About last night …

The Jacques Martin mantra: Goaltending and special teams.

The Canadiens were superior in both departments, and the result was victory against a better team.

Oh yeah, I still think the Canucks are a Stanley Cup contender … if they can shore up their D with someone better than Dreadful Sorry, Uncle Andrew Alberts

Would the Canadiens beat them 2-0 four times in a seven-game series?

Highly unlikely.

But for one great night at the Bell Centre …

At that, the Canucks held a territorial advantage. They fired 35 shots at Carey Price, the Canadiens blocked another 21 and there were 14 misses. The Canadiens corresponding totals were 29-11-11.

So we’re talkin’ 70-51 in pucks on their sticks, with at least a chance to score.

But the Canucks didn’t score. And the way Price played last night, he’d have stopped 70 SoG.

 

 

The Canadiens killed four penalties, got a goal on the power-play to
break an 0-for-17 streak (Yes, you read that right) and got lights-out
goaltending from the young guy who was born in the province where
Vancouver is located.

Carey Price is 8-5-1. His GAA is 2.28, with a save percentage of 91.8.

He has started 14 games, more than any other goaltender in the league.

Through 15 games, the Canadiens have accomplished Job One of the 2010-’11 season: they’ve got their question-mark goaltender off to a good (with gusts to great) start.

Price saw every shot the Canucks fired at him. On the few occasions there were rebounds, his D or backchecking forwards – even Scott Gomez, on one occasion – swept the puck out of harm’s way.

Price’s confidence is growing faster than his Movember moustache. And, crucially, he has won the admiration, if not yet the affection, of Bell Centre fans.

At this point, Carey Price can play a bad game, as he inevitably will, without all the old doubts – immaturity, laziness, weak glove hand, goes down too early – seeping back in.

Oh, the Price bashers will still be at it. They can’t help themselves, and they fully intend to spend the season pissing and moaning about a goaltender who plays in St. Louis.

They will be joined, in annoying harmony, by the fans who think they can stroll down from the cheap seats and take over for Jacques Martin behind the bench.

I think the Martin Must Go lobby is worse than the Halakite Chorale.

The latter have Jaro’s brilliant playoff performance on which to base their case. The former ignore Martin outcoaching Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma and, last night, Alain Vigneault.

Martin got all the match-ups he wanted. And his Top Three centres – Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Halpern and Gomez – each won most of their draws, with the much-maligned Gomez going 9-3.

Martin brought Mathieu Darche out of the pressbox, and the McGill grad has rewarded his coach’s confidence – and inspired his teammates – with hard work and physical play in every start.

Martin used Lars Eller for 4:24 last night, and I can just hear the critics: “He’s killing the kid’s confidence! This team doesn’t know how to develop young talent!!”

Know what? Eller packed good stuff into his seven shifts. A kid with all of 22 starts is learning to play NHL hockey.

No, Jacques Martin is not the most dynamic coach in the league. He doesn’t bellow and gesticulate during late-game timeouts. He doesn’t, to anyone’s knowledge, throw sticks around the dressing room in fits of Tortorellian rage.

There are some other things he doesn’t do:

He doesn’t panic.

He doesn’t call out his players to the media.

He doesn’t put veterans in the pressbox.

I was among those who thought Jaro Spacek was washed-up. Martin forgot to ask my opinion, and Spatch was excellent last night, as was his partner, Roman Hamrlik.

Martin has been knocked for stifling the creativity of P.K. Subban.

You know what “creative” 21-year-old defencemen do?

They get their coaches fired.

P.K. played 18 minutes last night. He still offered his adoring Bell Centre fans a couple of shake-and-bake moves, but Subban didn’t do anything to elevate his coach’s blood pressure.

Andre Markov played 25 minutes and worked his usual calming effect on the BP of coaches and teammates. He’s back, folks, and Josh Gorges is learning how to play with him, i.e. as Gorges said: “Skate to open ice and he’ll find you, dump it into his corner if you get in trouble and he’ll get it out.”

Alain Vigneault was after his 300th NHL win.

He wasn’t going to get it in Jacques Martin’s 1,195 game behind an NHL bench.

Compare the rosters of the Canadiens and the Canucks. Think Scotty Bowman would have won 4-0?

On to Boston …

98 Comments

  1. Norcal Habsfan says:

    It’s great to see Price have this success. Given the crap he’s had to put up with from the “fans,” what he’s done so far is impressive.

    One negative about last night was our lack of response for the Darche hit (reminiscent of the McClaren’s Zednick hit although not as bad) If our PP is rocky at best, then screw it. Give Alberts a shot in that situation. BGL was a bust but that shouldn’t close the door to adding some toughness to the lineup. Management has convinced me that small and fast can have success in the NHL but they also have to someone to respond to the Alberts’ of the league that fear no retribution from a head-shot to our guys.

    A small negative…just a blip really.

     

  2. MathMan says:

    “So we’re talkin’ 70-51 in pucks on their sticks, with at least a chance to score.”

    Very good way to look at it, but factoring in special teams, the ‘Nucks late flurry with the goalie out, and the score, and I’d say the Habs played it fairly evenly for most of the game. You expect the team that is behind to shoot more.

    Shots at net (aka Corsi) are a fantastic way to measure puck possession and I’m really glad to see it get more attention! :)

  3. doug says:

    Been slammed with work/life but since this is my 3 year anniversary on the site (and more than another year preceded the sign up stuff) I thought I’d make a quick appearance:

    1.  I loved Halak and preferred him over Price.  I never thought we’d see Price play this well this quickly – he’s playing the best hockey of his career and his positional play was impeccable as is his more intense effort level.  Price + cap room for Pleks versus Halak -> smart decision.

    2.  Pleks is certainly the top center on the team.  Size be damned, I think he’s one of the better ones in the league and one of the top two way forwards in the league.  Everyone equates two-way with hitting and aggressiveness: this guy does everything and is tremendously skilled.  We should appreciate him more: he’s our best player right now.

