Habs Can Kiss Playoffs Goodbye, Following Loss to Caps

So let's toss aside the optimism and denial and call it just as it is. The Montreal Canadiens are not a playoff team in the 2011-12 NHL season. It's over folks. This is not a club capable of overcoming an 11 point deficit in the final 0 games in a league that offers a three-point game. To do that they would have to be a team that can finish an opponent handily in regulation, and these guys can't.

Later this evening, the Habs could find themselves dead last in the NHL's Eastern Conference. It falls on whether or not Kirk Muller and the Carolina Hurricanes salvage a point against the Los Angeles Kings.

Abe Hefter, on CJAD's new program "The Locker Room", asked if fans can sit through the remainder of the season with listless, lethargic hockey. Can you?

One has to wonder what the Canadiens will do as a team and what management will do as the Trade Deadline approaches. Sell now, or play out the season and deal with it later?

Will Pierre Gauthier, or whomever is GM at the time, blow up the team and start all over again, just three years after Bob Gainey attempted the same thing? It could very well happen, and if so would push the Montreal Stanley Cup gap past a quarter century. Somehow fans may not be that patient, but given the current state of affairs they may just be expecting it. We now know what fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs have endured the last 44 years.

The Canadiens chances at the playoffs all but died this afternoon, following a 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. It was the second time the Caps blanked the Habs at the Bell Centre this season and the third straight dating back to last season. Washington is 5-0-1 in their last six visits to Montreal.

There were some positives in the game. P.K. Subban did a great job of shutting down Alexander Ovechkin, and Alexei Emelin had a decent game, despite a minus-2 on the night. The top line of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty was the strongest out there, despite Desharnais messing a d-zone faceoff that led to the Capitals first goal.

An honorable mention to Peter Budaj, who did what was asked of a backup, short of getting a win. Dennis Wideman's hanging breaking ball shot was just one of those weird ones that could fool any NHL goaltender, and a penalty shot is pretty much a 50/50 chance, especially considering the Capitals managed two in the game.

As soon as Andrei Markov is back, the first one out the door on the blueline has to be Tomas Kaberle who was on the hook for the Capitals final two goals on the afternoon. Fans had a sense of optimism in Gauthier's move to take him on for maybe the first two or three games. Since then he was been a huge liability to the team.

What made this game peculiar was the fact that the Canadiens managed 30 shots agains Tomas Vokoun, yet their scoring chances could be counted on just one hand. Perimeter shots won't get many wins, especially at this stage of the season. By comparison, my daughter's soccer team had just two scoring chances this afternoon and at least cashed one.

On the opposite site of the coin, the Capitals had only a dozen scoring chances from their 23 shots which would make Jacques Martin happy, if he were still coach. He's not and Randy Cunneyworth is, and it has not been a great three months for the interim bench boss.

To put it into perspective, regular MathMan put things into perspective, during the game thread, with how things have gone under Cunneyworth since Martin's dismissal.

"20 games into his coaching career, Randy Cunneyworth is 6-12-2, giving him a full-season points pace of 57.4 points.

"Obviously this is a small sample, so the following comparison must be taken with a generous helping of salt, but nevertheless: only two teams, the Blues in 05-06 (57 points) and the Flyers in 06-07 (56 points), have maintained a worse pace over 82 games.

Our avid and educated follower then cut RC some slack, removing off the first four games to allow him to get his feet wet,. "This makes him 6-8-2. Good for 71.75 points. The 29th overall team this year is on pace for 72 points. That’d be the Edmonton Oilers.

"Even with the non-existent 2nd pairing, the Habs were a top-10 defensive team under Martin. They could paper it over pretty well so long as they had Gomez to keep the puck at the other end.

"Then Scott Gomez went down, the second pairing was exposed, JM started scrambling to shelter everyone who needed sheltering, PG decided that the team had been playing poorly despite its record in December, and the rest is history."

Speaking of Gomez, the Habs forward has now gone 365 days without scoring a goal. The fans at the Bell Centre were cheering him Saturday afternoon each time he touched the puck. I's debatable if they were meant to be encouraging or sarcastic.

The train wreck that has been the Montreal Canadiens season continues tomorrow afternoon when the host the Winnipeg Jets in the Sunday Superbowl matinee.


Advanced Stats: Shift Charts / Head to Head / Corsi & Fenwick

More Links from Saturday's Game

The Numbers Game

Dome Hockey Team

Winning reaction from Japers Rink

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