Sunday night was a sobering reminder that the rest of the season will be a lot more challenging than a 3 for 3 start. And that every game that the Montreal Canadiens play against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be viewed by them as potential pay back for being swept away in the first round of the playoffs.
Montreal - October 14, 2014 - That was a sobering reminder that the rest of the season will be a lot more challenging than a 3 for 3 start. And that every game against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be viewed by them as potential pay back for being swept away in the first round of the playoffs. Not just this one. But every meeting this season. There's a reason I ended the preamble to Game Three this way:
Habs head to Tampa Bay where Steven Stamkos is looking for his first goal of the season
The Lightning were determined to give the Habs something to think about. And it was Stamkos who led them the way captains are supposed to lead - by example. Stamkos began the game by sending the biggest player on the ice - Jarred Tinordi - stumbling awkwardly into the boards with a perfectly legal check. Later on he did the same to Nathan Beaulieu. Just to remind the kids that they have more to worry about than just his stick. But what a stick. Stamkos is on his own planet when it comes to scoring goals but Tampa Bay's other key players - Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop - badly outplayed their Montreal counterparts. And Habs new assistant coach Dan Lacroix - who was on Guy Boucher's staff in Tampa Bay - hopes the Canadiens will find another reason to rally the next time they hit town.
Yes, the Habs were road weary (four games in six days, nearly 1,730 miles). They were a half step behind the play and a half second too late all night - with the exception of the goal by Brendan (not Brandon) Gallagher, who actually won the face off before getting it back to the blue line where Tinordi made a heads up pass to give Gallagher his first goal of the season. But it was evident early on - from Brandon (not Brendan) Prust waiting too long to pull the trigger on a two on one, to Stamkos steamrolling guys with no response. to Carey Price who couldn't perform a minor miracle, that the Habs were in end-of-trip survival mode.
I don't know what the team did on the off day in Tampa Bay but I'm guessing Michel Therrien got that sunburned face by sitting at the pool, the beach or moving around the golf course. Maybe all three. But the red face is no mask for the flight home.
•Jon Cooper. For sending out his 4th line for a 5 on 3 power play late in the game with Tampa leading 7-1. He showed more class than the referee who called a too many men on the ice penalty to go along with the trip on Alex Galchenyuk with 1:15 to play to set up the 5 on 3.
•The 3-1 road trip to start the season. As embarrassing as the loss was it's just one loss. Could be worse. Like the 1-3 Bruins.
•Everybody. But P.K. Subban continues to try to do too much. And he's taking too many penalties. He's too valuable to be in the box as often as he is. No other elite NHL defenseman takes as many penalties as Subban. He's got to work on this. Considering the shape the Habs were in they were going to need Carey Price to stand on his head. Instead, he was understandably pulled to avoid total humiliation. He didn't make a big stop (give that Stamkos guy time and space with the puck and two goalies in the net at the same time might not be enough) but once again the Habs showed a soft side inside their own zone and in front of their net. Mike Weaver is spending way to much time swimming on the ice. A 6'7" Hal Gill could get away with sprawling on all fours. Not the 5'9" Weaver. Rene Bourque finally had a stinker. The duo that connected so well in the playoffs - Bourque and Lars Eller - will enter the home opener with no points and a combined +/- of -12.
•Special teams. The Habs were in this one down 1-0 when Nathan Beaulieu took a needless interference penalty against Valterie Filppula. The Lightning promptly went up by two on Stamkos's first goal of the season. Gallagher cut the lead in half and the Habs had a chance to tie the game less than four minutes later when Manny Malhotra drew a boarding penalty on Brett Connelly. The power play went nowhere. Stamkos completed his hat trick and put the game out of reach at 4-1 on another Tampa Bay power play late in the second after Subban had taken a silly interference penalty on Hedman. The Habs penalty kill is off to a rough start (77.8%) so don't be surprised if Travis Moen and/or Michael Bournival find their way back into the line up. And the power play is firing blanks (0-13). That will have to be straightened out from within. Unless...
I expect RDS' antichambre to begin with a suggestion that Francis Bouillon get hired to fix PP @BWildeCTV @HunterZThompson
- Hugo Sham (@HugoSham) October 14, 2014
Mitch Melnick is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690 - Montreal's Sports Authority. Mitch also has his own website at MitchMelnick.com where you can find his blog, music links, upcoming events, neat photos and more. Listen Live to Melnick - weekdays from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. If you have questions or wish to contact Mitch, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org