Wednesday was the start of a three-game road trip for the Montreal Canadiens in Washington, DC, with the Habs trying to win two straight for the first time this season.
However, the Capitals dominated the first period and rode that to a 6-3 win at the Capital One Arena.
It’s extremely difficult to find joy in these games, but Jake Evans certainly stands out in this one.
He scored the Canadiens’ goal in the first period from the slot being in the right spot at the right time. Then in the second period, one-on-one with the defender, Evans knew that he could not beat him to the middle, so he took it around the net quickly to try a difficult wraparound.
A goal didn’t come of it in the end, but if you are going to learn, you have to try.
It’s great to see Evans trying difficult maneuvers at the NHL level. If you keep trying it in game situations, you’ll discover what didn’t work that first time, and what you can add to the maneuver in terms of duplicity to get it done the next time.
Evans was a lone bright spot throughout the game.
The other highlight was that Cole Caufield finally scored this season. Caufield was the favourite by bookmakers to be the rookie of the year in the NHL, but he needed 13 games to get his first goal. Caufield was on a 2-on-1 coming down the left side. He took a shot that was saved, but it rebounded off the glass behind the net to back in front where Caufield scored on the rebound.
It wasn’t a memorable goal, but it surely felt terrific no matter how unorthodox it was.
What can be added to say about all of this? The start of a road trip in DC for the Canadiens should have meant a hungry club ready to prove something. Instead, they were totally without energy. It was actually quite embarrassing. The Capitals built up a 16-4 lead in shots and a 3-0 lead in the first period.
It did not appear that there was any fight back from the club at all. It is difficult to make it to the Stanley Cup finals one season and then the next year realize that you have nothing to play for with three-quarters of the campaign left.
Where does the motivation come from in this scenario? You’ve played for the holy grail, but now you have to play for pride.
And that is the ugly answer. The Canadiens have to somehow find some pride. That sounds so weak; they all play for pride. No player goes out there and isn’t proud. It seems like a sorry excuse. However, the truth is that is the only motivation left, and they better find that one soon.
This team is not the Central Red Army. However, they are not the 2001 Atlanta Thrashers, either. The Canadiens are on pace for 48 points. That would make them the second worst club in NHL history in points since they started awarding the overtime-loss point in 2000.
Forty-eight points. The two times that the Canadiens drafted third overall under Marc Bergevin, they attained 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 simply can not be possible.
It’s not even that bad a lineup. Have they given up on the coach? Does the coach have something to say to them that sticks in their minds? Do they hate his system? Is there a system? How do all of these so-called talented players turn lousy at exactly the same time?
We could break down each individual mistake here, but they’re the same culprits as every other night. All of these talented players with fundamental and simple errors to allow free ice everywhere. They are an ‘ice pack’ free opponent on most nights.
They have to find the dedication to at least be difficult. This may not be the battle for the holy grail anymore, but they’re going to have to find a way to achieve more than the historically pathetic 48 points.
GM Marc Bergevin says that he cannot do anything 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 his goal, that’s a massive concern. This season is already over. He can’t possibly be fighting for every point right now. The draft pick in June is already the goal this season.
If he trades for a player for this season and gives up some form of the future by trading away a young player or a high draft pick, that would be catastrophic.
So while Bergevin indicating that he is such a fighter seems like a lovely sentiment, it is so woefully inappropriate for a team on pace for 48 points it’s frightening.
One can only hope that he is talking a good game, and the real goal is to unload any player for maximum value at the best time that has no contract for next year, or no future in two or three years.
It’s rebuild time on this to build the defence with some puck movers, and, unfortunately, build up the middle of the ice again at centre which is woefully weak. Defensively, the Habs have allowed five goals or more in nine of 21 games. Offensively, they have scored three goals or more in only six games.
Bergevin better act accordingly. He better not be fighting to win. He’s on pace for the worst Habs season in their history. He 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 each Canadiens game.