    3.  Cammalleri and Gionta will return to form, aided in part by #2’s brilliance.

    4.  Kostitsyn has played well every game this season – skeptical as to whether it’s the contract or something else, and perhaps we won’t have room for him if he keeps this up (i.e. cap space) but with the corrections in the market and teams against the wall maybe we will as well.  Either way, he’s been very solid.

    5.  Martin is a boring guy but you get a solid effort and no highs and no lows.  The team doesn’t go on long losing streaks.  It’s dull but it’s consistent.  I find him 100 times more settling than Carbonneau, who was painfully amateurish at the point we put him in a head coach seat.  Yes I’d have preferred to have a shorter contract and an option on Boucher to wait it out another year rather than looking at the positiong being held barring a firing for five years, but you can’t always get what you want.

    6.  Pouliot is showing flashes of . . . adequacy.  Could be a reasonable player and seems better adjusted temperamentally to an occasional pitch in with a goal role.  Good idea having him with a more defensive group that can also pot goals thorugh hard work.

    7.  New favorite addition is Halpern.  Solid every shift.  Smart.  Cheap.  These players will be available aplenty and it’s important we not overspend on the Kostitsyns of the world and even buy-out others like Spacek next year to adjust to the new economic world in general and the salary cap implications that are finally putting all teams against the wall.  Of course I’d like to have more room to maneuver but that’s not happening because. . .

    . . . 8. While Gionta’s overpaid for his age/contribution, Gomez would honestly have trouble commanding a $2.5M paycheck on the open market.  He’s a dipsy doodle guy who I’m not convinced is too bright for all that is said about his hockey sense.  That’s really just “he played in NJ” (when Jersey had a clue what they were doing) talking.  One reason to hope the US keeps printing money, damn the fact that China will take the West over: hyperinflation would devalue that contract.  What a colossally stupid trade.  This will hurt for another three years.   A corner guy that flies around like a bug, is small, throws things to openings without awareness of where players are.  He’s like Russ Courtnall without a shot and at 5x the inflation-adjusted budget.

    9. The D as a whole, while making some errors pinching and with the well-noted struggles of Spacek (though he finally played well last night), Gill’s return to regular season form (but I haven’t forgotten last spring and I give him so much more slack now), and there need to adjust to slower speed amongst some vets (Hamrlik/Spacek) is playing pretty well – unless they’re on a 5-3 PP against Vancouver – and have the forwards know their roles and really help out.

    10.  Ten more games and then we’ll have to think about this PP problem.  It seems we truly do lack a blast from the point.  Subban telegraphs and Markov’s more of a passer.  The second wave is kind of a joke without a lot of talent.  No, I’m not suggesting MAB, but something may have to be done.

    11.  Last tactical error: too many one ways.  It’s 2010.  There are 50+ NHL caliber players who could be on any squad.  We signed Halpern with such savings.  No more one ways for young kids. . . I’m sorry, we all have to adjust to the new economic reality in our workplaces and it’s time that Gauthier adjusts his approach as well.

  4. MathMan says:

    Shot accuracy is another way of saying “shot luck” actually….

  5. CharlottetownHabbies says:

    On the SK deal, the way I see it is we got a press box seat for a press box seat, no worries.

  6. Josh says:

    Boone, it’s not outcoaching when you rely on an extremely hot goalie and sniper carrying the team. I mean seriously, look at how badly the Habs were outshot against the Caps and Pens.

  7. MathMan says:

    I have to say, if this keeps up and Montreal continues to be a strong 5-on-5 team and takes his PP to a decent level (let alone the top-5 area it usually inhabits since the lockout), I’ll happily eat generous helpings of crow. With all his other abilities, Martin with a strong 5-on-5 system is an exceptional coach.

  8. darcy1 says:

    some positive thinking is nice… thumbs up!

  9. HardHabits says:

    How about a variation of Guy, Guy, Guy!!

    Go, Go, Go!! 

  10. forskis says:

    Few people have said that he is the second coming of Roy, the closest is that he has Roy’s shoes to fill…what they HAVE said is that he is better than the anti-Price guys think and that he is definitely not some washed up has-been.

    “I am guilty of using elipses…”

  11. darcy1 says:

    that’s a bonus… i didn’t realize they were playing PIT tonight

  12. Topham says:

    Do people who go over the top about Price after a particularly outstanding game are exhibiting the very same behaviour as those who get carried away with a loss?

    I think sometimes people can go over the top. The scoresheet says , 11 were in the last 10 minutes. 7 were in the last 2:30. Not to say that Price didn’t play a great game. But I characterized it as him being in sync with his team. His rebounds were made when someone was there to collect, he held on when there wasn’t. The team also deserves credit for the job they did in the first two periods, particularly in making sure shots came from point men when Price could see.

    Topham
    Lions in Winter: http://www.lionsinwinter.ca

  13. HardHabits says:

    Good post. My apologies for the retort below. I thought you were a hater.

    My perception is that not enough credit is given to the other players and coaching and too much is made of Halak’s performance, amazing as it was. The gist though of my point is that last year’s awfulness was part of the difficult process which has brought them to where they are today. JM even said it. He’s pretty clear about his objectives and states them clearly and concisely. Complimentary pairs of forwards. Even keel across the defense. Goaltending and special teams.

    He also said that last season was working on getting the defensive system in place (it took a while) and this season he can work on the offense (can’t argue with the 5 on 5 play).

    I still see an upward trend for the team in terms of getting better over-all. Coaching is a big reason why I believe they’ll make it there.

  14. kirbhabs says:

    Some Points

    1) I agree on the Eller.  Lets keep him at center, it is what he knows and 4th line means learning and low expectations.  I would compare him to the Sedins when they broke into the league.  Being a transplant to Van, I have watch the Sedins be bashed by their beloved home crowd for years… too thin, not strong enough, too fancy, can’t get the puck out of the corners… but now, it is all love and glory!

    Eller will be the same, just need to let him play games without expectations and over the years he will be our number one center, well with Leblanc too of course. 

