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It was with dogged determination that the Habs entered New York to take on the Islanders and a supreme showing on the ice vindicated all their immense preparations as their stunning display …  Perhaps not.  Somehow, a mere week from the playoffs, the Habs find themselves playing some of their worst hockey of the season, and tonight they were pulverized in every manner by the Islanders who eventually took this one by a score of 5-1.


Though many might have been sick, at this level those excuses stand for nothing, and when they Canadiens skated off the ice, heads surveying the ground immediately beneath them, they understood fully that this loss came down to execution and desire – two things they absolutely didn’t have.  If, a few games back, they managed five minutes of solid hockey, tonight they might have had about a minute separated into five-second vignettes throughout the game.


The first five minutes were the worst, though it hardly got much better.  After two goals, one by Hamrlik and the other by Aucoin, each a defender and each allowed to waltz in close to make their mark, the Canadiens were floundering.  Coverage was non-existent and conviction of play didn’t even measure up to shinny hockey.


When your all-star goalie allows five goals on fifteen shots, two seemingly through him, you know you have problems.   When Theo was lifted for Garon in the third, though, it was hardly because of his bad play, just that Julien decided Theodore had been left out to dry far too often.


When youngster Mike Komisarek and AHLer Karl Dykhuis are two of your three best defensemen, you know you have problems.  Komisarek has been improving, for sure, but he’s not yet at a level when he should be the dominant force on the blue line.  Dykhuis had himself a tremendous game and probably should have played five minutes more than he did.


When your two best forwards are Jim Dowd and Jason Ward, you know you have problems.  On this night it was only these two that managed any consistency shift to shift.  The big guns were searching for their ammunition – perhaps even their skates.


When three goals by Parrish, Hamrlik again, and Parrish again, are all scored in the second leaving you behind by a score of 5-0, you know you have problems.  It’s not even the goals that were the problem so much on this night, it was the manner in which they were scored.  Parrish’s first, a bad pinch by Sheldon Souray; Hamrlik’s second a missed assignment by Perreault and a poor decision by Zednik which threw everyone off; Parrish’s second, Alexei Kovalev turning up ice instead of assuring that his team had possession of the puck.


Rewards come to those who work and thus were Dowd and Ward given their just deserts.  Dowd, intercepting for the second time in as many shifts a clearance attempt from Rick DiPietro, the Isles goalie, sent a pretty pass out into the slot to Ward who sent the puck into the net.  The goal was no turning point, however.


When one of the calmest people in the game completely loses his cool and attacks another player with a high stick (which will lead to suspension surely) after receiving a hard, but very legitimate body check, you know you have problems.  Joe Juneau will surely be shaking his head at his own actions all night long, knowing full well that Steve Webb, darling love of the Islander faithful and one who has his name chanted with regularity, hit him with a wonderful body check in the middle of the Habs zone.


When Richard Zednik plays around three minutes in the third when the team is down, you know – you surely must know – you have problems.  But it wasn’t just Zednik who struggled, it was virtually everyone else who came from the Canadiens bench.  There was a lack of intensity, a lack of effort, a lack of brain power and they should be embarrassed. 


Somehow, some way, Julien must find the key to turning this one around.  Somewhere he has to find that answer to the poor play of late and the complete lack of intensity that the team has shown all too often after their long successful run.  Perhaps he should enlist the counsel, and voice, of Gainey in the dressing room.  One way or another, something has to be done.


When you find yourselves free-falling just before entering the playoffs for only the second time in six years, you know you have problems.


Anyone have an answer?