First there was the score, and the fact Montreal actually outshot Calgary 20-19 at even strength, or that the Habs were credited with 26 hits to the Flames 21, or that Habs coach Jacques Martin counted nine scoring chances per side.
Yes, all those things point to a close game, but this game was between two teams playing in different leagues. One team has three defencemen who could all be considered all-stars, another has only four NHL-calibre defencemen. That alone shows to what extent the Flames are far and away a better team than the Habs.
Give Montreal credit, they hung around in this game and would have tied it if Scott Gomez were able to get the handle on a puck after deftly beating Miikka Kiprusoff on a clean breakaway in the second. But ultimately, it was a case of the Flames being too good and the Habs, yet again, not being anywhere near dangerous enough in the offensive zone.
“What’s effort? How do you define effort? I can define effort to be a lot of different things," Mike Cammalleri said, when told by a reporter after the game that this loss could not be blamed on a lack of effort. "Are we working hard? Do we want to win? Yes. But at the same time we need to make more of an effort - if you want to use that word - to challenge teams, to make it harder on their defence. I think we need to make more tape to tape passes, we need to have more puck possession, we need to challenge them with more of a threat offensively. It’s hard to play against a team that comes at you like that, and right now we’re making it easier on them.”
Cammalleri appeared like he was getting fed up with responding to losing questions, largely because his team has lost five of the last seven games, scoring only 15 goals and going 2-for-21 over that span.
Jacques Martin, in a desperate attempt to balance out his attack, stuck with keeping Cammalleri with Tomas Plekanec and Maxim Lapierre for as long as he could. When Calgary scored late in the first, a colleague next to me in the press box asked how long it would take before Cammalleri would be back with Gomez and Brian Gionta. I figured sometime in the second period, but Martin waited until midway through the third before putting his top three offensively creative players on one line.
The saddest part of that? The Habs might have won had he done it sooner. But if Andrei Kostitsyn were able to consistently produce chances, and if Guillaume Latendresse could show he had the willingness to go to some dirty areas to help that line out, maybe Martin wouldn't feel the need to take Cammalleri off the top unit.
“It’s something that we have to keep working at, and hopefully somebody will seize the opportunity,” Martin said. “There’s some chemistry between Gomez and Gionta and Cammalleri’s played most of the time with them. We’ve tried different situations trying to find a solution that will give us more depth as far as scoring.”
I've written it before, and I'll do it again, perhaps it's time to see if Gomez can have chemistry with someone else and give Plekanec a chance to play with Cammalleri and Gionta.
On the bright side in this game was the play of the defence, which had a physical challenge presented to them and answered the bell to the best of their ability. Jay Leach played 17 minutes and, as was his stated goal Tuesday morning, he wasn't a factor. That's a good thing. Marc-Andre Bergeron saw loads of even strength ice time, and in spite of himself wasn;t a factor either.
But ultimately, Jaroslav Halak was outstanding, stopping 30 shots and giving his team a chance to win. Perhaps now he knows how Carey Price feels, who in his best games doesn't get the offensive support to win. I would have to imagine Halak earned himself another start in Phoenix on Thursday night.
Finally, Halak also addressed the whole Twitter-based controversy of Saturday night started by his agent, Allan Walsh, who tweeted about Carey Price's horrid won-loss record, setting off a firestorm that began on Twitter and made its way all the way to Hockey Night in Canada and TSN.
“He wrote something he shouldn’t have,” Halak said of all the stupidness. “It’s got nothing to do with me.”
Amen to that, Jaro.