MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens were abused from all sides Tuesday night.
First there were the Detroit Red Wings completely dominating the play in a 4-1 victory where they outshot the Habs 34-16. Then it was the usual sellout crowd of 21,273 Bell Centre fans unleashing a steady chorus of boos on their team over the second half of the game, only stopping to give mock cheers when the Canadiens managed a shot on goal.
But head coach Guy Carbonneau finished it off by calling out the team’s best defenceman and future franchise goalie in an all-around bashing of his own club in his post-game news conference.
Carbonneau, wearing his frustration on his face after watching his team lose for the fifth time in six games, said the Montreal fans who have filled the building every night since the lockout had every right to boo his team.
“It’s normal, we’re not winning at home,” said Carbonneau, whose team is 5-5-3 this season at the Bell Centre. “We have 41 home games and our fans want us to win all of 41 of them. I do too. But we’re making mistakes now. They have every reason to boo us, I have no problem with that.”
From that point onward, everyone was fair game.
When asked if anything was wrong with Andrei Markov, who leads all Eastern Conference defencemen in all-star balloting, Carbonneau said he thought the public support may have gotten to his head.
“Maybe he sees himself in the all-star (game) too quickly,” he said. “I don’t think he’s injured, but his play isn’t where it should be. He should be our best defenceman, and right now he’s not.”
On young goaltender Carey Price, who stopped 30 shots Tuesday and was recovering from the flu, Carbonneau did not use kid gloves on a rookie who will likely become the face of this franchise in the near future.
“Of late, we’ve needed our goaltenders to be better than what we’re getting,” he said when asked to evaluate Price’s performance. “We need our goaltender to steal a game for us.”
Carbonneau may have even questioned the leadership in his dressing room when he questioned why the team hadn’t held a player’s only meeting in an effort to get out of their current slump.
After jumping out to a 9-3-3 start, the Habs have gone 4-7-1 over their last 12 games and have not strung together two wins in a row in that same span.
The last two games have been particularly rough, as the Habs blew two three-goal leads in the third period on Saturday before losing 5-4 in a shootout at home to Nashville, and then were completely outclassed Tuesday by Detroit.
“I would have held (a meeting) a long time ago,” Carbonneau said.
Habs winger Chris Higgins said the players have tried different methods of firing up the team, but nothing has worked so far.
“We’ve had guys yelling in the locker room, we’ve had coaches yelling at us, and sooner or later it’s going to sink in,” he said. “But it has to sink in right now. It’s unacceptable to get booed out of your own building two games in a row.”