(Photos by Caps Outsider) It was all about the fans Saturday night...
Caps Shut Out Habs, Montreal Fans React: “Meh.”
MONTREAL (Yes, Caps Outsider was at the game) — Caps fans*, you take you’re team’s success for granted. You’ve experienced a bad game every now and then, the frustration of all-stars with regular stars results, the odd losing streak. Have you ever thought what it’s like on the other side?
The legacy of the Canadiens and certain current roster names duped fans into thinking the Habs could contend at the beginning of the season, but recent results have grounded the proud fanbase. Bursts of success, such as Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Rangers offer hope. The play of the first and final minutes of the 3-0 loss to the Caps Wednesday night did the same, but the hockey-wise crowd ultimately refused to be moved.
The Habs outshot the Caps 31 to 16 total, including 17 shots on star of the game Michal Neuvirth in the third period. Washington had six.
While the pure quantity of shots against is scary, it was the quality that shocked the Caps in the first period. Washington had five to Montreal’s seven though the latter led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
The Pacioretty-Desharnais-Cole line came out with the same energy that got them nine points Sunday night. The only Cap that seemed prepared for their speedy play was Neuvy, whose saves propelled a team perhaps a little game-weary. And while Matt Hendricks fought Rene Bourque in Nicklas Backstrom‘s honor, it felt staged and out of place considering the rest of the night.
Which is where we come back to the fans. Knowing all the signs of a Montreal loss, it only took about fifteen minutes for the crowd to start the collective criticism. The weak “Go Habs Go!” cry that had struggled to (and never dd) get off the ground gained strength when the chant became monosyllabic. Not all the boo birds were released then, but a good amount escaped.
Shots continued to come for the Habs, but the low amount of second and third chances helped Neuvirth in his quest for the shutout. While they did inspire some more attempts at crowd enthusiasm, once again, the crowd chose the to echo the “0” on the scoreboard, be it a little lacklusterly.
Alex Ovechkin‘s goal in the second period, the final for the Caps, initiated sit-back mode, something that Montreal tried, and failed, to jump on. Leading that charge was P.K. Subban, who seemed to think he was the only one who could win the game. John Erskine‘s elbow to Mathieu Darche’s cranial area gave Subban and the Habs six minutes with an extra skater, which was eventually cut short when Max Pacioretty was called for interference (both calls being much more popular among the crowd than most of the rest of the game).
Subban skated in and around the point when on, generating most of Montreal’s scoring chances, but none of his teammates were mentally in the same zone.
Just to show that they cared, Habs fans booed the final interference call on defenseman Alexei Emelin and offered some half-hearted boos as the team skated off the ice. The Caps fans in the audience, and some opposing supported received the stars of the game with a bit more energy, as the game-winner and Quebec native, Mathieu Perreault, the captain, and Neuvirth popped out to salute the crowd.
A solid game for both teams, and a great showcase for how much skill and good coaching matters.
*not including those from the pre-Leonsis/Ovie era