It’s only two games into the 2014-15 season, but the Montreal Canadiens are already off to their best start since 2009-10, when they also went 2-0 and ended up reaching the Eastern Conference Final.
Indeed, in each of the past four seasons, the Canadiens mustered only 1-1 starts, after dropping the opener each time to the Toronto Maple Leafs. This marks the sixth-straight season the two teams have faced each other to open the Habs’ season with Montreal now owning a less-than-impressive 2-4 record in those games.
On the Flip Side
In any case, this 2-0 start shouldn’t be read into too much, namely because, as mentioned previously, it’s only two games. Also, as great of a start the Habs have gotten off too overall? Not so much the case in the individual wins over the Leafs and Washington Capitals.
Granted, it’s obviously not how you start but how you finish that really counts (the 2-0 record proves that). But, getting outshot 11-6 in the first period of Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs—of all teams—is like getting beaten up by that one pacifist kid in school who only just gleefully realized the benefits of throwing a punch in a fist fight.
Of course, it is the Maple Leafs and in the end that punch-happy pacifist still needs to learn how to fight properly.
The next night, however, getting outshot 15-2 in the first period by the Washington Capitals? If the Maple Leafs were a collective pacifist in a fist fight, the Habs were collectively paralyzed. By what, who knows?
Maybe it was the Habs being intimidated by their opposition, confused as to what year it was, thinking it actually was that 2009-10 season when the Capitals won the President’s Trophy with 121 points (even though they haven’t hit nearly as many since and missed the playoffs last year).
Or maybe not enough credit is being given to Washington. Perhaps it was just a case of the Capitals being supercharged, celebrating their 40th anniversary and all… and being brainwashed into thinking that 40 years was actually a milestone worth celebrating.
Seriously, give us a call in another 10 years for your 50th. Then we’ll talk.
Or maybe, just maybe, it was the Habs being tired, playing their second game in back-to-back nights. Of course, it was also their second game of 82 in all. So, if it was fatigue setting in, these next 80 games won’t go so hot.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Whatever it was, the Canadiens had better hope that this isn’t the start of a trend, even though there were definitely some positives, you know, aside from the two victories and four points.
The Habs showed character, not resting on their laurels against the Leafs when they led 3-2 in the third period. They didn’t collapse into a defensive shell as has been the norm in the recent past. They actually kept with their game plan.
Even after the Leafs tied it late on a weird bounce, the Habs didn’t panic. They pushed right back offensively, getting a scoring chance right away, ultimately scoring the game-winner soon thereafter off another weird bounce.
And, against the Capitals, the Habs eventually rebounded from that horrible first period, with Dustin Tokarski also proving management made the right decision to keep him instead of Peter Budaj. They ended up outshooting Washington 22-15 the rest of the way to earn the game-tying goal, then a shot in overtime, and finally the win in the shootout.
It all almost makes the two bad starts worth it, all the more sweeter. Almost.
For the record, in that 2009-10 season, the Habs couldn’t keep up the momentum of their 2-0 start and lost their next five. Needless to say, the Habs will likely want to come out a whole lot stronger against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Philly and better guarantee themselves of another victory.
That would give them their best start since 2005-06.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.