About last night …

Not much to add.

Your Montreal Canadiens were lousy.

It happens.

Jacques Martin’s job is to make sure it doesn’t happen often.

He and his staff had plenty to think about on the flight back to Montreal. They have to figure out which buttons to push, which lines might work tonight against Buffalo, which is coming off a 3-1 win over the Leafs.

After that late first-period goal and early second-period penalty, the Canadiens suffered a precipitous decline in what Mike Cammalleri always refers to as their “compete level”. It means, in my reading, the players’ willingness to hustle and fight and sacrifice their bodies in order to win.

On the evidence of last night’s game, it’s what you have to do to beat Craig Ramsay’s new and improved Atlanta Thrashers.

It’s too bad there weren’t more than the announced (and probably exaggerated) 13,000 and change in Philips Arena.

That’s a nice post-Kovalchuk team they’ve got down there: fast, skilled, physical and well-coached in what Ramsay was good at: bottling up and frustrating opponents through aggressive forechecking and smart positional play in the neutral zone.

Arpon Basu wonders if the Canadiens are bi-polar: Crap against Nashville, dominant against the Leafs, crap against Philadelphia, dominant against L.A. and then crap again in Atlanta.

If the pattern holds, they should stomp the Sabres at the Bell Centre tonight.

But the inconsistency is troublesome, especially as a brutal December schedule looms.

There are causes for concern:

• The Markov-less D is slow, and Atlanta exploited it. Zone clearances were laborious, with litte help from the forwards. The Canadiens do not have a defenceman with the speed and puck-moving finesse of Tobias Enstrom. P.K. Subban has the potential, but he isn’t there yet.

• Tomas Plekanec is a mess in the faceoff circle, and let’s hope that ineptitude is not symptomatic of a slump by the Canadiens’ best player not named Carey Price.

I think it’s legitimate, at this point, to second-guess Martin’s decision to break up the Pleks-Mike Cammalleri-Andrei Kostitsyn line. They were fire on start the season, and none of them has been as effective since the shuffle.

Martin based the change on sound reasoning. The coach had to try something to shake Scott Gomez out of his lethargy, and Brian Gionta needed to get untracked.

The Canadiens continued to win after the changes, but their record camouflaged the failure of the top two lines to gel. And you have to believe Pleks is becoming frustrated, the only explanation for a cerebral player like he to engage in what would have been a suicidal fight with Evander Kane had Maxim Lapierre not intervened.

• The Canadiens have problems against physical teams. As Tony Marinaro pointed out on Twitter, they’ve given up 41, 45 and 47 shots in games against Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn and Ben Eager thumped their way through the Canadiens zone like Visigoths on a rampage.

This susceptibility to size and aggression does not augur well for the remaining months of the season, when hockey will become more intense and nastier.

In his customarily excellent game analysis in La Presse, Pierre Ladouceur points out the Canadiens are 10-1-1 when leading after two periods and 0-7-0 when trailing heading into the third. They’re 8-1-1 with a lead after the first period, 0-7-0 when trailing after 20.

Ladouceur’s explanation: the Canadiens are an effective team when they can play patient hockey hockey and wait for opponents to make mistakes – a style they are able to practice with the luxury of a lead.

But when they have to make things happen in order to erase a lead, the Canadiens struggle. As they begin to press, turnovers ensue and … well, you saw the W-L numbers. Through 23 games, this team can’t play catch-up hockey.

Last night Hal Gill mishandled the puck in the dying seconds of the first period, Rich F. Peverley pounced and the rest was history.

The Canadiens were outhot 23-4 during the second period. It was dismayingly reminiscent of the Philadelphia game, when the margin was 21-5 … the difference being a 2-0 Canadiens lead pissed away in that one, rather than the 1-0 deficit they faced in Atlanta.

Shall we talk about faceoffs?

Nah. Too depressing.

The urgent need to call up Max Pacioretty and sign MAB?

Nah. Too early to push the panic button

Buffalo at the Bell tonight.

Let’s see if there’s a bounce-back.

