Sunday, 15 January 2012

a CHIP on their shoulder.

Well, we played well, right?

That's not really a question. The Canadiens under Randy Cunnyworth have developed a new chip and chase offensive system that seems to be working for them - albeit not yet providing dividends. In Boston on Thursday Tim Thomas and a flukey goal were the difference, and yesterday at home to the Senators Craig Anderson stole the show.

The Short of chip & Chase. Chip & chase is not the same as a dump and chase. With a dump & chase system, the offensive team (in this case the Canadiens) will dump the puck in to the opposing zone all the way to the boards and try to crash into the defender who has gone into a corner to play the puck. The optimal result of a dump & chase is to catch a defender out of position and get a cycle game going to create a chance. With a Chip & chase, the puck is not being dumped into the opposing zone it is being chipped past a defender by a foot or two. The optimal result here is for the offending team to use it's speed to catch a defender flat footed.

The Canadiens started to use this system against bigger teams like the Bruins last season (to great success) mainly to avoid having to use their bodies against the bigger teams. By using this system more frequently, the Canadiens are utilizing their greatest asset - speed. They are using their speed to put their opponents off balance.

The Candiens star selection process is funny. If a player scores the game winner in OT or SO he is automatically the games first star. Sometimes it is deserved, but in the case of Daniel Alfreddson, he was no first star for his entire nights work. The game's second star - Ottawa Goaltender Craig Anderson was easily the game's true first star.

Anderson made save after save stifling the Canadiens offense. He stooped diminutive David Desharnais alone in front on 5 separate occasions, he stopped multiple Canadiens through traffic, and he twice stopped Tomas Plekanec on short handed breakaways.

The Canadiens would have an apparent goal called off early. Andrei Kostitsyn would make good use of his puck movment ability before handing off to Josh Gorges. Gorges would pass to PK Subban while Kostitsyn headed towards Anderson's crease. Subban wound up, and Ottawa's Milan Michalek shoved Kostisyn into Anderson. Subban's shot would go into the net, but Kostitsyn would be called for goalie interference. Hab-fans would argue he was pushed in by Michalek (he was) but Kostitsyn made little effort to get out of the way.

On the ensuing penalty kill, Craig Anderson would be forced to make his first breakaway save off of Tomas Plekanec. The penalty was successfully killed by the league's second best unit in that area.

Unfortunately, as fantastic as the penalty kill continues to be for the Canadiens (6/7 killed), their power play continues to be equally inept (0/5). Tomas Kaberle was brought in to help the Power Play, and he has made it look better, but it continues to struggle, while he has quietly amassed 9 points in 15 games with the Habs - perhaps that's why he was used in the shootout?

Rene Bourque makes his Canadiens debut tonight as the Habs host the New York Rangers. Peter Budaj gets the nod in goal. Logic would dictate that the can't keep running into hot goaltenders each night. Keep up this style of play and it will eventually become too much for the other teams to handle. I expect a quick Habs start tonight, and a surprising home victory, using the chip and chase to break down the Rangers, and get the points they deserved in both Boston and against Ottawa.

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