Habs' start worst in 16 years

Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn (right) and defenceman Josh Gorges try to avoid an errant puck...

Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn (right) and defenceman Josh Gorges try to avoid an errant puck during practice in Brossard, Que., Oct. 21, 2011. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:09 PM ET

MONTREAL - ‘Canadiens Sinking’ was one of the many cruel headlines here on Friday and no lifelines are evident at the Bell Centre.

The Montreal Canadiens have stumbled out of the gate with a 1-4-1 record. It’s their worst start since 1995-96, which prompted a massive purge of the hockey department the day the Leafs came to town and a dramatic last-second win. Nothing like that is going to happen to coach Jacques Martin and general manager Pierre Gauthier, who both knew this would be a challenging season before a rash of injuries made it worse.

But it underlines concerns that this editon of the Habs is too small in size, too thin on depth and too reliant on star goaltender Carey Price to keep its four-year playoff streak going. Never mind firewagon hockey, the Canadiens have just 13 goals in six games with a power-play running on fumes at 8%.

Scoreless Scott Gomez likely won’t be in the lineup as he joins Andrei Markov and two other defencemen on the shelf. The rest of the mostly no-name Habs retain plenty of heart, but the theme at practice on Friday was that few of them want to operate as a five-man unit — with disastrous consequences.

So the visit by the Leafs on Saturday couldn’t be timed better. Just as Toronto often will save its best efforts when the skate is on the other foot, expect the Habs to find that cohesion once they see their home rink turned blue and white.

“We have to forget that we’re at home because we have a tendency to try to put on a show for the fans,” defenceman Josh Gorges said Thursday after the Canadiens lost 3-1 in Pittsburgh. “I don’t think they’ll mind if we’re boring, as long as we win.”

The Habs were blanked 2-0 by the Leafs on opening night, beat Winnipeg, and then dropped their first three home games for the first time since 1938 prior to the loss in Pittsburgh.

Martin repeated Leafs coach Ron Wilson’s lecture in pre-season that success hinged on special teams. But Montreal is still waiting on its first 5-on-4 goal.


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