Tuesday night's tilt against the Ottawa Senators will go a long way toward determining just what kind of team the Montreal Canadiens are this season.
More specifically, it will tell us if the Habs are really an improved version of last year's squad, or if this is a completely different team that needs to forge its own identity.
Last year's Habs would take the humiliation they suffered Saturday night and channel it into their next game. More often than not, it resulted in a victory, and a convincing one at that.
Will the Canadiens best players be their best players, as Guy Carbonneau said they needed to be following the loss to the Leafs?
The matchup with the Sens is a favourable one for the Canadiens, and you probably couldn't find a better one for the team to bounce back against. The Sens, to be generous, have been erratic all season and are a team in disarray to a far greater extent than the Canadiens. And the players who have been in Montreal a while remember all too well how Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have ripped the Canadiens to shreds over the past few years, so getting up for the game should not be an issue.
Before anyone gets too carried away with all the problems in the Canadiens play of late, they should take a look at the standings. With all their warts they've shown this season, and while playing only one of 12 games to the fullest of their potential, the Canadiens are still 8-2-2, right in the thick of it for the best record in the league. In fact, based on points percentage (as in the precentage of total points available earned by a team), the Habs .750 number is third to only San Jose (.813) and Detroit (.769).
If the debacle in Toronto truly serves as a wakeup call, imagine what this team can accomplish when it finally clicks?
Bouncing over to the three-game sentence handed down to Tom Kostopoulos, I think it's a slap on the wrist, but I'm not the least bit surprised. Colin Campbell gave Randy Jones two games last year for knocking Patrice Bergeron out for an entire year, so in that sense I guess this suspension is severe, because the situations on the two hits are very similar.
But just because Campbell gave Jones a cream puff punsihment last year, does that mean Kostopoulos should get the same treatment now? Does "legal" precedent apply in a league where one man is responsible for all disciplinary decisions? Should we not allow for the likely possibility that Campbell made a mistake last year?
I'm just wondering what happens the next time a guy commits the sin, as Mike Van Ryn apparently did here, of deciding to change directions with the puck along the boards. Why is this a factor in the sentence? Is it so unheard of that a player decides to change directions to avoid a hit?
It's high time that players, who often say they should be allowed to police themselves, start looking at videos of situations like these and make the conscious decision that when a guy is vulnerable along the boards, it's a more prudent move to play the puck. That, in my opinion, would be a far more effective way of self-policing than dropping your gloves and pounding a guy into oblivion.