Last night's game story is a very simple one. In order to beat the Thrashers who aren't loaded with talent, but have size, determination and a really good goalie on their side, the Canadiens needed to commit.
Against a tough, aggressive group of forwards, the Habs needed to grit their teeth and agree to get hit to make the right plays. They didn't. It wasn't everyone, and it wasn't all the time, but there's a pretty straightforward equation that needs to be solved if a team is to win. At least half the team has to commit at least half the time. The Canadiens didn't have half the team committed to start with. There were, perhaps, four players invested in winning that game. Auld was. So were Eller, Subban and Halpern. The required effort was absent too; most players trying on one shift and then floating for three.
There are lots of excuses. It's hard to get up for a half-empty arena in the southern U.S. on a Friday night. It's tough to give it your all when you know you've got a tough division game the next night. Those are just excuses. The only problem last night was a simple lack of committment. Nobody wanted to hit or be hit. Nobody wanted to fight for the win.
It's to be expected that committment will lag on a given night. After all, who among us goes to work with fire in the belly and a determination to do the best damn job possible every single day? It doesn't matter how much money we make or how much responsibility we have. Everyone has days when they just don't feel like working hard. The problem with the Habs is everyone seems to have those nights all at the same time.
The disappointment for us is we know they're better than that. The Kings are a young, fast, aggressive team too. The Canadiens dispatched them handily. They were committed. Handing in a stinker like last night's will happen from time to time. It can't happen very often, though. The Canadiens are in a distinctly uninspiring holding pattern, and that's not good enough for a team that hopes to make the playoffs in better than eighth place this year.
They get another chance tonight. Let's hope they find the committment they forgot to bring to Atlanta.