About last night …

Aberration or harbinger?

We’ll find out tonight whether the no-show in Buffalo was a mere bump in the Canadiens’ road toward the playoffs or a sign of things to come in a season that’s about to veer south.

4-1 – and it wasn’t that close.

 

The stat sheet says the Canadiens had 37 shots on Ryan Miller, but
that must have been the quietest 36-save night of the Buffalo
goaltender’s career. Defencemen accounted for 13 of the shots (five by Mike Komisarek). Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec had
one shot each.

Everything the Canadiens directed at Miller was
either at a distance or from an impossible angle. There were few
second-shot opportunities – and no white jerseys close enough to cash
them.

A few observations:

• The Canadiens needed hot goaltending to keep them in the game against an early Buffalo onslaught. They didn’t get it. Cristobal Huet was beaten on three of the 12 shots he faced in the first period.

So if Carey Price plays well against the Bruins tonight, who starts Monday when the sizzling Senators are at the Bell Centre?

• Guy Carbonneau said his team looked tired on the bench, on the ice and during practices leading up to last night. Canadiens didn’t get their first shot on goal until the game was more than 11 minutes old. The Sabres, who had played the night before in Ottawa, had all the early jump.

I don’t know if there’s room under the salary cap for a good barista, but the Canadiens should look into hiring one for pre-game prep.  

• The number-one line was on for two of the first three Buffalo goals. The Kostopoulos experiment did not work, and Michael Ryder was reunited with Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins in the third period – to no great effect. Higgins went 0-for-the road trip. 

• Canadiens are being killed on faceoffs. They won 24, lost 38 in Toronto and were 19-30 last night. It’s not the most crucial statistic, but if a team has to chase possession of the puck all night it becomes difficult to get any rhythm or flow going. And Canadiens’ ineptitude on the draw is odd, considering Carbo is their head coach and Doug Jarvis is an assistant.

Yanic Perreault: Where are you?

• Canadiens desperately need a finisher. The Michael Ryder we know and love showed up for a second-period goal last night, but if their 30-goal man lapses back into futility the team is in trouble. Canadiens have to  be hoping that Matt D’Agostini and/or Kostitsyn the Younger are ready for The Show real soon. If not … gentlemen, start your trade rumours.

• Mark Streit was brutal, but it was a long night for the whole Canadiens’ defence corps. With the notable exception of Mike Komisarek, the D spent a lot of time admiring the Sabres as they buzzed around Huet.

Bottom line:
Buffalo – faced with the prospect of a season going into the dumper – needed a W and got one.

The Canadiens don’t absolutely need a W against the Bruins at the Bell Centre tonight. But the standings are bunching up, and getting two points tonight would temporarily ease anxieties about where the team might be headed after its hot start.

Because we’ve seen this movie before, right?

And we don’t like how it ends.

30 Comments

  1. Naila Jinnah says:

    It’s okay Mike, I’m depressed too. Must be the light (or lack thereof) in Montreal.

  2. The Teacher says:

    Tonight’s game should show us a lot about the makeup of the Habs this year. If they come out like they did last night and a lot of nights last year, then I think a roster shakeup MIGHT be coming. The Canadiens DO have a spot open on the 23 man roster since Garth Murray was lost to waivers. I don’t think anyone was called up at that time was there?

    I think O’Byrne is destined to stay in Hamilton for the majority of the year, possibly being called up at/around the trading deadline. We have an excess of defencemen as it is.

    I am a bit confused about Lappy, At first I thought he might have gotten a big head and they sent him down to teach him a lesson. Granted, he is a 3rd or 4th liner, and we seem to have enough at those spots right now so it could be just a matter of waiting for an injury.

    I am confident the Canadiens will come out hard tonight. Maybe it’s foolish hope, but I have faith that they are building from last year.

    Go Habs Go

  3. Thumper says:

    I am sure a win tonight and we are all positive again. Yes I am gutted and down and worried but every team loses every now and again, as long as you win more than you lose you will be o.k. and thats what we are doing. 5-2 win tonight!!!!

