MONTREAL – Phillip Danault tried to hide it. In his post-game crush, he said just what the players usually say about a team struggling for their season but failing to win for an eight consecutive game, and he did as best he could not letting it show how he did felt deep inside me.
And then the dressing room of the Montreal Canadiens was almost cleared and we went on because his face told us that he wasn't just frustrated.
It seemed painfully obvious that Danault was completely depressed.
We have rarely (if ever) seen Danault this way since joining this team in 2016, which is considered the best trading manager that Marc Bergevin has done in his seven and a half years as a manager. It is generally a beacon of positive energy; a smiling, courteous, optimistic gentleman who – even in dark times – almost always leans to the bright side.
But that's a blackout. After scoring a goal and helping the Canadiens take a 2-0 lead over the Edmonton Oilers, the goal crumbled after an 18-0 loss that would have led the way in the NHL, if not an empty net goal Josh Archibald has 35 seconds left. After answering questions for 10 minutes, how to proceed here and what makes the whole thing different than the skid with eight games from November 16 to December 16. 2 And how he and his teammates can build confidence to win, Danault thought about what it takes to miraculously change that and came out empty-handed.
"What is that, 26 wins?" He then asked.
In fact, we replied that the Canadiens would need 27 wins and an extra point for an extension or loss in the shootout to achieve the 98 points needed for last year's playoffs in the Eastern Conference. We didn't have to tell him that they had to have a 74.3 percentage point in their last 37 games.
We didn't have to tell him that Canadians have so far earned 47.8 percent of the points available to them, and not even the leading Washington capitals have managed to earn 74.3 percent of their points.
And whether Danault was struck by the undeniable reality of the situation in real time or has been haunted by him for almost two weeks, after the 2-4 defeat on Thursday, everything went very humanly from him from Connor McDavid and Co.
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26-year-old Victoriaville, Que., Local, sighed and said, "It's hard to explain how I feel."
"I am miserable at home now," he added. "It's good that my wife is there for me at home, and I'm trying to stay positive on the ice rink. I don't think the fun is gone, but obviously we don't smile everywhere. It's not the same fun that we had at the beginning of the year.
“But I think chemistry will always be there as a team. We do it all together … "
It would be one thing if the Canadians didn't try.
"We didn't give up," said coach Claude Julien, and the fact that the Canadians ritually shoot out and play out their opponents – as they did for about 10 minutes that evening – is proof of that.
"Obviously we don't win," said Julien, "but we are not a team that comes into the games and is completely dominated." We're still doing our job to keep the boys going and motivate them … "
But it is getting more and more difficult.
"As you can see, we're running out of answers," said the trainer.
Canadian captain Shea Weber was in the midst of his crush after the game, saying that he had no answers to the events.
"If we had answers, we would change that quickly," he added.
A jump or two would help.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world and then tell the audience everything about what they heard and what they think about it.
If Nate Thompson had taken the puck off the pitch and instead got out after replacing Oilers goalkeeper Mike Smith in the 18th minute of the second round and putting him on his stomach, the Canadians would have done it 3-1 in the second pause.
Sure, maybe Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson would still have scored the two goals that made the Canadians lose 3-2 because Thompson missed, but they would still have had a chance to win the game ,
But it hasn't been like that lately.
"We have chances and we miss chances," said Julien, "and it will come back and bite us."
The Canadians had 37 shots on Thursday. The game report on www.natturalstattrick.com states that they had a total of 20 chances to score – seven from the high-risk zone – but it was the fifth time in their last six games that they were unable to score at least three goals.
Brendan Gallagher's return from a concussion that has kept him from the past four games hasn't changed much, and the Canadiens will approach Saturday's game in Ottawa with no hope that Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia or Paul Byron will all this includes repairing long-term injuries – will be available.
We won't see any of them in the five games that the Canadians left before the break from January 19-26 for the NHL bye week.
"We cannot disappoint our guard," said Danault. "We have to keep going and grinding again and again until we get out of there."
"We have no right to give up and we have no right to feel sorry for ourselves," said Julien. "We are paid to do a job and we have to keep trying to find a solution."
We asked him how he deals with all the losses and how he can find a way to return with the right attitude every day.
But Julien only repeated herself.
When we asked Weber, he said, "You focus on the game, you focus on the shift, (and) I don't think you focus on the end result of the season."
When we asked Danault, he only said what he felt:
"It's really difficult at the moment."