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Canadiens’ Ducharme miraculously keeping cool under strain of mounting losses

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MONTREAL — Dominique Ducharme didn’t bite, though he certainly had reason to.

After his Montreal Canadiens spotted the New York Islanders the first five goals of Thursday’s hockey game, after they eventually followed up a win with a completely discouraging loss for a third time in just three opportunities to follow up a win this season, the coach was asked how he was feeling and was given the floor to just vent.

Ducharme passed.

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“I won’t come here and give a show,” Ducharme said. “I won’t be making the headline and being on YouTube for 20 years.”

He generated some hearty laughs, but a tribute to Michel Therrien would’ve played better.

The former Canadiens coach, who famously unloaded in front of reporters as boss of the hapless Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006, was surely who Ducharme had in mind when he said what he said following this 6-2 loss.

Maybe it was the subject matter — a defence group that, Therrien suggested, was attempting to become “the softest” in NHL history — that made Ducharme go there. It would have made perfect sense for the current coach of the Canadiens to go off given what he saw from his group of six in this loss to the Islanders, in which New York’s Brock Nelson scored twice as many goals as his team did.

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But Ducharme decided to hold back.

“What I have to say, I’m telling my guys,” he offered.

We’re not sure there’s anything Ducharme can say to his defencemen that’ll drastically change what we’ve seen from them through this early part of the season.

On this night they tried. They’ve been trying on most of them.

But they’ve struggled mightily, and they failed miserably against the Islanders.

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“I don’t think the score accurately reflected our effort,” said Canadiens defenceman David Savard. “But I think we made bad decisions that cost us goals.”

No one made more of them than him in this game.

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Savard not only fought the puck; the puck fought back.

He bobbled it on the first goal against and fumbled it a few more times before someone in a Canadiens jersey had to fish it out of Montreal’s net, and when he had a chance to get his team back into the game — Nick Suzuki set him up with a gift while the Canadiens trailing 2-0 in the second period — he shot five feet wide of an open target.

In 12 games since signing a four-year, $14-million contract with Montreal, minus-five hasn’t accurately reflected Savard’s performance. He’s been worse than that.

Against the Islanders, nothing worked between him and partner Brett Kulak.

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Chris Wideman, who’s been in and out of Montreal’s lineup, struggled next to Alex Romanov, who rebounded well from a bad performance against the Anaheim Ducks last Sunday that led to him being scratched from Tuesday’s win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Jeff Petry and Ben Chiarot, who had found some mojo in that game at the Bell Centre, were neither good nor bad in this one, which saw the fans boo the Canadiens halfway through and mock cheer them with Ole, Ole, Ole throughout the third.

Ducharme kept that top pair together. He kept Savard and Kulak together. Wideman and Romanov, too.

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When asked if he thought of shifting things around, if he felt he even had the flexibility to mix and match his defence pairings when it was obvious Savard and Kulak were costing the Canadiens the game, Ducharme said, “We need our guys to be better and more consistent.”

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“I know about playing and switching and everything, but at one point we always need two Ds on the ice too,” he added.

At least the coach didn’t save all his frustration for the room.

Ducharme has probably felt it since training camp without Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson at his disposal.

He must have felt it on the bench watching the mistakes from his defence pile up on Thursday. It had to be painful watching forwards Christian Dvorak, Josh Anderson and Mike Hoffman miss defensive assignments and finish the night a combined minus-14.

Ducharme must have been stewing in it when the Canadiens whiffed on several scoring chances through the first 30 minutes and found themselves trailing 3-0 despite good intentions and efforts. And we have no clue how he kept his cool after the game, with the Canadiens’ record changing to 3-9-0 on the season and with his team once again proving incapable of building on whatever positive momentum it creates.

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He knows a YouTube-worthy rant isn’t going to change any of it, but we’re not sure how much longer he can hold it in if things don’t change for the Canadiens.



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