    Still I do see a big trade around the corner for a goal scorer. I wish Lacavalier would fall out with Tampa and demand a move….damn just woke up.

  4. Proudones says:

    On the one hand you say that Gainey failed to fill the “glaring hole”…goal scoring.
    On the other, you suggest bringing up Lapierre who, according to you, “won’t be a goal scorer in the NHL”.
    How will that fill Gainey’s glaring hole for goal scoring?
    Puzzling.

  5. McHabby says:

    The scary thing about last night is the date of the game. This is pretty close to the time of year the annual collapse begins, give or take a few weeks.

    If they lose to the Bruins tonight and don’t manage to score more than twice, color me a bit concerned. They’ve scored two goals or less in five of their last six games. Prior to that, they had scored two or less in just one of seven games, a shootout loss to Atlanta.

    Gainey’s FA’s haven’t been too bad so far but are we beginning to see the glaring hole he didn’t fill: Goal scoring help? I’d like to think they could just trade Huet or Halak for some offense but Anahiem had to give Bryzgalov away! He’s not exactly an AHLer either.

    Maybe it’s time to call up Lapierre. He set a Bulldogs record for the fastest two goals in team history by one player the other day (10 seconds). How long does he have to play well down there before the Habs give him another shot? Yes, he won’t be a goal scorer in the NHL but maybe he could provide a spark like getting in a goaltender’s kitchen.

  6. MikeL says:

    Is anyone else getting a “SQL Database” error on the main page??? Ive been getting it for a few days now……

  7. showey47 says:

    very true, there are 2 things that the habs have to avoid in order to be successful 1) have lazy nights like last night, this team does no have enough skill to rely on skill alone 2) injuries to key offensive players or top 3 dmen.

  8. howtathor says:

    Let’s hope last nights game was an aberration, a case of taking a desperate team too lightly. A desperate team who had played well enough to beat the Sens the night before. Sheesh after playing the Sens everything else must be moving in Slo Mo. I’m glad Price is in goal tonight and if he does get us back on track he should continue on in Monday’s game. The schedule is getting tough with more back to back games next week against Buffalo and there will be no shortage of work for either goalie. Glad to see Ryder find the back of the net!!!

  9. ClaytonM says:

    Not to discount the numbers either of these guys have put up this year, but I’d love a chance to see the Bulldogs’ games on TV, in order to judge how the prospects are playing. If they need someone for the checking line, the only name that would pop up is Maxim Lapierre. If they need scoring, it’s Kostitsyn or D’Agostini. O’Byrne if it’s a defenceman. They have 20+ guys on the team and these 4 guys get all the press. Just reading their stats or relying on the Hamilton Weekly Shopper for news sucks.

  10. JF says:

    J.T., I agree that it smells a lot like last year. If they don’t win tonight, they at least have to put in a solid 60-minute effort. Another no-show and it’ll look like last season’s slump has hit us a month early.

    With the exception of the last ten minutes, they played probably their best game last Saturday against Ottawa. They need that kind of effort consistently, and at the moment they’re not coming up with it. The games they won last week (against Buffalo and Boston) were both largely the result of stellar goal-tending – another reminder of last year. They need more offense, and I don’t know where the improvement 5-on-5 is to come from.

  11. J.T. says:

    If Price plays well tonight, he should play against the Sens as well. The time for easing him into the NHL is over. The team needs wins, and if Price is good enough to be on the team, he’s good enough to play in any situation. The plan now should be to play a goalie until he loses.

    And Boone, I’d disagree that faceoffs aren’t the most crucial statistic. When the boys were winning them in earlier games, we saw goals scored as a direct result of a cleanly won faceoff. Losing the draw consistently means they have to work that much harder to get control of the puck, to get any offence started. And if they don’t put the extra work in, they spend a good part of the game in their own end defending against the team that *did* win the faceoff, giving them more shots and inevitably more goals. Since the Habs are a team that struggles with offence, losing faceoffs just makes things a lot more difficult for them.

