Your Call: Time to panic in Montreal after Habs slow start? Staff

10/19/2011 3:51:43 PM

Since 1938, no Montreal Canadiens team has dropped their first three games on home ice.

Until now, that is.

With Tuesday night's loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Canadiens fell to 1-3-1 in their first five games and 0-2-1 at home. That has them sitting at 13th in Eastern Conference.

So is it time to panic yet? Or does everyone need to relax and remember there are still 77 games left to play this season?

There are plenty of fans of Les Habitants who are ready to slam their fists down on the panic button.

Here are just a few sample reader comments from last night's recap:

"Montreal's worst start to a season since 1938!!! Maybe they should have had Calvillo suit up last night. He knows how to win. He could probably provide better coaching as well. This team is in freefall and will hit rock bottom on Sunday."

"It all starts at the top...since Molson has bought the team, kicked Boivin out and made himself president, the team has gotten worse each year."

"1 goal on 40 shots?? time for accuracy drills I'd say."

The worrying certainly seems to have some merit. Any time you are earning comparisons to 73-year-old futility records, there is reason to question what's going on.

It's not just the losses that have fans worrying either, but the teams they are losing to. The Canadiens have lost to the Maple Leafs, Avalanche and Flames already this season, none of whom were considered to be among the league's elite heading into this season.

The team's power play has been all but non-existent so far this season and a major factor in some of their losses. With last night's 0-for-5 performance, the Habs have scored just twice in 21 power play opportunities so far. That's a success rate of just 9.5 percent.

Some marquee players like P.K. Subban and Carey Price have also been underwhelming thus far.

Subban has just one assist and is a minus-3. He has also been burned gambling on several occasions.

Price has been in net for all five Canadiens games this season, posting a less-than-stellar .885 save percentage.

Management is also taking heat for the poor start.

Montreal's big signing this off-season in Erik Cole has failed to live up to expectations so far. The big winger has managed just one assist and only has seven shots in five games.

And then there is the Andrei Markov contract extension. After playing only seven games last season, Markov has yet to play this season as he continues to recover from off-season ACL surgery. The Canadiens re-signed him to a three-year, $17.5 million deal in June though. Right now that move is looking like a risk that is less and less likely to pay off.

Then again, we are only five games into the season and there is plenty of hockey left to be played.

Consider that the Maple Leafs started last season 4-0 and wound up on the outside looking in. Early success or early woes do not guarantee how an entire season will shake out.

Despite losing to the Sabres the other night, the Canadiens didn't actually play badly either. They outshot Buffalo 41-23, including a 14-3 advantage after one period. Unfortunately, they ran into a brick wall in Sabres' netminder Ryan Miller. That's something that is going to happen occasionally in the NHL.

"To me, we played the way we need to play," said Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin following the loss. "We got the puck behind the defence, we forechecked, we got good chances. But sometimes you don't get the result.

"I like how we played. We've played four excellent periods in a row and we have to keep it going."

In fact, the Canadiens have outshot their opponents by at least 13 shots in each of their four losses. Eventually, that type of advantage should translate into more goals and with some luck, more wins.

As for the injuries, every team has to deal with them at some point. For the Canadiens, their time is now. If they get some healthy bodies back and Markov is able to return to a high-level, all of a sudden the Canadiens look like a much different team.

So what is it? Panic time or a big overreaction? We want to know what you think about the rough start in Montreal. As always, it's Your! Call.