    2) We play well against speed and flashy teams, but not against disciplined big teams that clog the neutral zone and have big D who can play solid positionally… so that means we will beat 15 teams no prob, and 10 most of the time and will strugle against the likes of PHI, BOS, CHI, NJ… So we got to figure a way in beat them, playing the perimerter will not do it.  Hopefully, Laps will keep up the smash mouth hockey, this is a good start.

  15. Habs Fan in LeafLand says:

    Always a more pleasant morning after a Habs win. Price has been solid from day one and is proving me right as at least in my circles, I was the only one holding out for him. Remember folks, we’d either have Jaro, or Pleks/Pricey. I’ll take P2 anyday…

    A major concern though is the way the Habs are winning. Yes they played a strong team game, but don’t you think they are playing with fire? It seems the only way the Habs are capable of winning consistently is when their goalie is playing at an absolutely top level…this goes back all the way to the Huet days. And it’s great that Markov and Hammy chipped in, but where are the top scorers on this night?

    And they are taking wayyyyyy too many penalties, esp at the end of periods. Drives me crazy as a fan, wonder how Jacques Martin’s stomach felt. IF this continues they will get burned big time!!

    And yeesh, I liked what Gomer did in his first year with the Habs, but boy, he is playing like a guy who doesn’t belong on this team….hope he can turn it around.

    The powerplay is pathetic. But the last 15 seconds of that last PP where Hammy scored should show the team how it’s supposed to be done: move the puck FAST and efficiently. Keep the defense moving back and forth, without the time to attack them individually (which is what has been happening). SET UP THE ONE TIMERS!!! Hopefully they will study this video and build on it.

    Amazing. One year, Habs can’t score 5-on-5 and score only on the PP. Now they can only score 5-on-5. I think we may know we have a serious contender when they can consistently do both.

    http://habsfaninleafland.blogspot.com/

  16. MathMan says:

    It could be better execution (eg. the failure was one of implementation). But really? Going from no forecheck to serious forecheck, often 2-man? Going from retreating to the defensive zone to playing in the neutral zone to prevent the opponent from gaining the zone at speed, and often forcing turnovers? Going from a passive box defense around the slot to an aggressive puck-pressure one (there was someone hounding the Sedins all night)?

    Either it’s a different system, or the implementation last year was so completely off the mark that it was indistinguishable from a different system. The Habs’ passive defense and their willingness to concede the defensive blueline had become running jokes. You can’t make those jokes now.

    The change in forecheck and neutral zone play especially doesn’t look to me like an improved implementation. Last year, they didn’t even try.

  17. nova scotia vees says:

    I am still not totally sold on the notion that Price is the “second coming of Roy”, but I felt he played a very solid game last night with some fine saves late.  What does impress me about him so far this year is his better positoning.  He is on top of the crease more often…and…last night he seemed to be standing-up more.  Not trying to play goal on his goalie pads.  I am keeping my fingers firmly crossed that he is finally the goalie all the Price-boys love.

    But still no praise here for the G.M….So basically we gave away S. K. for ???? Not one team wants Boyd….and that includes us.  Mind you, I hardly saw him play, so can’t say he is good or bad.  What’s his salalry?

  18. HardHabits says:

    Obviously this year so far the big improvement is in 5 on 5 play. I am just saying that the Habs were not so thoroughly dominated as the shot clock indicates and that there was a team concept at play. The Habs had no answer for the Flyers and by then were spent from their collosal two game 7 feats. How about this stat. Shot accuracy. Seems like the Habs dominated in that department. It wasn’t such a one-sided series of events after all. ;-)

  19. kirbhabs says:

    We better win, come on, they are missing their top 2 centers and we had a days rest… they will have played the night before against on of the rivals PITs.  If we do not beat them, we have big issues.

  20. Wops says:

    Carey started playing well when people start cheering for him…

     

    Is it time to start a: “Gomez, Gomez, Gomez, Gomez….” in the stands? ;-)

  21. smiler2729 says:

    Perfect ‘About Last Night’ this morning, Booner, you were right on on all your points and still maintain the levity to admit that this team will not go undefeated the rest of the way.

    My distaste of AK46 as a player has been harnessed this season cuz he’s proving me a dummy. I haven’t said squat about Andrei since the first couple of games, hell, I even picked him up in my hockey pool!

    If this team can put all together for long periods at a time, I see ‘em finishing in the top 5 of the conference, if they Jekyll & Hyde it all season, it’ll be a whiteknuckle ride to make the post-season.

  22. showey47 says:

    lol,well played.

  23. PrimeTime says:

    Loving the silence of calmer fans! :)

  24. Jordio-oh says:

    Actually, in the last 3 years the Habs have gone 60-44-13  during Dec., Jan., and Feb.

    The points collected in those 117 games (133 points) becomes a 93 point season in an 82 game schedule, which is 2 points below the Habs total point average over the last three seasons (95 points, on average).

    Statistically, we’re not playing ‘crap hockey’ those months. Its actually on par with the rest of the season, based on points gained during those times versus points gained over an entire season.

    Maybe because we had a solid march last year you might feel like the months preceding march and april are below average.

  25. Chuck says:

    Solid positioning means that you don’t have to take that extra step.

    Centre Hice: Leafs face huge lawsuit

  26. NoTinFoilCups says:

    Not sure if it would be feasible but a stat for time of possession like in football could be a really good indicator of who has outplayed who. (Well, at least in keeping control of the play)

  27. TommyB says:

    Oh, I see.  Based on past record, the Habs will play mostly bad games starting in or about December, and continuing on into January and February.  Mikey, based on past records, the Habs will win the Stanley Cup this year.  They have, after all, won it many more times than any other team…ever.  Now, my statement makes as much sense as yours does…doesn’t it.

  28. bwoar says:

    The results certainly are different – we look like a club that can win on any given night.  But the turnaround in 5-on-5 play: what is the difference?

    To me it’s better *execution* of pretty much the same system.  There were looong stretches in our end where the defenders were happy just to keep pucks outside, and try too hard to actually strip or separate.  How does a team that really was “that” bad last year suddenly become good?  We have a ‘worse’ goaltender (some say) and only a few personnel changes.  Certainly not enough to change things this much.