 

32 Comments

  1. habs365 says:

    This team has not been the same since JM started fooling with the 1st line trying to get Gomez going..even when he puts them back together..almost like they’re saying..we won’t be together long guys if the 2nd line don’t start scoring..one or two of us will be there again.

    after christmas when the games get more intense and physical..they better be able to handle a few ..in the playoffs they’re all like that..so jm you had better get a 2nd line scoring to take up the slack for the 1st line or last night is a sign of things to come..Halpern, pouliot/darche with gionta..Gomez 3rd or 4th line.

    Habs made a mistake taking his big contract from the rangers..you have to live with it now..he’s happy and will play the same where ever you put him and his wingers will take the blame..all the wingers you’ve tried with him..don’t tell me they’re all so, so “wrong” time to wake up….

     

  2. Wayne says:

    I’m curious to see the W/L record after a rookie paid, team meal. I think it was Mike Keane way back when, who came the closest to eating that huge steak. What was it again, 32 ounces?

     

    IMO, last night’s gang looked like a group who had their minds on tonight’s game instead. And can someone give me a number on how many jerseys/logos Buffalo has been through in the last 15 years?

  3. habfab14120 says:

    Best guess is 6 jerseys for the Sabres in the last 15 yrs.

    1. Original logo and colors.  1995 was the final year, so it snuck in.
    2. Demonic Goat Heat.  Black, red, and white colors.
    3. Red 3rd jersey with puck (black circle) and crossed swords.
    4. The Slug.  Blue and gold.
    5. Return to original logo (different shades of blue and gold from original, plus silver added).
    6. 40th anniversary “Buffalo” 3rd jersey.  Original colors.  Logo a tribute to Buffalo Bisons of the AHL in the 1960′s.

  4. PeterD says:

    I wonder what Byfuglien would cost us in a trade…use him forward or on D…big and mean and seenms to be able to play the game…

  5. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    excellent post RAD.

    Antropov sucker punched Gill… and got away with it… my god how far we’ve fallen…

    1:The N.A.G. (North American Grit) Youth Movement will bring us respect. 2:The NHL-Ref-Syndicate will do everything in its power to never allow the HABS to win another Stanley Cup. 3. ..call up WHITE/SHULTZ/PAX now.

  6. Rad says:

    The Canadiens’ most glaring need is size on defense. You can get by with speed up front if you have some nastiness on the blueline. Gorges, Spacek and Hamrlik are good players but not mean. Hal Gill is big, but does not have a nasty bone in his body. Ryan O’Byrne was not naturally mean either, but at least he would make an effort to take the body on a regular basis. Until Jarred Tinordi is ready to play back there, the Habs need SIZE and TOUGHNESS on the blueline. As currently constructed, the Habs are just another good team, a top-10 team, but not an elite Stanley Cup team.

    Are you listening Gauthier??

  7. Aaron13 says:

    Don’t ever expect Gomez to change. His best years are well behind him. He is talented but there is something wrong with him that can’t be fixed. I won’t comment on what the problem is but some observation of his demeanour is a clue.

  8. Number31 says:

    I would consider what Evander Kane did as a sucker punch.

    You know when your goalie freezes the puck, players usually grab the closest guy and clear him from the net? That’s all Plekanec did. Wasn’t an aggressive shove or anything, was pretty routine, but that over-aggressive little twat dropped his gloves and punched Plekanec in the face. Why wouldn’t Plekanec respond to that? Good on Lapierre to immediately get between them. (It was also why Kane got the extra penalty for useless instigating). Gooning it up when you’re the winning team? Yea that’s great…

  9. Josh says:

    They can’t play catch-up hockey because through 23 games they’ve only had one scoring line put together. Enough of this grinder experiment that has more than proven that it doesn’t work. When it comes to putting together lines, Martin is almost as bad as Carbo.

  10. New says:

    The Canadiens are short a center and D-Man. They seem good enough to take 4 out of seven from a free wheeling team. They will not survive against a physical team in a seven game series without luck, and a very healthy Andrei Markov.

