Hockey is a team game. Everyone knows that. That's why there are cliches.
You win as a team and you lose as a team. It was a team effort. The team really pulled together. We went to war as a team.
Sometimes, though, the team gets screwed by the bad play of individual players. That's what happened to the Canadiens last night. As a team, they had some very good moments. Both of the newly-revamped top-two lines were fast, aggressive and opportunistic. Some of the passing plays they made were just glorious, particularly in the second, when, down two goals, they began to take the game to the Flyers. The third and fourth lines contributed their usual cycle, advance-the-puck types of shifts. The D, as a whole, was pretty decent despite a half-dozen glaring turnovers.
What it came down to, in the end, was individual error. For the first time all year, Carey Price gave up a couple of softies to make the difference in a close game. The second Flyer goal, off Gill then off Price's head, was the kind he allowed last year when he was sucking. Still, the team managed to rally and draw even again. The go-ahead goal was a plain old softie that gave the game away. Price should have had that, and on 99 nights out of 100, he would. Last night was lucky number 100.
Then, there's Subban. P.K. is such a mix of risk/reward right now. We know, as he gets more experienced and better able to control his emotions, that we'll get more reward as time goes on. Last night, however, the risk clearly outweighed the benefit. He scored on a rocket from the point, which we're all hoping to see more of from him. Unfortunately, he gave up two with two horrible up-the-middle giveaways. You just can't do that when you're playing a team whose fourth-line centre has more goals than your team's top guy. It will end up in the back of the net. PK should have learned that on the first giveaway that turned into a goal. He didn't. Instead, he repeated that mistake. Now, despite his glorious rushes and great shot, he'll probably be scratched in favour of Weber against the Bruins.
Jaro Spacek, who should have known better, looked brutal on the fourth Flyers goal; the one that ruined the comeback. For some inexplicable reason a veteran who should have known better pinched deep on the PK, got caught and ended up getting back just in time to witness the backbreaker.
Tomas Plekanec has been in the box for killer goals twice in the last three games, both times for slashing. Pleks is the team's Old Reliable, but he's got to have better discipline with his stick when important games are on the line. He's got a reputation for stick work and he's going to get called for it.
And, for all his exhortations about playing as a team and playing within the system, Jacques Martin didn't hold up his end of the bargain either. From starting Andrei Kostitsyn on the fourth line where he was as effective as a chicken-wire parachute, to playing Maxim Lapierre with two minutes to go, his lineup decisions were poor, to be kind. One couldn't help but wonder why Lars Eller was on the crucial PK that led to the Flyers go-ahead goal, or why Tom Pyatt was scratched over Lapierre to begin with. If the latter decision was because Lapierre offered more "grit" against the aggressive Flyers, it was a misguided choice. Laps is a yapper, with occasional delusions of being Guy Lafleur, not a tough guy. Watching Eller, who hadn't played for most of the third, trying to kill that penalty, made fans long for Tom Pyatt's PK reliability.
Every team breaks down at some point in every game. The difference between winners and losers comes down to keeping those breakdowns to a minimum. The Canadiens didn't do that. They had too many breakdowns against a team with too much firepower to contain effectively without some serious discipline.
In the meantime, however, the flashes of team play the Habs showed were tantalizing. The Pacioretty/Gomez/Gionta line looked dangerous all night, but especially in the second. After Martin put Kostitsyn back on the Plekanec line, that trio too showed some nice skill. The impossible dream of having an actual NHL-calibre top six with two scoring lines looked close enough to touch.
It's those flashes that outshine the breakdowns. Against a team with not quite as much talent as Philly, or a goalie not as on his game as Bobrovsky was last night, the Canadiens would have easily won that one on the strength of the second-period dominance, despite the individual errors.
That's what we have to look at now, because if we look behind the Habs in the standings, the pack is slavering right at their heels. We have to hope that the team shows up tonight against the Bruins and the individual screw ups aren't the story of the game. After all, when it comes down to it, the team makes or misses the playoffs together. That's all the record will show, no matter how many mistakes add up to the loss.