    I saw a lot of battles won in corners.  A lot of clearing attempts, well, cleared (btw did you spot Gionta laughing at Pleks?  I was watching the Sportsnet feed), a slot area in front of Price that looked like an empty parking lot, and Vancouver grinders a step behind (Torres, useless, as was their 4th line).  Very, very few 2nd chances.  Jacques Martin must’ve been in heaven.

    If the bad team from last year barely hung on, the same coach with the very same system this year has turned a frog into a prince… to me it’s in execution and being in shape (recalling JM’s first comments that the team would need a year to get into shape to play the system properly.)  It’s hard for me to believe after so many games that JM was clueless last year and suddenly the light’s gone on – it’s that this year’s team is diligently doing what they are being asked, something that started in the playoffs.

    I agree the forecheck was better and we worked harder in the neutral zone, but not sure that it wasn’t already the plan last year.  Last night’s game also had its Defensive Shell moments here and there too.

    Tiny grain of salt: we almost always play well against good-skating teams with average D.

  29. TheDagger says:

    Hitting the post is a missed shot. Does that not seem like a scoring chance to you?

  30. ebk says:

    huge difference in the two. One has a chance to score, the other doesn’t. bit I get it’s apuck possesion stat more than anything.

  31. J.Ambrose.OBrien says:

    1. I too was and am a huge Halak fan, but am loving what I’m seeing from Price. Better than I expected. But I’m still not convinced by management’s “it was Pleks or Halak” line.

    2. Absolutely. Selke trophy candidate, I’d say.

    3. Agree, but which gets the honor of playing with him?

    4. Agree, but should be allowed to continue building chemistry with Pleks. They suit each other well.

    5. The loss of Boucher will gall for some time, especially if the Bolts go deep in the playoffs. But JM is a fine coach. What he excels at is preparation and game-plan. His weakness is adaptability and within-game adjustments. Last night went well due to a smart game plan and excellent goal-tending. But when we face teams and coaches able to change tactics mid-game, we falter badly. Which is why we so often come out gang-busters and then disappear in the second period. Ol’ JM ain’t no improv. master.

    6. I’d give Benny a better grade than just a pass. But I’d keep him where he is. The work ethic of JH and MD is rubbing off on him.

    7. Yeah baby!

    8. I was convinced long ago that he isn’t too bright. And I don’t just mean on the ice. He has one default move: hit the line with speed and then drop-pass to Gionta. Unfortunately every backchecking forward in the league knows that, and it doesn’t work anymore. And defensemen don’t bother taking the shot away because they know its not coming. And they square up as he comes in because they know he hasn’t the stickhandling skills to deke them. So: take the drop pass away, and stand Gomez up. Neutralized! Compare him to Pleks who, even with two men on him, manages to make a pass to a player who wasn’t even in the picture as he released the pass. Suddenly he’s hit a streaking forward in wide open ice while two defensemen are draped all over him. Amazing.

    9. I have no issues with our D. I just hope JM is willing to sit each of them once in a while thru the season so we don’t see what we saw last season: late-season burn-out.

    10. Yup!

    11. Absolutely. And can we commit to players beyond one year please. This constant spectre of UFA’s and RFA’s every year is contrary to team-building. Just because it was Gainey’s policy doesn’t mean it has to be his protege’s. 

    I remember Dec. 31, 1975

  32. sholi2000.com says:

    They were horrible against the Sens this past weekend, the Devils after week off, and average against the Panthers (solid goalie in Vokoun).

    Id say looking at they record right now, I’m pretty friggin happy with what we have.

    All you have to do is look at Oilers, Leafs and Devils to be happy about our third place right now.

    Yes goals would be nice.  Cammi and company better turn it up soon, but even if they don’t, that doesn’t mean we’ll lose games.

    They Call Me Shane

  33. MathMan says:

    Two points about this.

    Say you pick a corner and shoot. A shot that you miss two inches to the left becomes a missed shot. A shot that you miss two inches to the right becomes a save because you hit the goalie. Is one really worse than the other?

    On another, the point is to measure puck possession, not so much scoring chances. If you’re missing shots, that means you have the puck in the opposite zone shooting. This is better than having the other guys in your own zone shooting at your net.

     

  34. doug19 says:

    I thought that too why not have this big tough defenseman with the Habs That was until I saw Henry play recently on a televised Bulldogs game. He may be the captain and he may be tough but that is where he belongs. He was  brutal defensively and contributed hugely to the loss that game. Max Pac was not so great either but seems to be coming on more recently. As for goal scorers on the farm only Leblanc and Gallager give us hope. The highly touted Danny Krisco  hhhhmmmm zilch scoring happening there! See for yourselves.

    http://habsprospects.hockeyhq.net/

  35. MathMan says:

    He is shooting a lot less than he usually is (he’s one of the most shot-happy forwards in the league historically, even though he sucks at it). I wonder why he’s changed that aspect.

  36. Mr.Hazard says:

    I’ve never agreed with taking into account missed shots. To me, those aren’t really chances to score. Even if there was no goaltender, the puck wouldn’t have gone in. Missed shots, IMHO, is a sign of good D and/or crappy shooters. A missed shot is more of a turnover than a chance to score.

  37. cameronwalker89 says:

    Making a prediction and saying Cammy with two.

    “The day you hear someone call me captain will be the day I buy a boat.”
    -The Flower

  38. MathMan says:

    I think he’ll tail off to some extent… if he keeps this level up, he’s hands down the best goalie in NHL history and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, and I don’t think he’s quite that good.

  39. MathMan says:

    I heartily recommend enattendantlesnordiques.blogspot.com, especially if you read French. Olivier counts scoring chances for every Habs game, and does head-to-head counts and other analysis. Just excellent all-arund.

    Behindthenethockey.com is an excellent statistical blog, headed by the incomparable Gabriel Desjardins, and he had a series of statistical articles breaking down the Habs’ playoffs and how much luck/goaltending was basically all that separated the Habs from embarassment. It was not pleasant reading for a Habs fan, but it was eye-opening.