    I would rather a healthy Markov and a true #1 center.

  11. notbigbird says:

    Unlike historical versions of the Habs, this team cannot just show up and win. They have to play with intensity. Sometimes, either the brains or legs or both refuse to cooperate. Personally, I don’t think the physicality of the opposition has much to do with it.

  12. habs365 says:

    scoring is what has to do with it..and we know where that problem begins..one line team

  13. G-Man says:

    Habs shut out again- that’s too many times. Auld allowed a couple softies but when a goalie doesn’t play, they are as sharp as an eraser. In other words, not very. Staff is overplaying Price. 62 games is plenty. 20 out of 22 is stupid. Auld needs to be sharp in case of injury, so it’s the only thing I can complain about, really.

    Besides being shut out- again!

  14. RGM says:

    The game was so bad that I actually flipped over to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Now, I’m a huge Star Wars fan but this show just doesn’t have “it”…but there I was last night, preferring to watch that over a very lacklustre second period. Good for Auld to do all he could to hold the fort, but wow 23-4 on the shot clock over 20 minutes is absolutely brutal.

    Go Habs Go!

  15. sholi2000.com says:

    It started off fine, but it’s hard to watch hockey coming out of Atlanta.  No buzz in the crowd, no history, and well, it’s Georgia.  I bet the rookie dinner was more entertaining.  I wonder how much Eller’s bill was?

    They Call Me Shane

  16. JF says:

    In only his second start, Alex Auld deserved a better effort from his teammates.  He didn’t look good on the second goal, but had little support after the first period.

    The Habs have shown that they’re good at protecting a lead (something last year’s team struggled with), but they seem almost unable to fight back when they fall behind.  I think the only game we’ve won after being down a goal was the second game against Buffalo, when we erased two 1-goal leads to go ahead and win. There have been a few games when we’ve competed well when behind, but many more in which we’ve just collapsed.

    We played a good first period last night.  That late goal was hugely deflating, but the team should not have wilted completely as they did.  Another thing: in every game this week, we’ve started the second period with a penalty, and in two of them it proved fatal.  Against both Philadelphia and Atlanta, it allowed the other team to seize the momentum, after which we were chasing the play all night.

    Size is an issue, and I’ve thought all season that we need to add more muscle and toughness.  But size wasn’t the reason we lost last night.  We lost because we didn’t compete after the first period.  In most games the team shows a lot of character, but there are a few in which that element is mysteriously absent. So far this season, we’ve rebounded well after a bad game; we’ll need a good rebound tonight, because the Sabres are a lot better than they were the last time we faced them.

  17. Fire_Laraque says:

    They give up.  This team gives up when it’s not going their way, Hence, the shutouts.

  18. twocents says:

    Mariano’s being a little too cute and convenient about physical teams. It sure is easy to make a point when you only consider the examples that prove it. 

    How did the Habs do against Vancouver, L.A., Boston and Phoenix? All team that bring physicality to the table. Not to mention that he omits the fact that the Habs beat Philly in the first game, convincingly. 

    That’s not to say I don’t think it’s a weakness of ours. It is. But, I am willing to state that without distorting the evidence.

    In the case of Twitter, the old adage, the medium is the message, explains much.

     

    Oh, and last night was a steaming pile.

  19. smiler2729 says:

    Like I wrote last night, even supermodels fart now and then… forget the Atlanta game.

    Here’s a tip for any hockey player: Never put a lit cigarette behind your ear and more importantly, NEVER fight anyone named Evander… ever.

    The spark this team needs is a hometown Saturday night capacity crowd.

    LET’S DO THIS!

  20. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    Boone, i know you have to tread lightly, and its customary to gaze towards Martin for the answer, mix things up a bit, find the right combinations…. WHAT A DRIVEL!!!

    The HABS are what they are…they cannot change, they will not play better than we have already witnessed. We have to stop looking at ourselves (Habs) and look at the opponent. It wasn’t the Habs that couldn’t clear the front of the net, or control the corners, it was ATL’s dominance based on their composition=size,power.

