Nine games to go and we're in the home stretch. Hopefully at the end of it, we'll see the Good Ship Canadiens tucked safely into a nice, comfortable playoff berth. In the meantime (at the risk of murdering a perfectly innocent metaphor), we can expect some choppy seas and stormy weather as the team tacks home. Nothing's ever easy for the Montreal Canadiens. But at least some of what troubles them is self-inflicted. To that end, here's the top ten things I hope we don't see again for the rest of the season:
10. Chris Higgins giving a post-game interview about how the team needs to work harder and how Montreal is a really tough place to play when you're losing. I appreciate the fact that somebody has to talk to the press after losses, even when they don't want to do it. But I'm sick of Higgins and his excuses. If we're going to have excuses, at least let us have different ones from different guys. Besides, with any luck at all, maybe there'll be no cause for a loser interview after the next nine games.
9. Carey Price crying. He's young and fragile, but it scares me when the guy we've been calling the franchise saviour cries after a loss. I like my goalies impenatrable in the net and inscrutable out of it. Hopefully, he'll have no reason to cry anymore, but if he does, I hope he keeps the tears in check until he gets home...or at least until the cameras are off.
8. Defencemen attempting to clear their zone under pressure with weak backhands along the boards. I don't know how many times I've seen that play in recent games, but I know it's way too many. It's a move that not only reeks of desperation, it NEVER works. It's one of the main reasons why the Canadiens have such trouble clearing the puck out of their own end. There's no excuse for having the puck on your stick with time and space and then giving it away.
7. Five red sweaters facing the net. When the team is in a panic in its own end, everybody suddenly forgets the guys they're supposed to be covering and they start chasing the puck instead. Lots of times we've seen the puck go in the net after the opponent has three or four whacks at it as all the Canadiens stand around looking for it instead of clearing bodies out of the crease. That has to stop, immediately.
6. Alex Kovalev standing still on the right boards during the PP. The powerplay worked so well in the Atlanta game because everyone was moving. The Koivu/Kovalev/Tanguay line with Markov and Schneider were constantly changing positions and passing the puck quickly as they did it. It stretched the Thrashers' PK box and opened lots of holes for shots. They have to keep doing that if they want to be a threat. So, no more stagnant standing around waiting for the perfect shot, Kovy!
5. Mike Komisarek arguing with the ref after he's taken a dumb penalty to cover for the fact that he's lost his man. I don't know what's wrong with Komisarek this year, but he's looking very lost on the ice much of the time. If he's not giving the puck away, he's being beaten one-on-one at least a couple of times every game. He's making up for that by hooking or tripping the guy who beats him...then whining when he gets caught. He's got to pick up his game: cut out the mistakes and cut out the complaining.
4. Andrei Kostitsyn meandering back to the bench as his line changes "on the fly." Bad line changes are one of the things that have burned the Habs for odd-man rushes so many times this season I've lost count. Kostitsyn is one of the worst culprits.
3. Lack of effort against lower-ranked teams. The last nine games should offer some cushion points if the Canadiens show up and play properly. The losing to worse teams because they just don't seem to care has nearly cost them a playoff spot, and WILL cost them a spot if they keep doing that in this last stretch.
2. Fans booing and jeering at the Bell Centre. Yes, the Habs deserve to be booed. They've been awful, embarrassing, shameful and distressing. But even if they deserve it, I think it doesn't help to actually boo them off the ice in their own rink. As much as they've been sucking, they're still young guys with egos and slamming them that way is more likely to make them slink off in defeat than come out firing to win the next one. A little support from the stands might help fuel whatever turnaround the team has in it.
And the number one thing I hope I don't see again for the rest of the year:
1. Patrice Brisebois. I know the Breezer has filled in when the team's been desperate for blueline help. But he's bad. He's really bad. The other night against Atlanta, the Habs scored six goals and allowed three...and Brisebois managed to be minus two. And it wasn't one of those cases where a guy has the bad luck to be stepping on the ice as a goal against is scored. It was entirely deserved. He was awful on both goals against, AND he blatantly gave the puck away in the slot right in front of Price, who then bailed him out. Unfortunately, the guy who was hired to be the number seven, insurance defenceman has been playing top-six minutes and he can't do it anymore.
Honourable mention: I really don't want to see anybody over 35 years old or with less than twenty points leading the team in icetime. Maybe it's just me, but those guys should be the supplement to your core...not the core itself.
On the other hand, the number one thing I do want to see: A major push into the playoffs with the team gathering some convincing wins and getting on a roll as the season winds down. The Habs are not as bad as they've been playing. And, as they say, once you make the playoffs anything can happen. It starts tonight.