    What were seeing now is nothing like that club. If the club had continued playing like it had in the playoffs, it would be a lottery club.

  40. MathMan says:

    To me, Martin is/was especially frustrating because (and I think this is another thing I have been consistent about saying) he is and has always been fantastic in several key aspects of the game. Personnel management is one of them. Martin gives his guys definite roles and he is a master at getting the matchips he wants. You can see it by looking at shift charts for the whole of last year or this year — he’s a power-on-power coach and he’s very good at matching up lines and assigning icetime.

    For example, this year one neat particularity is that he has Hammer and Spacek against the opposing top lines systematically — but he limits their icetime so that they are fresh for the difficult assignments and relies on younger legs (namely, the Markov-Gorges pairing) to eat up more icetime.

    The man can coach in so many ways it was exceedingly frustrating to see it all get crippled by a truly putrid 5-on-5 system that made a team of good 5-on-5 players into arguably the worst 5-on-5 squad in the league. I’m glad to see that this has changed. I did not expect to see this happen, to be honest, which is why I felt the Habs were going nowhere with Martin as a coach. But he did adjust, much to my (happy) surprise. These Habs I’m seeing look a lot like the Habs I was expecting/hoping to see last year.

    Last night, Montreal certainly did NOT play like they did against Washington and Pittsburgh. People keep saying that against those two teams Montreal played a sound defensive game and kept shots to the outside, but one cursory glance at the shot charts reveals this notion to be mythical. A lot of stuff was said to try to explain Montreal’s improbable
    playoff run (improbable because they really were a bad team). Most of
    that stuff was myth. It’s a very different matter now.

    For another, in the playoffs Montreal was dominated throughout, whereas in this one Montreal actually outshot Vancouver right up until the ‘Nucks pulled their goalie. Then there’s the forecheck and neutral zone play — practically nonexistent last year, excellent this year. Montreal was outchanced two-for-one in several games in the playoffs. This game, they were actually about even until the ‘Nucks’ late flurry pulled them ahead slightly. Last year, the Habs were putrid at 5-on-5. This game, they actually played evenly with one of the league’s better teams (a Western team, no less). Last year the Habs played rope-a-dope. This game they were even with the Canucks in third-period scoring chances, despite having the lead — and that’s counting the Canucks empty-net flurry.  Last year, the goalies had to stand on their head. This game, Price had to make some key saves, don’t get me wrong he was very good — but he didn’t need to do ten of them per period. He was excellent, but he didn’t need to be miraculous.

    Heck, you can see the difference on NHL.com. Montreal used to be a team that got outshot by an average of four shots every game, one of the worst ratios in the NHL. This year they outshoot the other guys by almost two — that alone is a huge, huge swing.

    It is a very, very different team from last season. I mean, last year it was a bad 5-on-5 club, this year it can’t even get its PP untracked and it’s still fine because its 5-on-5 game is superior. You can’t tell me with a straight face that it’s the same thing!

  41. oshawahabsfan says:

    If there’s a team that can return Tim Thomas to swiss cheese form, it’s the Montreal Canadiens

  42. Danno says:

    Like his name and his game, it will start with Go and end with zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

     

    “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”

  43. RetroMikey says:

    Still not even a quarter of the schedule complete, but based on our past records playing in December, January and February, we’ve played crap hockey and had to eke out wins in the last 20 games to gain a playoff spot in the 7th or 8th position.

    Having said that, I don;t expect them to carry on playing consistent hockey game in and out, so mostly bad games are here to come IMO.

    I hope I am wrong.

     

    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

  44. Mike Boone says:

    But the goaltender has to square up, slide laterally, butterfly or whatever to prepare for a shot that might be on. More cumulative stress on the guy in nets. Same thing for D, hustling to get in position for a block. So it’s not completely a BS stat.

  45. Mr.Hazard says:

    I would agree with the posts below in that they suggest it is more of a “puck possession” thing. In that sense, the stat has meaning.

    Hitting the post does seem like a scoring chance. But at the same time, a zone-clearance during a penalty kill that slides right to the goaltender doesn’t sound like a scoring chance. But it’s a scoring chance if Vesa Toskala is in nets.

    If the defense only allowed missed shots (including posts) all game, Price would have a shutout every night. However I agree, if there were 200 missed shots, it’s a sign that one team was absolutely dominated in terms of puck possession and playing in their own zone all night.

  46. darcy1 says:

    Boston is going to be the real challenge – we usually play teams like Vancouver (speedy, not overly tough) well..

    I hope the team comes out just as lively against Lucic, Chara, Horton & Thomas.

  47. bwoar says:

    You are one consistent dude, despite that we don’t agree, I like it Math.

    I hope one day you’ll have stats on JM (number of matchups ‘won’, number of key faceoffs getting the right centre out and winning, efficiency of minutes played by players remaining once the bench is shortened, number of in-game adjustments leading to scoring chances, etc. etc.)

    I know you can only draw conclusions on available data, but just because you don’t have data on something don’t mean it didn’t happen.  And it doesn’t follow that the analysis missing from those absent numbers must be explained by whatever’s leftover.  So, you can prove the Habs were outplayed badly and the goalie at one end beat the goalies at the other.  Naturally that is what happened, we don’t really need stats to know that.  But you keep saying it was all goaltending, I think, because you don’t have the data to statistically analyze the coaching performances.  So you rely on what you CAN prove.

    This is why you’re surprised when suddenly the dunce looks like he might be a decent coach.  What galls me is that last night’s Habs played *exactly* the same game as they did vs. Washington & Pittsburgh.  Passive-aggressive, not very physical in their own zone, waiting on the ropes to counter-punch, essentially.  To say this year’s Habs look nothing like last year’s is plain loco, my friend, they look damn similar minus the hot-and-cold goaltending.

    And Price stood on his head, ‘pulled a Halak’ you might say — so, honestly, why the change of heart on the coach?  Wouldn’t it still be the goaltender making JM’s ‘system’ work?  Or is it simply effective when the players execute?

