There’s a lot to be said about Montreal’s lopsided loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday evening. It was lethargic, it was sloppy, and it was pretty much entirely self-inflicted by the Montreal Canadiens.
They jumped out in front with the game’s first goal once again, but then unlike Game 1, Toronto adjusted to flip the whole structure of the game. Once Toronto got on the board (ref-aided as it may have been), the game was trending heavily in Toronto’s favour, and the Canadiens needed a way to get it back on track.
Toronto shut down the Canadiens’ attempts to stretch the game out through the neutral zone, and when that happened, Montreal lost their ability to control the flow of play. Then, like we saw many times during the regular season, the Habs lost their composure.
In the second period with the game still tied, the Canadiens took three straight penalties, and on the final one Rasmus Sandin beat Carey Price from the blue line. Then came a challenge that was apparently agreed upon by all involved parties and after a long review, the goal stood, meaning another power play to kill, and no relief for the fatigued defenders.
Nothing good came in the third period, with another lapse in discipline from Shea Weber leading to a William Nylander power-play goal to seal the game beyond a shadow of a doubt.
This is not going to become a rant about uneven officiating or something similar, because the Canadiens did this all to themselves. You can’t draw penalties and slow down a Toronto attack if you never have the puck. The Canadiens relied on Carey Price to fend off most of the Leafs’ man advantages, and then rewarded his strong play by taking even more penalties.
That’s not on the officials. Quality of calls or not, you cannot possibly hope to win a playoff game when your Plan B is to keep trying Plan A until it finally works. Toronto adapted and Montreal did not, then the Canadiens lost all sense of poise.
Now the series shifts back to Montreal where there’s a chance for Dominique Ducharme to change the strategy to get back in the win column. To do so, he needs to find an actual Plan B, and his players on the ice needs to keep their heads on straight even when things get frustrating.
The series is winnable, but not if they continue to put themselves in position to fail.