Montreal appears to be right on track for their annual low-seeded playoff finish, early playoff exit, and consequent coach pressure and firing in December of 2010. The Canadiens have been playing better defensively lately, at least as far as I can derive from tickerbar scores, but the Penguins absolutely manhandled them; Montreal appeared to be playing no discernible system, the supposedly red-hot Jaroslav Halak turned in a pedestrian performance, and the Canadiens’ Gomez-Gionta-Cammalleri “Legion of OK Dudes” combination was far from terror-inspiring.
In short, Montreal resembles a better-coached ’08-’09 Tampa Bay Lightning: a suddenly high-priced roster of more than 50% new guys all frantically trying to mesh together to resemble a complete hockey team. I imagine they’ll still make the playoffs, though, because unlike the Lightning, they’ll be motivated by the fact that if they miss the playoffs, the citizens of Montreal will hunt down and murder their families. But I don’t see them going anywhere after that.
Other bright spots:
- Free agent splash Mike Rupp matched his goal total from last season (3 in 72 games) just 12 games into the season.
- I laughed pretty hard in the First when Malkin slipped a saucer pass to Dupuis for a mini breakaway and Steigerwald excitedly announced “Here comes Dupuis all alone…saved by Halak.” You’re not allowed to excitedly raise your voice if the person with the scoring chance is Pascal Dupuis. It’s the same as the old Kip Miller rule.
- I find myself rooting extra hard against Montreal these days solely because they took on Scott Gomez’s contract and helped the Rangers, making them guilty of some “Accessory To Team I Hate” crime. Beating them by 5 goals while Nonfactor-ez turned in a typical nonfactor performance was far sweeter than your standard Northeast Division win.
- Sidney Crosby is good.