Last night's game reminded me of an episode of "All In the Family." Remember when the show would be getting a little bit too serious? There'd be an intense discussion about race or God or the war in Vietnam, and suddenly, someone would notice Archie wasn't in the room. "Where's Ah-chie," Edith would ask. And from up above, the perfectly-timed flush of the upstairs terlet would echo through the house, breaking the tension and cracking everyone up.
So last night I saw Carey Price left all by himself while a Tampa forward sneaked to the side of the net for an easy cross-crease tap-in, completely undetected by anyone on the Habs side. "Where's the defence?" I asked. FLUSH.
I saw the Habs struggle to score at even-strength. "Where's the power play?" I asked. FLUSH.
I saw Canadiens players walked around, intercepted, stripped on the boards and forechecked into the ice in their own end. "Where's the System?" I asked. FLUSH.
I saw the eleven Canadiens forwards dump the puck in and fail to retrieve it. They made huge cross-ice passes that never found their targets. They took bad-angle shots rather than pass to the open man. "Where's the big line?" I asked. FLUSH.
And down the terlet with the crap the Canadiens called a game last night went another little bit of hope that this team can put it together and be a playoff factor. We have to accept they won't. They are wasting their time and ours with this pointless wheel-spinning.
I'm the last person to say they don't care or they're not trying. I think these guys wouldn't be where they are if they didn't have tremendous determination and pride in what they do. They care. But, they look tired, frustrated, disheartened and, in the end, just not good enough.
We talked here before about whether the Habs should or should not tank for a top draft pick. I think most of us agree no professional team worth its salt would ever lose games on purpose. Bob Gainey would never give up to the point where he'd start playing less than the best players he's got available in the hope of losing more games. But I think the tank debate is over. The Canadiens don't have a choice in the matter. They are being completely outclassed by the other bubble teams they need to beat. That tells me there's something seriously wrong with this group. I suspect it has a lot to do with coaching, but since Jacques the Knife is on a four-year deal and the Habs are already paying Carbonneau to not coach them, we can expect him to be in the job until at least the end of next year when Carbo comes off the books.
When a team loses nine one-goal games in regulation, failing to even take advantage of the OT loser point, it's not going places. When it hasn't been more than two games above .500 all year, it's in trouble. When only Toronto, Edmonton and Carolina have more regulation losses, you're looking at a lottery team when everything shakes down.
After last weekend, I had hope this team was finally coming together and turning things around. Now I ask, "Where are THOSE Canadiens?" FLUSH.
Yup, it's just like an episode of "All In the Family." Except when the Habs flush the off-screen terlet just when things are getting tense, nobody's laughing.