    I think Ryder isn’t the problem with the Koivu line. None of them are doing anything. And unfortunately for the Habs, the closest thing in Hamilton to a first-line winger is Sergei Kostitsyn, who Don Lever says needs to improve his work ethic and his decision-making a LOT before he’s ready. Max Pacioretty is tearing it up in college though, so maybe there’s a ray of hope out there…if he doesn’t decide to stay in school for three more years.

    As for whether last night was an aberration…it smells an awful lot like last year to me. A poor effort against Toronto in a game they won with a combination of luck and stellar goaltending. A blown lead late in the game against Ottawa. A first-period no-show in Buffalo that got them into a hole they couldn’t get out of. I think a win tonight *is* vital…if only to prove to themselves that they are better than last year and don’t have to reprise their roles from that horror show.

  12. Grabs says:

    Max Pacioretty is 2-7-9 in 11GP, not exactly “tearing it up”, though he’s posted all his points in the last 7 games after putting up bagels in his first 4. Furthermore, he’s only 18 and therefore too young to consider yet. J.T. Wyman is another story though, so far he’s 6-4-10 in 6GP, he’s listed at 6’2″ 212lbs. and turning 22 in Feb 2008, if there’s anyone out there outside of Hamilton that the Habs can bring up it would be him.

  13. Chorske says:

    It’s interesting that Carbo says the team looked tired to him. There is no way in hell that those guys were physically tired. They got as much rest as any pro team can expect and still had nothing in the tank. Maybe they got too much rest, too much time to forget the lessons from Toronto (of course, maybe they learned the wrong lesson and came away from Toronto thinking, hey, even when we play shitty, we win). Maybe it’s like when you get too much sleep and feel weird and tired all day because of it.

    Or maybe some of the Habs just do their thing and don’t listen to Carbo when he tries to prepare them. Maybe what Carbo meant was, they looked tired OF him. All I know is that they were mentally unprepared, and there is no excuse for that.

    We need a big game tonight, win or lose, with a good strong 60 min effort.

  14. ClaytonM says:

    Mike, can you find out what’s happening with the puck this year? Is it the ice being terrible that’s causing the puck to bounce all over the rink this year? Are they not freezing them before games? Freezing them too much? It seems every game there’s a wild puck out there. I’m not blaming it for fluke goals or nothing, just wondering if they changed something. Maybe they chose to not freeze them to cut down on shattered composite sticks after one-timers. Those have been reduced as well. Just my 2 cents.

  15. Chorske says:

    I haven’t noticed anything different about the puck movement, ClaytonM. I’ll pay closer attention from now on, tho. One thing for sure: both teams play with the same puck, so any weird bounces are going both ways.

  16. The Ian Cobb says:

    Mr. Boone, You paint a pretty poor picture, but I,m afraid you are quite correct in your analysis of last nights pitiful performance, eapecialy the first period sleep in.

    I can tell you though, with first hand knowledge,it takes time to go from rags to riches. We have a wealth of talent getting better every day here and on the farm. Teams like the Leafs destroy there talent by bringing them to the show to early, they ring them out and then move them out. Countless kids have never been given the time to develope into quality pro,s.

    I know we all want it now, but I tell ya, It will take two more years. But today I am very exited to witness the birthing of a new power house development in Mtl.

    IAN

  17. Moey says:

    Hi Ian,

    Happy birthday and many more, guess you are a Scorpio too eh? Glad to see you’ve ironed out your technical glitches, takes time getting used to the new site, but it is really nice, and I love the blue, it is much easier on the eye.

    Any big celebrations planned? I haven’t forgot about that beer, next time you’re in Montreal we’ll definitely hoist a couple.

