the division’s last-place team?
That certainly wouldn’t mesh with the team’s high expectations coming into the season. But that team is far from the one that has shown up over the last eight games that sees them going 2-4-2. You could argue they are a few bounces away from a better record. They’re also a few bounces from being on an eight-game winless streak.
There have been glimpses of the team they want to be. The third period against the Senators was much better. In truth, after the game was 2-0, they had most of the run of play, especially at even strength. They even went to the dangerous areas more. After just two high danger chances on Sunday, they had five alone in the opening period.
The good periods of play just pinpoint the many things that need to be fixed with this team. Why did they need a fight from Ben Chiarot to energize them? Why did they have another slow start? Why did they have inconsistency in the second period?
Every team has these questions over a season, even the great ones. The issue is not that they are happening to the Canadiens. The issue is that they are happening again and again. It’s past the point of putting it on the players. Players can make mistakes. They can have lapses. They can have inconsistency.
The Canadiens have talent. Their talent allowed them to get back into the game on Tuesday. Their talent allowed them to have a 5-0-2 start to the season. Their talent alone is not enough to break this cycle.
The players were as frustrated as they have been all season after Tuesday’s game. Whether it was because of the loss, because of the call late in the third period, or whether it was because of the last eight games is impossible to know. In truth, it was probably a mix of all three.
The coaching change announced Wednesday morning obviously could play a factor as well. Maybe a trip to Winnipeg is what they need. Maybe the mix of fresh scenery and an opponent that they have yet to see this season will allow them to regroup.
Their season isn’t on the line right now. It isn’t a must-win game on Thursday. They still are in a good position in the division, and there is more than enough time for the ebbs and flows of a season to go in their favour again.
Eventually, however, we will find out who this Montreal Canadiens team really is. Marc Bergevin decided they wouldn’t be able to misdirect people forever, and decided to make a coaching change. How they respond will determine whether those pre-season expectations were just an illusion after all.