    For my part I don’t think the rope-a-dope is a good system either, but JM has proven himself right an awful lot when I thought he wasn’t… especially with his coaching in last year’s playoffs.

  48. Mr.Hazard says:

    In case it wasn’t pointed out, Carey was Highlight of the Night on TSN!

  49. HardHabits says:

    Back up your words with stats. Show me blocked shots, hits, face-offs, take-aways, give-aways, etc. Prove to me with numbers since you call yourself MathMan to back up your claims. The Habs were definitely underdogs but they won because of collective team play.

    They are better this year but last year they were a new group and for the most part palyed with a depleted line-up.

    The team is building. That playoff experience sunk deep and will contunie paying dividends as this group moves into the future.

    I do not see the world through bleu-blanc-rouge coloured lenses. Get off your high horse.

  50. iHeart Les Habitants says:

    I agree with you on your last point that Halpern should centre the sencond line.  I’ve been promoting these following lines:

    Pleks-Kostitsyn-Cammy

    Halpern-Pouliot-Gionta

    Gomez-Eller-Lapiere

    Pyatt-Moen-Darch

    Looking at these lines I see balanced fire power across all three and a chance for Eller to start picking up some extra minutes!

  51. JVSmith says:

    Thank you for saying that! I’m sick of people ripping Gomer apart and then wondering why he looks unconfident now. When I started teaching preschool, they taught us the basics for teaching young children is positive reinforcement. Why would it not be the same for adults as well?

  52. ebk says:

    I got 4 of 15 were their performance was sub-par. Does that qualify as mostly?

  53. ebk says:

    nice post. Halak play in the first two rounds was one of the better shows put on in the playoffs in a long, long time. Never been a big fan of his but he was absolutely incredible against Washington and Pittsburgh. And his play this year is showing that he seems capable of keeping up that level of play.

  54. notbigbird says:

    I agree with your analysis of the Pittsburgh series as we played even with or better than the Pens in most of it. I can’t really agree with Washington. I think that was down to Halak and horseshoes. I expect the Caps have learned from that and that it won’t happen again.

  55. matraque says:

    It’s more weak passes he makes (they don’t connect), the blind passes (they don’t connect) and that he never takes a shot.

    ——

    Canadien en 5!
    Never go Full Retard
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svwGRJA28lY&feature=related

  56. MathMan says:

    “Your numbers are imaginary.”

    Oh please.

    “The Habs were soundly trounced in every phase of the game by both these teams

    I will categorically disagree.”

    Based on what? They were outscored. They were outshot. The Zamboni drivers questioned whether it was worth going out of the Canadiens’ zone because the puck only made brief forays out of it.

    “The Habs won on the scoresheet and that is what matters.”

    In the end, sure, but if you want to identify the reasons, collective team play was hardly one of game.

    “Only
    in two games against the Capitals were they truly dominated, and it was
    in one area alone, in shots against. The Habs lost a game or two early
    against Washington they should’ve won. The Pittsburgh series was very
    balanced if not almost even. The edge going to Montreal.”

    Take off the bleu-blanc-rouge colored glasses. That’s a ridiculous assertions particularly against the Capitals where the Habs should by all rights have lost games 5, 6 and 7 handily, but for Halak stealing the show.

    “This team is
    building from the ECF experience. Price included. That’s the reality.”

    No it’s not. That team got outshot, outchanced, out-everythinged almost. It was a bad hockey team, one that lived off goaltending and the power play. Absent stellar goaltending, it’s a team that would have landed in the lottery. Around the trade deadline it actually was a lottery team.

    The 2010-2011 Habs are trying the novel approach of winning by actually being the better team on the ice. Shoot me for saying so, but I like that approach waaaaaaaay better.

    But it’s not what they did last year, not by a long shot.

  57. ebk says:

    pfft. I still say they should have kept that rock-solid AHLer Alex Henry and dumped Hamrlik like the anti-pundit on here was suggesting. I mean Hamrlik isn’t even a solid AHLer at this point in his career anymore. Must have just been a ‘lucky’ performance by Hamrlik

    All joking aside, never been a big Hamrlik fan but he’s provide a steady presence on the Hab’s blue-line for his four years. Can’t see why it would stop this year as long as he stays healthy. Actually, it was more his contract I didn’t like but wtf it ain’t my money.

     

  58. New says:

    Those are relevant points Mr. Boone. Now just think how your early column would have read if Lapierre’s little prima donna act had resulted in Cammi being out with a broken hand for most of the season. There is a passion for the game, and temper tantrums. Happens with players as well as fans.

  59. TommyB says:

    I’m curious, of the 15 games so far…how many were the “mostly bad games” you refer to, and which ones were they?  Or are the “mostly bad games” yet to come?

  60. TommyB says:

    Pretty nice assessment of last night’s game, Boone.  I think you watched the same game that I did.  Red Fisher watched something different, from what I gather reading his column this morning.  They don’t make Coke bottles with thicker bottoms in them, do they?  Anyway, what last night showed is that the Habs are at least an average team in this NHL, and maybe just a bit better than that.  You ask yourself why a different team seems to show up every few games, and while it’s true that the required effort isn’t always there, it’s also true that just about any team in the league can beat one of the top teams one night and lose to a bottom-feeder the next night.  It has much to do with the over-used word, parity, but it also has to do with the lack of urgency 15 games into an 82 game season brings.  Some teams you get up for, and some you don’t.  There’s no push for a playoff spot at this time.  Some nights just too many players take the night off.  I’m sure it drives coaches nuts.  And speaking of coaches, a tip of the hat to you for backing J. Martin.  Too many are in such a hurry to crucify the coach all the time.  The same fans who crapped all over Carbonneau are now crapping all over Martin.  When Martin is gone, they’ll crap all over his successor.  The coach is always such an easy target.  Boucher would be no different.  The minute the team would go into a bit of a slump, these guys would be hollering that he was so overrated and what did the Habs brass see in him.  Anyway, again, a very good About Last Night.

