Daily Hab-it: Telling signs
By Arpon Basu
Published Sunday, March 27, 2011 12:24AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
It can manifest itself in many different ways for different personalities.
And the Montreal Canadiens dressing room after this third straight shutout loss was a clear example of just how that feeling of helplessness can sometimes take hold, and how different people react to it.
Firstly, standing side by side in the room awaiting the arrival of reporters were Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez.
I don't want to make this out to be more than what it is, but having all three veteran forwards available in the dressing room is a pretty rare sight, particularly after a loss.
Gionta, as captain, is always there.
Cammalleri is there quite often, less so when he's struggling offensively as he is now, but often enough.
Gomez, especially at home, is hardly ever there unless he's specifically requested.
That the three of them were there together at least suggests they understand the burden of responsibility they have for this three game scoring drought, one that has reached just over 186 minutes of playing time with 73 consecutive shots stopped by opposing goaltenders ever since Tom Pyatt scored on the Canadiens final shot on goal in Minnesota last Sunday.
Cammalleri's degree of frustration was evident as he spoke about the team's lack of discipline, both in the way they are taking penalties and in the way they are not respecting the system.
When I asked him how he was feeling in the immediate aftermath of being booed off his home rink, Cammalleri was barely audible when he answered.
"It's not fun," he said, practically in a whisper. "It's not good. Really not good."
For Gomez, who was audibly booed in the pre-game player presentation and at various points in the game, the frustration was perhaps more difficult to manage because he's a big part of one of the major reasons he cited for the team's lack of offensive cohesion – taking stupid penalties.
It happened with the Canadiens taking three of them in the first period alone on Saturday night after falling behind 1-0 only 1:24 into the game, then taking another within the first five minutes of the second.
Even though the Canadiens killed them all and allowed only four shots on goal in the process, that was eight out of the first 26 minutes where they couldn't generate any offence.
"It starts with taking penalties, first and foremost," Cammalleri said. "It's a tough way to play when we start all these games taxing ourselves shorthanded."
Gomez was responsible for two of the six power play chances handed to Boston on Thursday, and he said the second one late in the second period of a 3-0 hockey game with the Canadiens showing some signs of life was still eating at him.
"That's a bad penalty. It's a bad example for the young guys, it starts right there and then," he said. "We've all played this game, we all know that with the rules, if a guy beats you like what happened to me the other night, don't grab him. Forget about tonight, we've gotten away from that for a while."
"It starts with me. If you want an example, there's one right there in Boston."
Though few people are likely to feel any sympathy for Gomez right now, with his $8 million salary and his seven assists in the last 22 games, the fact remains that for the Canadiens to have any chance of finding playoff success they need to him to figure this out. He's not this bad, never has been, and the team has to hope that sometime over the course of the next six games Gomez finds it.
That's why Jacques Martin has to continue to throw him out there in spite of everyone howling for Gomez to be benched, or to at least have his ice time cut, because he needs him to be better and the only that will happen is for him to play through it. I realize what point of the season we're at, but as good as David Desharnais and, to a more inconsistent extent, Lars Eller have been, they both remain big unknowns when it comes to playoff hockey.
Gomez is not, and that's the difference.
However, I want to add that piling on to Gomez is very easy right now because he's had such a forgettable season, and the team is struggling so mightily to score – remove that 8-goal anomaly in Minnesota and the Canadiens have 12 goals in eight games.
But the guys who were standing next to him in that room need to also shoulder some of the heat.
Cammalleri has 16 goals in 61 games, including just one in his last 13 games. He had 13 in 19 playoff games last year.
Gionta has five goals and five assists in his last 19 games, and he has six games left to score two goals to match his 28-goal output of last season, which was achieved in just 61 games.
Then there's Tomas Plekanec, who wasn't in the room, with two goals and five assists in his last 14 games after getting 46 points in his first 57 games.
"Then there is the obvious," Cammalleri said after listing other reasons why the team is playing poorly. "A lot of us aren't producing anywhere near where we should be."
Out of all the guys who were in that room, the one with the least reason to be frustrated was Carey Price. Yes, he's allowed 10 goals before mercifully being pulled in his last two road starts, but in his last two starts at home he's given up just three goals. Either way, he's got an L next to his name in his last four.
We haven't seen many moments of exasperation out of Price this season after seeing several last season, but Saturday night he did show a minor flash of how frustrating he's finding this slump.
After getting undressed while all the other reporters were talking to other people, Price began to make his way to the back area where he could shower and get changed. He was holding some things in his hands, but needed to pick up his shoes.
After trying a couple of times and failing, he took to kicking them. Hard. Hard enough to suggest that it wasn't the shoes at all that were the source of his frustration.
He finally got the shoes to go where he wanted them to go, and was about to slip away when I asked him to answer a couple of questions.
Somewhat reluctantly, he did, and as reporters quickly swarmed around him Price instantly went back to the same calm demeanour we've seen from him all season. Just like that.
But when asked about the fans booing him and his teammates off the ice, just before giving him a big ovation as the deserved first star of the game, Price encapsulated what the mood in that room really was. Or at least what it appeared to one reporter.
"Nobody wants to come to the game and not see anything," he said. "It's definitely warranted, for sure. Nobody's having much fun right now."
For a guy who worked so hard to make sure he was having fun playing this game again, that's saying a lot.