With 2:12 left in a tied 3rd Period against the Colorado Avalanche, All-Star Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban was skating the puck from the Avs' blue line to high left circle when he succumbed to tight pressure from forward Mikhail Grigorenko and coughed it up. The 21-year old Russian then stole the puck and shot up ice for an odd-man rush with line mates Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla. Three passes later and the puck was in the net to give Colorado its first lead and ultimately the game-winning goal.
Following the game, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien had some eye-opening comments about the team's most-recognizable player:
"As a coach, I felt he could have had a better decision at the blue line. He moved the puck behind, and he put himself in a tough position."
He would go on to elaborate en francais, calling the turnover, "a selfish play that cost us the game." The comment sent Canadian media into a frenzy, adding fuel to an already white-hot fire. Montreal, the league's hottest team to start the season, have been in a free-fall since losing Vezina and Hart Trophy-winner Carey Price to injury, going 10-23-2 in the games since. Bearing the brunt of the blame are the team's remaining stars, Subban and Max Pacioretty, during a season the Canadiens expected to compete for the Stanley Cup. The two make a combined 13.5 million dollars a year, with Subban's contract kicking in a No-Trade Clause starting next season, leading many to speculate on trade rumors during this tailspin. Is it time to blow up the team that looked so promising to start the year? Or should the team look to replace its head coach like the Minnesota Wild did last week?
One thing is for certain: if something does happen, the Avalanche will have played more than a small part, and not just because of Wednesday's game either. Back on November 14th -- when Montreal was 13-2-2 and possessed a league-leading goal differential -- Colorado walked into the Bell Centre and laid a 6-1 whooping on a team playing at the top of their game. Three months later, it's clear that was the first chink in what appeared then to be a very formidable armor.
With the trade deadline looming and the Canadiens sitting eight points out of the wild card, it will be interesting to see how far Montreal's patience stretches.