Despite loss, Habs still offer drama
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
|Lars Eller and John Carlson fall to the ice in the second period of a 3-0 shutout by the Capitals. PIERRE-PAUL POULIN/QMI Agency
MONTREAL - With their chances of making the playoffs now officially in the “Dumb and Dumber” range, the Montreal Canadiens still offer up some drama.
After their 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals Saturday afternoon, the Habs remained tied for fewest points in the Eastern Conference with the Carolina Hurricanes at 47, 11 (and counting) back of the last playoff spot. The ’Canes were playing the Los Angeles Kings later Saturday and a point against the Kings would drop the Habs into last place in the East for the first time in recent memory.
What passes for suspense here now is when forward Scott Gomez will get his next goal as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his last lamp lighting Sunday when the Canadiens host the Winnipeg Jets in the back half of their annual Super Bowl weekend pair of matinees.
It came against the New York Rangers, 51 games and 122 shots ago.
Since then, 29 other Canadiens have scored the Canadiens' 211 goals.
The crowd at the Bell Centre - there were a lot of kids for the matinee (does subjecting your kid to the Habs' pathetic performance, perhaps with an eye to the future, qualify as “tough love?”) - cheered each time Gomez touched the puck Saturday. It was hard to tell if they were jeering him or legitimately trying to encourage him.
“I don't know what to think of that. It almost sounds like encouragement. It doesn't sound like they're booing. They're cheering and I hope it's encouragement because they want to see him get that goal and move forward,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges, one of only four Habs (goaltender Peter Budaj, forward David Desharnais and defenceman Chris Campoli) in the sparsely populated Habs dressing room after the game.
“I hope it's not boos and them being on him. I hope it's pushing him to get that goal that he wants to get and we want him to get, as well.”
Both Gorges and Campoli said they could feel Gomez's pain.
“He's a guy who's been around the game for a long time. He's a very strong-willed man and I don't think things get to him,” said Gorges. “He knows how to conduct himself very well. He's not going to let the outside affect him. He's going to keep trying to do his thing and play his game.”
“I hope they're cheering him for the right reason,” said Campoli. “He's a class act.”
The other question is when the Habs will put up the “Fire Sale” sign outside the Bell Centre.
The Caps, with captain Alex Ovechkin back in the lineup after serving a three-game suspension, got goals from Dennis Wideman, Matt Hendricks and Alexander Semin in the win which pushed them to 58 points and a tie for eighth with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were to play the Ottawa Senators Saturday night.
Semin's goal came on the Caps' second penalty shot of the day on Budaj. He had stopped Troy Brouwer in the second period after Budaj was called for throwing his stick.
With the trade deadline now just more than three weeks away and their playoff hopes cooked, Canadiens GM (for now) Pierre Gauthier can make plans to ship out the club's pending unrestricted free agents: wingers Andrei Kostitsyn, Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche and defencemen Hal Gill and Campoli.
Though they managed 30 shots on Caps goaltender Tomas Vokoun, the Canadiens hardly threatened and they were booed by the fans as the final seven minutes of the game played out.
Well, except when Gomez had the puck and the anticipation spiked.
It's not all bad.
At least Gomez' cap hit is only $7.35 million.