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(BRIAN SNYDER)
(BRIAN SNYDER)

Habs left picking up the pieces Add to ...

Hoo-boy, that one's going to leave a mark.

The reaction in Montreal to Thursday's 7-0 abdication in Boston (of all places!) is probably best described as apocalyptic.

Think the hockey equivalent of the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, or referendum night in 1995 - it feels like a Hab fan's Pearl Harbour.

Humiliation, said one headline. K.O., brayed another. Beat-down, read a third.

Sure.

Maybe they really are gutless, maybe Scott Gomez is the worst-ever Hab, maybe Tomas Plekanec is old and busted, maybe Mike Cammalleri is in a funk from which he'll never emerge, maybe this is Jacques Martin's Waterloo, maybe Brian Gionta really did wave a white flag for the first time in his life, maybe they'll never win again, ever.

But there is also an alternative view for the glass half full crowd, and one that no one in this town is expressing, presumably for fear of ridicule.

Happily there is no such fear in these quarters.

So how's this: what if this beat-down was actually a good thing?

We're not endorsing the viewpoint, merely expressing it in the interests of being contrarians.

Because let's face it, it's hard to imagine the club laying an egg that big again - they truly can't play any worse.

We were struck by a point that a fan made on one of the Habs forums last night (sorry, can't remember which one or we'd give 'em credit).

What if this team isn't grown-up enough to play with the weight of expectation?

They went to New York last Friday with a chance to kill off the Rangers' chance at sixth place. Bad bounce, breakdown, blowout.

They went in to Tuesday's game with desperate Buffalo with a chance to leapfrog Boston - flat effort early, narrow loss.

They show up in Boston for the first time since the Pacioretty game with a chance to draw within a point of the Bruins - you know the rest.

We're reminded of last year, when no one gave these guys a chance in the playoffs and so they just played.

It's safe to say ambitions of winning the division title have officially been squelched.

And everyone assumes this is a debacle from which they can't recover (although the Caps righted themselves after a similar horror show in New York earlier this year).

The Habs are thus unfettered by expectation, and can just play.

Their ticket to playoffs is punched - they are nine points ahead of ninth and could probably afford to lose all their remaining games, which they won't.

Another factor to consider: maybe this little team is a little gassed - 7 games in 11 nights, playing behind a goalie who has set a new career-high for starts.

And maybe Plekanec and Halpern and Sopel are still too banged up to be effective right now.

So maybe two weeks from now they've got their wind back.

Maybe the guys in the room learn from this, maybe they don't get paralyzed by their emotions again, maybe the crazy deflections start going their way again.

Maybe this is where people like P.K., basically the only front-line guy who showed up (along with Price, who was hurt more by rotten luck and poor support than anything he did wrong), take up a bigger role in the room.

The Habs are 24-8 in playoff series against Boston and other than a stretch of Bruins dominance in the early nineties haven't made it a habit of losing back-to-back series against them (the Bs won the last in 2009).

So here's a prediction that's easy to make given no one else is mental enough to say it out loud today: if the teams meet in the playoffs, as seems likely, Montreal will win.

The Habs have a team meeting at 10:30 this morning, presumably to give each other the hair-dryer treatment. It'll be followed by a practice, we'll report back afterward.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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