Canadiens could use the Forum ghosts now at Bell Centre
The Canadiens moved from the Forum to the Bell Centre in 1996 and haven’t won a Stanley Cup since.
There has been plenty of talk in Montreal over the years about how the legendary Forum ghosts, which some credit for helping the Canadiens win 24 Cups — including the last one in 1993 — never made the move to the new building. If there are any ghosts in the Bell Centre this season, they’re friendly ones for the opposition.
Heading into Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN Radio 690), the Canadiens have an 8-7-3 record at home, including three straight losses, and are 13-14-4 overall. The game against the Devils wraps up a five-game homestand for the Canadiens and they need a win to finish at .500 after going 1-2-1 in the first four games.
To make matters worse, the last two losses — 6-2 to the Edmonton Oilers and 3-2 in overtime to the Calgary Flames — came against the other team’s backup goalie. Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit came into last Saturday’s game at the Bell Centre with a 1-5-1 record, a 3.71 goals-against average and an .877 save percentage before stopping 22 of 24 shots for the victory. The Flames’ David Rittich, playing in only his fourth career NHL game, stopped 35 of 37 shots last Thursday night.
The Canadiens have made a habit of making opposing goalies look good at the Bell Centre on too many nights.
“We won five in a row and then we lost the next three … we gained one point out of six,” coach Claude Julien said after practice Tuesday in Brossard. “We’re trying to look at the big picture here and the big picture is we’ve had a decent record until last week. We got to get back on track here and that’s what we started today, working on things that’s going to make us better and go from there.
“We’re going to be grinding it out, we know that,” Julien added. “But if we want to be part of a team that’s going to be in the playoffs, we have to be ready to grind it out and keep working to get ourselves better.”
If the Canadiens want to make the playoffs they’re going to have to play a lot better at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens have missed the playoffs seven times since moving to the Bell Centre — most recently two seasons ago — but haven’t had a losing record at home since 2000-01, when they finished 15-20-6. A loss to the Devils Thursday night would drop the Canadiens to .500 at home and then the next seven games are on the road, where they are 5-7-1.
“We didn’t have a good start … I think that’s probably the main thing,” Andrew Shaw said when asked to explain the Canadiens’ problems at the Bell Centre. “We didn’t start great and we’ve just been playing catch-up ever since.”
After Thursday’s game, the Canadiens will play the Ottawa Senators in the outdoor NHL 100 Classic Saturday night at Lansdowne Park and then go on a three-game Western Canada road trip before the Christmas break. After that, the Canadiens play in Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida before their next game back at the Bell Centre on Jan. 2 against the San Jose Sharks.
“Right now, what I’m going to do is I’m going to look at the next five games before the Christmas break,” Julien said. “We got one home game, then we got four more on the road … I’m not going to go any further than that. Why should we look any further than that? Because if we don’t do the job there, we’ll already be in trouble. So we’ll focus on what we have in front of us in the short term and then go from there.”
A win at home Thursday night would be a good start.