Friday, 9 December 2011

Consistently Inconsistent

The Habs lost to Vancouver at home for the first time in nearly 5 years. Frederic St.Denis scored his 1st NHL goal and looked solid defensively - likely further alienating Yannik Weber. Brian Gionta left the game 7:30 into the 3rd period and never returned. The Canadiens put in a good effort against a strong opponent, and yet many troubling signs are still present.

Jaques Martin's keys to the game were like listening to a broken record. "To contain the Sedin's, we'll need to play in units of 5 and maintain good back pressure". "We have some injuries right now (146 man games lost thus far) and they key is to stay in the middle of the pack, 2-3 games below a playoff spot until we can get healthy." So, basically the plan here is again play defense and not lose.

I think tonight in an effort to show confidence in some younger players and to free up certain players offensively, the most difficult defensive assignment of the night went to an unexpected trio. Lars Eller, Travis Moen and Andrei Kostitsyn were asked to keep the Sedins in check - while Thomas Plekanec's line was freed from checking duties.

The Eller line to me was the Habs best on this night. Erik Cole had yet another excellent game, but to me Andrei Kostitsyn was the best Habs forward. His line was asked to keep the Sedin twins in check and somehow AK46 was getting or creating scoring chances on nearly every shift - with whomever his linemates were. I think the coach noticed too. When Gionta left the game, Leblanc took ak46's spot with Eller/Moen while Andrei played in Gionta's spot on the top line AND with Nokaleinen/Darche on the 4th line.

The Power play is embarrassing. With the Habs up 3-0 1 good power play out of the first 2 may have sealed the deal, but not such luck.While on their first two PP's, I felt the habs moved the puck around in the zone MUCH better than they have recently - they only managed 3 total shots. The third PP was one of the worst yet - and that's saying something. On all 3 they have no entry plan. As TSN regional analyst (and former Hab) Mike Johnson correctly pointed out - the Habs PP looks like they're "playing" not implementing. Generally when the PP is practiced players are looking to fulfill set plays on the ice, Habs PP looks like a bunch of guys noodling around without communicating.  At 11:21 of the second period, Mason Raymond made matters worse by scoring a short-handed goal against Montreal. Habs are 2nd worst in the league in that category having given up 5 goals (and scoring only 10) while on the PP this season.

The Penalty Kill continues to be ELITE. Hal Gill is a big reason why, but the unit as a whole get in lanes, block shots and generally limit scoring chances. Vancouver did score 1 PP goal (after Lars Eller took a terrible offensive Zone penalty with 5:13 to play in the 3rd and Habs up by 1) but the HABS killed off a 90-second 5-on-3 advantage by the best PP team in the league. "Salo has a bomb" TSN Analyst Mike Johnson said on VAN's 1st PP. "I was one of many who was afraid of it when I played" he would be prophetic as Sami Salo would score VAN's only PP goal.

The faceoffs are pathetic. 2 VAN goals came off set plays resultant from faceoffs lost by the habs. Nokaleinen has helped, and Eller's getting better, but this team needs more than that. Think Metropolit could help here? Halpern? Even Joe Juneau for fuck's sakes! The faceoff issue is on the General Manager more than the coach - DEAL WITH IT. Gomez coming back certainly won't help in this area.

The Habs first 2 goals were both brought on from hard work. On the first goal, Thomas Plekanec is jostling with Kevin Bieksa for positioning in front of the net, while screening goalie Roberto Luongo allowing St-Denis' shot to make it into the cage.

The second goal was much the same, with Erik Cole screening Luongo for Rafael Diaz.(Kostitsyn did a similar job in LA, so the Hab players are going to dirty areas).

Team was again blocking shots and going to dirty areas (as they did in LA and SJ) so it's hard to say they've quit on the Coach - although the fact that they only get up for good opponents looks to me like they're playing for each other more than the coach - especially the vets. It's very troubling to me that the best skaters on most nights are the Young guys (81-71-74-61) guys playing for a contract (46-26) new guys to the team (72-15) and Price. The rest have been WAY.TOO.INCONSISTENT.

Roberto Luongo was brutal on the Erik Cole goal, but he shut the door after that. He stoned Cammalleri and Gionta multiple times, was perfect in the shootout, and did what elite goalies do, game his team a chance to come back in the game.

Carey Price was stellar at times, but continues to have shootout difficulties this season. He only gave up 1 goal in the SO, but it dropped his season record to 1-5.

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