A snoozefest. Awful Devils hockey. A one-night-only performance of the Ice Crapades. Whatever you want to call a Habs/Devils game, it's nothing if not predictable. Something bad happens to the Canadiens whenever those two teams meet.
It's not Brodeur, because it still happens when he's not the major factor in the game, and even when he's not there, as we saw when he missed half the season before last and Clemmenson still stoned the Habs. It's not the personnel of the two teams, because guys like Gionta and Gomez actually switched sides and have now taken on the traditional Habs role in these games, like they never heard of the Jersey System. It's not even the Jersey System itself. What used to be an impenetrable Devils' defensive zone with a tight, opportunistic offence looked just as sloppy as the Canadiens' undefinable (non-existent is too cruel a term) game plan last night.
It is, therefore, a case of Kryptonitis. Every team has an opponent that owns it. No matter what happens...injury, illness, bad scheduling, losing streaks, only icing seven players...the jinx is virtually impossible to break. The Devils are that opponent for the Canadiens.
That's what we're going to say today, anyway. Otherwise, there are too many hard questions to answer when we try to explain what happened last night. What's going to happen with the second-line wing position, if nobody "gels" there? Why is Carey Price consistently inconsistent; great on some saves, soft on the goals? What happens if the power play doesn't get any better? Is it worth putting up with months of "regular-season Gill" in exchange for a few weeks of "playoff Gill?" What will Spacek look like next year, if he's already this bad? What's the matter with Cammalleri? Why does a team that's had four days off come out skating in quicksand? Will the return of Andrei Markov be the cure-all everyone hopes it will?
Those are uncomfortable questions, at least some of which will have unpleasant answers. So, for one day only, we can avoid answering them. The Habs, after all, never beat the Devils. It's to be expected that the offence will be impotent, the defence confused and the goalie soft. Devils games are a reprieve from reality because their outcomes are so certain.
Still, while critics will go easy on the Canadiens today, the leniency won't last into tomorrow. If fans are reluctant to ask hard questions about why their team looked horrible last night, the team had better be asking them of itself. And it's got about 36 hours to answer them because the Ice Crapades have left town.