  61. HardHabits says:

    Your numbers are imaginary.

    The Habs were soundly trounced in every phase of the game by both these teams

    I will categorically disagree.

    The Habs won on the scoresheet and that is what matters.

    Only in two games against the Capitals were they truly dominated, and it was in one area alone, in shots against. The Habs lost a game or two early against Washington they should’ve won. The Pittsburgh series was very balanced if not almost even. The edge going to Montreal.

    This team is building from the ECF experience. Price included. That’s the reality. Halak was obviously a big part of that playoff run. So was Cammy. So was Gill and Gorges. Ditto for Gomez, Gionta and Plekanec. Oh yeah. That guy behind the bench might have had a little bit part in that grand performance which unfortunately had an early curtain call.

    Nice try.

  62. Bleu blanc rouge says:

    Here, hear, agreed whole heartedley!

  63. Bleu blanc rouge says:

    Jacques Martin’s system ate the Canuckle Heads up last night. Anybody that posts on here that think they can do a better job than him are bigger Canuckle Heads!

  64. punkster says:

    The most interesting and satisfying thing last night was how Hamrlik and Spacek stepped up to the challenge. Both figured on the score sheet and played well. We read so many comments here about how these guys plus Gill are too old and slow. Even Markov has been tagged with that (Markov!!! WTF???).

    These guys may be skating a stride behind the 20-somethings but in critical games their experience shines through.

  65. MathMan says:

    It’s interesting because he’s resumed being the possession beast he was before he joined the Habs — in general the Habs have not been the puck possession blackhole they were in previous years and Gomez is one big beneficiary.

    With the extend in which the Habs are outshooting the opposition why he’s on the ice, it’s a wonder he’s still even (and by “a wonder”, I really mean “rotten luck, man are those guys snakebitten”).

    As soon as the goals start showing up, Gomez will start racking up assists and people will be less annoyed, even though he probably won’t change his game mucj.

  66. matraque says:

    I was at the game yesterday…

    One name: Gomez

    He’s really starting to annoy the Bell Centre crowd.

    ——

    Canadien en 5!
    Never go Full Retard
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svwGRJA28lY&feature=related

  67. Antho says:

    Even though it was a big win, I am still upset with the team play.

    The power play is very simple; when they dont let us skate in, dump the puck into the corner and double up to get it back to the point-They cant have cammy gomez n gio or pleks they need size- at least one

    Get a body in front Eller, Pouliot, AK – screen and go for rebounds JM has patience with scott gomez creating turnovers day in day out yet he won’t give the youth a shot on the pp??

    SET UP Subban!!!! Stamkos has 13 goals and i swear half are from that same spot!!!

  68. MathMan says:

    “The former ignore Martin outcoaching Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma”

    I’m sorry, but that did not actually happen, unless praying for the goalie to stand on his head is sound strategizing. The Habs were soundly trounced in every phase of the game by both these teams — every phase, that is, except goaltending.

    Last year, systemically, the Habs were a disaster, plain and simple. There was ample cause to call for Martin’s head — he had a squad loaded with quality 5-on-5 players and they were putrid at even strength.

    OTOH, there’s no complaints to be had this year about him, but let’s not pretend that this year’s Habs look anything like the 2009-2010 Habs, whether it be the regular season version or the playoff version (which, mind you, were very similar). The strong 5-on-5 squad with the pressure forechecking game and the quick-strike counter-attack offense is NOTHING like the passive shoot-at-us team of 2009-2010.

    I’m actually very impressed by Martin this year, more so because of how badly he sucked last year and how I did not for a second believe he could implement this kind of turnaround. I’m now starting to see why he got over 1000 games coached in the NHL. Last year I was wondering how he got to 82.

    This is a very different Habs team, folks. There will be those who will call it building from the ECF finish, but nothing could be further from the truth.

  69. punkster says:

    Nice to read a doug post after such a long drought. Please stop in any time :)

    Agree with most of your comments. Not entirely on board with you about Gomez but understand your point of view. We haven’t many options there and only time will tell if things pan out.

    Overall this could be a very exciting season.

  70. ebk says:

    Russ Courtnall is a fair comparision but a lot of times, he reminds me more of Ron Flockhart.

  71. Norcal Habsfan says:

    I’m not saying to take his head off but you have to respond at that moment. We have no physical deterrent for them to fear.  With no fear of retribution and no fear our power play (they out-shot us with two odd man rushes in that double minor penalty,) what is there to protect our diminutive stars.

    Just saying.. would have been nice to see someone stand up for him.

     

  72. JF says:

    Great summary.  I spent most of yesterday in a foul mood, partly because of forebodings about the game, partly because of all the bitching and whining on HIO.  There wasn’t a lot of optimism going around, just a lot of negativism and bashing, particularly of Jacques Martin, so it’s nice to see him getting some well-deserved credit. The team is not going to play well every game, but JM comes up with game-plans that work and that make the most of the team’s strengths.  When they’re playing well, they have a chance to win every game. Fans mock his calmness and so-called blandness, but I think we should recognize that these qualities have value.  Calmness means he doesn’t panic; blandness or self-restraint means he doesn’t call out his players. The most he’s said is that he’d “like to see more” from some of his star players.  Remember Carbo on that infamous western road trip two years ago?  His panic was obvious.

    Carey Price had a great game and fully deserved the shutout.  What I like best about what I’m seeing from him this year is that he no longer seems to have those momentary lapses of concentration which would often result in the puck in our net and the momentum shifting decisively to the other team.  He'”s confident and focused, he’s reading the play well, I even think his lateral movement is faster.

    Welcome back, Markov.  By far his best game since his return.  We all tended to see him as a saviour, but it was unrealistic to expect his return to have an immediate impact.  I think we can heave a sigh of relief that his injury has apparently not affected him permanently, which bodes well both for our defence and for our powerplay.

    Kudos to Pierre Gauthier for the Halpern signing. He was one of our best forwards all night, excellent on faceoffs and on the penalty kill.  If JM embarks on any more line-juggling, he should try Halpern centring the second line. 

