What the Puck: Andrew Shaw lights fuse as Habs playoff hopes fade

What the Puck: Andrew Shaw lights fuse as Habs  playoff hopes fade
Of course, the Habs can still make the post-season, but they will not make it if they perform the way they’ve been playing during the past couple of weeks. That heartbreaking loss in Uniondale, N.Y., Thursday night makes life so much more difficult for the Canadiens in their race to grab a wild-card spot in the East.

But it’s not even losing the points that’s the worst part of what happened in their 2-1 loss to the Islanders. It’s how they lost the game.

Jonathan Drouin of the Montreal Canadiens hits the boards in the final minute of play against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on March 14, 2019, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders defeated the Canadiens 2-1. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Riddle me this: How do they start what everyone knew was effectively a playoff game with that kind of effort — or should I say lack of effort? The first period was an absolute disgrace. There was only one Canadien who came to play and, as has so often been the case during the past decade, his name was Carey Price.

How do they not get pumped up for a game like this? I could see one or two players being in a funk, but the entire team? It really is mysterious. Obviously blame has to be laid partly on head coach Claude Julien. And let’s just all admit that he was handily out-coached Thursday by Barry Trotz, who will be winning the Jack Adams Award for his astonishing work with a team that wasn’t even supposed to be a factor in the Eastern playoff race.

Montreal has been slumping for a while, but I think something cracked on that California trip. Maybe it was Julien’s decision to start struggling backup goalie Antti Niemi against San Jose, a move that essentially admitted the coach didn’t believe his team could beat the Sharks. The next night, they were simply destroyed by a weak Anaheim Ducks team. On Tuesday against the sad-sack Detroit Red Wings, Price had to stand on his head to eke out a win for his team. Then on Thursday, the Habs failed to show up for a must-win game. Something is very wrong in that dressing room.

If you think I’m exaggerating to stir the pot, then you didn’t hear what Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw said after that brutal loss Thursday. Sitting in his stall, with anger in his eyes, he blasted his teammates.

“We haven’t had a game where every guy in the room has been going the same night,” said Shaw, one of the team’s veterans and one of the few Canadiens who has sipped champagne from the Stanley Cup. “That’s the type of team that we are. We need to be playing hard, every line, all D, the goalie. Everyone’s got to be playing like this. But every night, lines are taking nights off, players are taking nights off.”

Ouch! Those are fighting words and you know Shaw’s comments are going to be felt in the room. And the first one they are going to burn is Jonathan Drouin, who has become the lightning rod for fan discontent, with good reason. Every Canadien on the ice shares blame for the Islanders’ winning goal, but it all starts with Drouin. He zoomed in toward the net and then made a boneheaded pass to … no one. It was a play that led directly to the Brett Kulak/Max Domi mix-up and the goal.

that Drouin only had five goals in 2019 and, sadly, I don’t need to update that stat. When the going gets tough and the games get more serious, he has basically disappeared. It’s unacceptable.

But the star of so many Quebec TV commercials is not the real problem. The issue is that he’s expected to be the team’s best forward and he’s simply not good enough to fill that role. The talent just isn’t there.

So don’t get mad at Drouin. Get mad at the guy who brought him here and gave up an excellent young defenceman along the way. Seven years in, this is unquestionably general manager Marc Bergevin’s team. And there is a very good chance his squad will miss the playoffs again this year, for the third time in the past four seasons.

At a depanneur on Friday morning, the talk was all about the Habs’ failure in Uniondale and the guy selling the smokes, beers and lottery tickets had his finger on the pulse, as those types of guys always do. He said that as long as the Bell Centre’s packed to the rafters, nothing will change.
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