  18. Moey says:

    Mike,

    You’re right about them not having to win last night, but it is disappointing nonetheless, they usually do well against the Sabres. I think everyone gets a wee bit nervous when the Habs are on a roll and then start to become unglued. We all have seen that movie before.

    Time to move on and get a blow-out tonight.

  19. The Ian Cobb says:

    Moey- A blow out would be a lot of fun for a change!

    Ps- You have some toothpast on your forehead Moey!!HA

  20. Moey says:

    Ian,

    Even with the toothpaste, I’m still rather fetching eh?

  21. Proudones says:

    Did you really expect a line that has been struggling for quite a while to turn it all around in half a game? The “Kostopoulos experiment” as you put it, did not work because it was never given an opportunity to work. I mean, Ryder has done nothing in the last 8 games or so and everyone expected Kostopoulos to come in and turn it all around in one period? Totally unrealistic.
    Besides, the entire team was off kilter last night.
    The only unfortunate thing is that the coach panicked and as soon as Ryder got a goal, he juggled the lines again.
    If the coach is going to experiment, with Kostopoulos or anyone else, he has to give the experiment a reasonable opportunity to produce results. Without that, it’s merely a knee-jerk reaction to a bad situation, otherwise known as a “shake-up” not an experiment. That might have worked last night, had Huet been pulled in favour of Price not by pulling the plug prematurely on an experiment.
    Having said that, we can put last night’s game behind us and move forward. This team has more character and team chemistry than I have seen in a long time and they will bounce back starting tonight.
    GO HABS GO!

  22. von says:

    Huet’s inconsistency is going to hand Price the starting job real soon. So much for a “spark,” or “jump” after Ryder’s goal. They pretty much went back to playing like it was still 3-0.

    Two nights off and they were fatigued? Too much partying after Tuesday night? Either way, hopefully it’s out of their system otherwise tonight will be another forgettable affair and Monday will be a blow out.

  23. The Ian Cobb says:

    Moey -Very proud looking, you carry your head high, I can sure tell your a HAB fan!!

  24. Moey says:

    Ian ,

    If I may make a suggestion, when you are responding to a post, just hit the reply button on that person’s post, then your response will show directly below it.

  25. Grabs says:

    No offense, I say this with the best of intentions; You need a nosejob!

    Sorry, couldn’t resist ;)

  26. Moey says:

    Acutally, it has been suggested rather recently that I post the other end of the horse. Hmmmmm…I wonder what that meant???

  27. JF says:

    They certainly had no reason to be tired last night, considering their last game was Tuesday night and they didn’t play well then either. That’s two bad games in a row. The only good news about last night is that Ryder scored. Maybe he’s got the monkey off his back and can continue doing so. They’ll need to get lots of traffic in front of the net tonight in order to beat Thomas, who is in large part responsible for how well the Bruins have done so far.

    As for the Kostopoulos experiment, it was never going to be more than a very temporary fix. I’m guessing we’ll see Ryder back on the first line tonight, at least to start the game. Juggling the lines last night didn’t help at all and the third and fourth lines were good the way they were (before the TK experiment). I wouldn’t change them. If Ryder’s goal last night doesn’t get him going, I would simply switch him and Dandenault, leaving everything else as is.

  28. nightmare_49 says:

    Would you like to center those two defensive stalwarts Lats & Ryder, i have a feeling your +/- would go south. I know you want Dandy on the Higgins line but you must have balance.

  29. The Ian Cobb says:

    Thanks for the tip, I learn every day, thanks to friends!!!

  30. ClaytonM says:

    Oh, for sure, and I wasn’t using that as an excuse for the horrible play the Habs showed last night. But keep an eye on long passes and just in general how the puck pings around during a scrum or on an attempt to clear the zone. It’s like a mexican jumping bean some nights. I’d take a bouncy puck over shattered sticks on one-timers, though, just because I’d say our team can adjust.

    Who knows, maybe it’s just crummy ice conditions due to the lack of cold weather. Should be no problem tonight, 0 degrees forecasted.


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