  73. light_n_tasty says:

    Usually we have no problem with Boston.  I think we were 5-1 against them last year.

  74. nick says:

    Lets see if this works…

    Fixed :)

  75. Propwash says:

    You make a valid point, but a coach cannot make a player make decisions while he is in the thick of things on the ice.

  76. fun police says:

    great summary.  very hard to find something negative about last night, but some on here will.  the habs are off to a very good start in the national parity league.  where are the posters (trolls) who used to vomit “the leafs will be better”?  the fact is that the habs have been a pretty good team, in fact one of the most consistent teams since the lockout.  enjoy it.  who cares about who no longer plays here, the guys in the room have been and will get the job done.

  77. Number31 says:

    Down in Hamilton for a while now, Cunneyworth created an interesting line of Avtsin-Engqvist-Conboy: the creative forward, the defensive specialist, and the bodyguard. (When Avtsin is in the lineup, sometimes Wyman takes his spot there as the Dogs also have too many healthy bodies, which is a good problem to have). Oddly enough, Conboy’s scoring most of the goals on that line lol… I liked that Martin seems to have emulated this line with Eller-Pyatt-Moen. The kid might not get many shifts but when he’s out there, he can do his thing just like he did last night. And hey, this was the closest he got to scoring a goal! Instead of seeing it this way, guys like Marinaro think he’s being put int he doghouse, which isn’t true. I see it as being protected. Eller’s father is a coach, he knows how to handle it. It’s all part of learning on the job, which a smart young top prospect like Eller needs. People need to cut him some slack and realize his role is not for today but for a year or two later. The raw talent we’re seeing now is pretty good anyway.

  78. mbplekfan says:

    Eller has the skills and the physical stature to be an impact player in the NHL. All he needs is the time to figure out what works and what doesnt.

    He is gaining confidence every game and once he starts scoring it will become a regular occurence. I expect him to get much better after the xmas break as that is traditionally the time when rookies start to come into their own.

  79. ebk says:

    actually, buddy, as the playoffs proved last year, outstanding goaltending can cover up a lot of warts.

  80. 24 Cups says:

    The most encouraging aspect of last night’s game was the play of Markov.  It was great to see him bounce back after his sub-par performance on Saturday night.  Hamrlik has also found his game after being able to rest up over the summer.  I feel sorry for Picard but what can Martin do?  At this point in time Picard is a great insurance policy.  That’s a luxury we didn’t have last year.

    Defense wins hockey games.  Plain and simple.

    Price starts on Thursday and Saturday.  Right now, he’s the next best thing to having a duffle bag of gold in your portfolio.

  81. idle says:

    Nice post.  I like to see Martin get some credit and I like to see that even though the Habs are not playing at their best potential and there are still problems on this team, a good start to the season and a good 2 – 0 win over a strong team means it’s O.K to be mostly positive in your post game reports.

    Maybe the move back to the next morning is as good as some of Martins moves?

  82. Max_a_million says:

     

    Boone 

    35+24+11=70 chances for Vancouver not 91

    It was 70 to 51

    You have been on your ‘A’ game with great writing lately by the way!

  83. Mike Boone says:

    Can’t add or subtract at 6 a.m. Thanks for the heads-up

  84. Castor says:

    But what’s do be done with Gomez? Put him on face-offs and then bench him? I counted 9. I’m not kidding. NINE times where the puck started on Gomez’s stick and then went to a Canuck. NINE.

  85. SeriousFan09 says:

    JM has 565 coaching wins in his NHL career. At present, the Canadiens are on pace for him to hit the 600 coaching wins mark. We may not always like how he does it, but right now the Habs are bringing it home with his strategies.

    It was wonderful to see the old Andrei Markov back in action, I’ve said it before, I can watch guys like Markov and Subban play all day.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu. Habs and Hockey.

  86. Jordio-oh says:

    Carey is also on pace to get his 100th career win by the end of the season (if he plays 70 games). It would be amazing to see him do it on the last game of the season against the Leafs. Or earlier!

  87. RGM says:

    It’s a good morning – sure it’s Day 5 of who knows how many of sun-free weather in Halifax, but it’s a good morning. Carey was excellent last night, and listening to the post-game audio clips this morning you can tell that the guys are really enjoying this winning business. They’re gelling very nicely, and because of that there are going to be a lot of nights where they’re able to punch above their weight and take down some bigger, supposedly on paper, stronger teams. The effort level is there from just about everybody, and that will make even those nights where they come up short easier to swallow.

    That said, wow are the fans ever turning on Gomez. Every miscue last night was met with boos. He has to get it going soon or we could end up with a Brisebois redux.

    Go Habs Go!

  88. Castor says:

    I said last year (if I had the patience and time I’d search for it here) that “Gomez would be my favourite player if he made 3 mil…even with his salary hurting us, I love him”

    But so far this year man…he DESERVES the fans booing his bad decisions. Because they happen a good TEN times a game.

    Hey Scott, you’re one of the highest paid players in the NHL, can you please show us why?

  89. RGM says:

    You’ve got the reading & writing part down pretty good, so the ‘rithmetic can wait until something like 8am. As they say, two outta three ain’t bad.

    Go Habs Go!

  90. RGM says:

    It’s likely a safe assumption that Gomez would get an easier ride if he were paid commensurate to what he is: a $3M-$4M player. He is the poster boy for the argument that the NHL should follow the NFL’s lead and do away with guaranteed contracts – I am not advocating the NHL should do this, as I don’t want another lockout – so that deals can be re-structured over time.

    Puck sense is something that I noted with Mrs. RGM last night, and Gomez has been making a lot of bad decisions, zigging when he should be zagging, passing when he should be shooting, etc. Putting the puck on net is never a bad idea; trying to squeeze a pass through three defenders usually is. It’s not just him making tactical errors out there of course, but $500K Mathieu Darche doesn’t have the same expectations from fans as Gomez.

    Go Habs Go!

  91. RiverviewCanadien says:

    Price was BRILLIANT last night…and Pleks was still showing why he is our best player, he does it all.


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