Wednesday was the start of a three-game road trip for the Montreal Canadiens in Washington, DC, with the Habs trying to win two games in a row for the first time this season.
However, the Capitals dominated the first period and led it to a 6-3 victory at Capital One Arena.
It’s extremely difficult to find joy in these games, but Jake Evans certainly excels in this one.
He scored the Canadiens goal in the first period since the slot was in the right place at the right time. Then in the second half, one-on-one with the defender, Evans knew he couldn’t beat him in the middle, so he quickly went around the net to attempt a difficult envelop.
In the end, a goal did not come out, but if you are going to learn, you have to try.
It’s great to see Evans trying tough stunts at the NHL level. If you keep testing it in game situations, you will find out what didn’t work the first time and what you can add to the maneuver in terms of duplication to do it the next time.
Evans was a lone bright spot throughout the game.
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The other highlight was that Cole Caufield finally scored this season. Caufield was the bookmaker favorite for NHL rookie of the year, but it took him 13 games to score his first goal. Caufield was in a 2 on 1 going down the left side. He fired a shot that was saved, but it bounced off the glass behind the net back to the front where Caufield scored on the rebound.
It wasn’t a memorable goal, but it surely felt great no matter how unorthodox it was.
What can be added to say about all this? The start of a DC road trip for the Canadiens should have meant a hungry club ready to prove something. Instead, they were totally without power. In fact, it was quite embarrassing. The Capitals built a 16-4 advantage in shooting and a 3-0 lead in the first period.
It didn’t seem like there had been any fighting on the part of the club at all. It’s hard to reach the Stanley Cup final one season and then the next year to realize that you have nothing to play for with three-quarters of the season left.
Where does the motivation come from in this scenario? You have played for the holy grail, but now you have to play for pride.
And that’s the ugly answer. Canadians have to find some pride in some way. That sounds so weak; everyone plays for pride. No player comes out and he’s not proud. It seems like a sorry excuse. However, the truth is that it is the only motivation left, and they better be found soon.
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This team is not the Central Red Army. They aren’t the 2001 Atlanta Thrashers, however, either. The Canadiens are on their way to 48 points. That would make them the second worst club in NHL history in points since they began awarding the overtime stoppage point in 2000.
Forty-eight points. Both times the Canadiens selected third overall under Marc Bergevin, they posted 78 points and 71 points. They are not even close to that this season. This doesn’t even seem possible. Habs fans can remember how painful that 71-point season was. This is way worse than that so far. With this lineup, it just can’t be possible.
It’s not even such a bad lineup. Have they given up the coach? Does the coach have something to say to you that sticks in your mind? Hate your system? Is there a system? How do all these so-called talented players get lousy at the same time?
We could break down each individual mistake here, but they are the same culprits as every night. All these talented players with fundamental and simple mistakes to allow free ice everywhere. They are an ‘ice pack’ free opponent most nights.
They have to find the dedication to make it at least difficult. This may no longer be the battle for the holy grail, but they will have to find a way to achieve more than the historically pathetic 48 points.
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GM Marc Bergevin says there is nothing he can do but fight for every result. Bergevin told Sportsnet’s Eric Engels that he only knows how to fight to win.
This probably sounds lovely to the uneducated ear, but if that’s your goal, it’s a big concern. This season is over. It is not possible that he is fighting for all points right now. The June draft pick is already the goal this season.
If you trade for a player this season and give up some form of the future by trading a young player or a high draft pick, that would be catastrophic.
So while Bergevin indicates he’s such a fighter seems like a lovely sentiment, it’s so woefully inappropriate for a team on 48-point pace that it’s scary.
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One can only hope that he is talking about a good game, and the real goal is to unload any player for maximum value at the best time who has no contract for next year, or no future in two or three years.
Time to rebuild this to build the defense with some disc engines and unfortunately rebuild the center of the ice back to the center, which is woefully weak. Defensively, the Habs have allowed five or more goals in nine of 21 games. Offensively, he has scored three or more goals in just six games.
Bergevin had better act accordingly. He better not be fighting to win. He is on the way to the worst Habs season in his history. You better be fighting to provide a better future, even if that future is for someone else in the general manager’s chair.
Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on globalnews.ca after every Canadiens game.
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