Okay, folks. Let's all take a deep breath and count to ten before we express our frustration and fury with the Habs out loud. We fans have every right to be disappointed and bitter, but some of us are saying some ridiculous things.
There are, for example, the ones who think Carey Price's giving up "soft" goals proves he's responsible for the third-period meltdowns. Let's take a step back and examine that statement. Consider that he played 72 regular-season games last season and has logged the most minutes of any goalie in the league so far this year. Goaltending is a physical job, but it's also a very, very demanding position mentally. If Price looks like he loses his focus sometimes, there's a good chance he's pretty damn tired. A guy like Martin Brodeur, who had a hermetic defence in front of him for most of his career, could successfully play that much. Carey Price, with a spotty D and ineffectual offence to rely on, gets screwed if he's showing signs of fatigue.
Then there are the people who think Tomas Plekanec should be traded for a pick. Plekanec has been the team's leading scorer for the last three seasons, while carrying the heaviest defensive burden among all forwards. Under Jacques Martin, he played more than twenty minutes a night in all situations, often responsible for shutting down the other team's top line. This year, he's been saddled with the deeply slumping Michael Cammalleri for a good part of the season, and with the inconsistent Andrei Kostitsyn for the rest of it. For a guy whose points are mostly assists, Plekanec needs effective wingers. He's usually good for a good number of PP points, but this season spent much of his power play time manning the point, which proved to be a desperate misuse of his abilities. Right now, Plekanec is showing frustration with his own play and that of the team. He's missing open nets and taking dumb penalties, then reacting with head shaking and eye rolling. As we've seen with Plekanec in the past, and with countless others, confidence is essential to performance. When frustration sets in, it tends to build upon itself until something positive happens to break the pattern. So, while Plekanec is going through a rough patch at the moment, he'll recover from it because he's too good a player not to. Trading him now would be a terrible mistake.
A lot of people are wondering what's wrong with Max Pacioretty. The kid we saw start the season playing a fast, aggressive, productive game is as lost as the rest of his team now. After his suspension for hitting Kris Letang, he said he was confused about what's permissible and what's not, and he'd be afraid to hit anyone anymore, now that he's got a record as a head-hunter. What we might have heard as the anger and frustration of a young player who felt his suspension was unfair, relative to other league decisions, now has the ring of truth. Pacioretty has changed his game since then, and not for the better. He was deeply affected by the hit and its disciplinary aftermath, and someone needs to sit him down and talk to him about it.
While knee-jerk reactions are understandable right now, we have to try and find the positives in this mess, just to avoid outright crying about it. Positives like Alexei Emelin. That kid is a human wrecking ball and a joy to watch. He's caught on to the NHL game very quickly and prevents trouble in his own zone by keeping opponents from entering it in the first place. Lars Eller is another bright spot. He's big, strong, smart and already a trusted penalty killer. He knows how to put himself in the right places, and if he keeps doing that, the points will come. David Desharnais is smart and creative and doesn't let his size prevent him from doing what he sets out to do. Erik Cole is the power forward the Canadiens haven't had in recent memory. He's turned out to be a very good signing and would only be better with more productive linemates.
This season is as good as lost, but there are still small pleasures to be had in watching the games. We need to think about finding them where we can, rather than dumping on good players having a rough time. Fans have no power to change anything, so we need to chill out a bit. The players who are trying to be better would probably appreciate that.