Friday, December 3

Stu Cowan: Canadiens’ playoff career memories quickly faded

The Habs lose 3-1 to the Rangers to 21,105 in the first home game at Bell Center and fall to 0-3-0 for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

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There was no party atmosphere whatsoever outside the Bell Center before the Canadiens’ home opener on Saturday night against the New York Rangers.


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A miserable, rainy day put a damper on any sort of pregame festivities as fans rushed into the building without getting soaked. It was nothing like the summer scenes outside the Bell Center during the Canadiens’ thrilling run to the Stanley Cup final last season, when only 3,500 fans were allowed into the building.

Saturday night there was almost a full house at the Bell Center for the first time in 585 days and fans were definitely ready to party, seeing a hockey light at the end of the dark tunnel of this COVID-19 pandemic. Attendance was 21,105, just short of a full house for the Bell Center, which is 21,302.

There was also no party after the game, as the Canadiens lost 3-1 to the Rangers, falling to 0-3-0 to start the season. This is the first time the Canadiens have started 0-3-0 since the 1995-96 season.


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Pregame ceremonies began with team owner / president Geoff Molson addressing the crowd and welcoming them to the Bell Center.

The Canadiens packed the famous torch they used to wear during housewarming ceremonies and did not remove any of their past Hall of Famers with cuffed Stanley Cup rings. The focus was on the present, not the past, which isn’t a bad thing, as the highlights of last season’s playoff run were shown on the giant screen.

Fans were given armbands flashing blue-blanc-rouge as the Canadiens players were introduced one at a time, skating to the center of the ice to acknowledge the loud applause. Two of the loudest cheers went to Captain Shea Weber and goalkeeper Carey Price, who are not with the team. Weber is not expected to play this season due to injuries, while Price is in the NHL / NHLPA player assistance program and it is unclear when he could return.

Fans started chanting “Ca-rey! Tortoiseshell! “after Price’s name was announced and his photo was shown on the giant screen.

Jonathan Drouin also received a standing ovation before his first game at the Bell Center since last April. Drouin left the Canadiens near the end of last season and missed the entire playoff run while dealing with anxiety and insomnia issues.


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Drouin received another standing ovation after scoring the Canadiens’ only goal at 9:24 in the third period to tie the score 1-1 after Chris Kreider opened the scoring for the Rangers on a power play at 9:59. of the second period. But just 26 seconds after Drouin scored, Alexis Lafrenière answered for the Rangers, who added an empty goal from Kevin Rooney with 10 seconds left.

The Canadiens have now scored three goals in their first three games. Drouin has two of them, matching his total from last season, when he played 44 games.

Drouin and goalie Jake Allen have been the Canadiens’ only two bright spots so far this season. Allen has only allowed two goals in each of his two starts and has a .925 save percentage, but the Canadiens have only scored once in both games.


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The Canadiens’ power play has been terrible, at 0-for-3 against the Rangers and now at 0-for-11 on the season. The penalty was not good either, allowing five goals in 13 power plays from the opposition.

It’s still early in the season, but this could get ugly pretty quickly if the Canadiens don’t start scoring some goals.

“We know we are better than this offensively and we will,” Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme said.

Ducharme added that the Canadiens need to be more dynamic offensively (that’s one of their favorite words), have more presence in front of the net and that players like Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield need to maintain their confidence.

“You can take off one of the shin guards and then start rolling,” Ducharme said.


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Fans started yelling “Go ahead, Habs, go ahead!” even before the national anthems were sung, but the Canadians didn’t give them much cause for joy after that. It was not the atmosphere that Canadians or fans expected.

“The crowd, I think we took that for granted a little bit over the years,” Drouin said. “Just to get them back… you could feel the energy in the warm-ups. It was amazing to have the crowd back, the adrenaline rush, the crowd was loud all night. “

But it was a very disappointing end to the evening.

The Canadiens are back in action Tuesday night when the San Jose Sharks visit the Bell Center.

That 1995-96 Canadiens team that started 0-3-0 also lost their fourth game, after which general manager Serge Savard and head coach Jacques Demers were fired.

Don’t expect GM Marc Bergevin or Ducharme to be fired if the Canadiens lose on Tuesday, but the Canadiens need to start winning some games.

The fun memories of last season’s race to the Stanley Cup final are fading fast.

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