Cunneyworth calls for more physicality

The Canadiens finally scored a goal against Washington, but it wasn’t enough as they dropped their third straight game, 4-1 to the Caps.

Going into tonight’s game, the Habs hadn’t scored a goal against Washington in two games this season. Their  last goal against the Caps came on March 15th of last season, when Andrei Kostitsyn beat Braden Holtby in the second period of that game. 260 minutes of hockey later, Rene Bourque finally got one by Capitals goaltender Michael Neuvirth but it was too little too late.

“The result is what’s frustrating,” said Habs interim coach Randy Cunneyworth.

“We’ve still got a decent response at times, but it’s not consistent enough.”

The Habs kept up with the Capitals until midway through the second period, when Washington got goals from Jason Chimera and Alexander Ovechkin just 16 seconds apart.

Both goals were the result of defensemen being caught pinching from the point. On Chimera’s breakaway goal, Raphael Diaz headed towards the net when Lars Eller turned the puck over. Chimera raced the other way and beat Carey Price on a breakaway, in what was clearly the turning point of the game.

On the second goal, Josh Gorges was the one caught pinching and Ryan White was forced to cover his position in the defensive zone. Capitals rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov found Ovechkin in the slot, and he buried it past Price.

“We got caught,” Cunneyworth said.

“When you are going to take risks and chances of that nature, you’re going to get caught.”

For a team that has added size upfront, there are nights where the physical aspect of their game just isn’t there.  When the Canadiens went on their four game winning streak earlier this month, they were going in hard on the forecheck and taking pucks to the net.

On this three game losing streak, they aren’t throwing their body around and that fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

“I’d like to see us be a little more physical as a group,” said Cunneyworth.

“I think we can finish more checks and be harder on opponents.”

With one game left before Monday’s trade deadline, it will be interesting to see how the Canadiens respond in Florida on Sunday night. Will GM Pierre Gauthier pull the trigger on a deal between now and then, or will he wait until after the game to part ways with some of his players?

For those who will remain with the team past the 3 P.M. trade deadline, motivation may be hard to come by. The Habs are now dead last in the Eastern Conference and have almost no shot of making the playoffs.

This three game road trip concludes on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay. The Habs will then go back home to play Minnesota and Toronto before embarking on a dreadful Western Canadian swing which never seems to treat them kindly.

For Habs fans, the next relevant date on their calendar will come sometime in April when their team should be part of the NHL draft lottery.



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