    It will continue to happen, just like a swiss clock, it will not fail. Against STRONG/FAST teams, we will not win.

    it is mathematically and scientifically impossible… or at least extremely highly improbable.

    We have speed/vision and great goaltending, but we don’t have power.

    nevermind Philly/VAN/BOS….those teams have lost their edge, they try to skate with us, sure they have a couple “Lucic’s” on the ice, but not every line… the result is we can ‘play safe hockey’.

    but when the time comes to sacrifice yourself, FORGET IT…

    special mention to PK for dropping the gloves against a legit fighter… but look at how pathetic LAPS was turning his head away from the rough stuff…or POULIOT, not wanting to break a finger nail.

    PURE PATHETIC in that regard.

    We need 3 more MOENS in the lineup…. otherwise we don’t have the team to challenge for the ultimate prize.

    that is the point isn’t it?

    1:The N.A.G. (North American Grit) Youth Movement will bring us respect. 2:The NHL-Ref-Syndicate will do everything in its power to never allow the HABS to win another Stanley Cup. 3. ..call up WHITE/SHULTZ/PAX now.

  21. joeybarrie says:

    First off, Lapierre did a GREAT thing last night getting in with Kane, and NOT dropping the gloves. We ended up with a powerplay, and pleks did not get his face smashed in. Do you really think if Laps won that fight that we would all feel better today? Well I wouldn’t…

    Then you say we can’t beat strong fast teams, but we have beaten Boston, Vancouver and Philly.

    Try to remember Atlanta shut out Washington 5-0…

    We need a top defenseman, and a top 6 player to challenge for the Prize. We dont need 3 of a particular player, we need a mix.

    There may be other teams, but only ONE Club De Hockey…

  22. Mike Boone says:

    Oh yeah, 18 Moens. That’s the winning formula. Professor of what, exactly?

  23. showey47 says:

    Sorry i don’t buy the “we are too small” logic which seems to pop up here after a loss. If size alone was the recipe for success we would be bottom 10 team every year. Besides,the redwings,i believe, are one of the smallest teams in the west and have been for a long time. It surely doesn’t hurt their team. IMHO we didn’t lose this game because of being a smaller team. We lost because of 3 horrendous,unpressured turnovers which all turned into goals,our lousy PP,getting destroyed in the faceoff circle (38%) and failing to capitalize on the scoring oppurtunities we did have,mainly in the first and third period.

    The thrasher goal scorers were 5’11″ rich peverley and 5’10″ tobais enstrom. The 6’6″ 245lb antropov was non existent unless they were on the PP.

     

  24. mjames says:

    I agree with you. It is a tired old refrain whenever we lose. We trot out the “size excuse” every time. When the Habs last played Philly I seem to recall that there was no size issue when we overran them in that first period. If we had played that way for the full 60 minutes we would not talking about size. This team is not that much different, size wise, than the other teams. We just need to work on our consistency and “work effort”. If you read the blogs on the other teams they are all terrified of our speed.

     

    mjames

  25. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    ANTROPOV sucker punched GILL…. did you miss that?

    its called getting under your skin, if you play hockey you know that a team can take you off your game. The Habs have absolutely NOBODY (Laps sometimes) that can 1. get under your skin & 2. answer the bell.

    you don’t think thats significant?… last time i checked it was a physical game, hitting is allowed, facewashing is allowed, what the Heck is going on here? is history lost? did we not have NILAN? KORDIC? SKRUDLAND, ULANOV, MANSON, THORNTON, MORRISETTE!, FERGUSON? ETC….

    why have we strayed from our winning formula?

    and yes thats exactly why we haven’t won the cup for almost 20 years….

    1:The N.A.G. (North American Grit) Youth Movement will bring us respect. 2:The NHL-Ref-Syndicate will do everything in its power to never allow the HABS to win another Stanley Cup. 3. ..call up WHITE/SHULTZ/PAX now.

  26. Exit716 says:

    A Corner Gas movie or Broadway Show?

  27. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    panem et circenses…sir

  28. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    its part of(a winning formula)

    problem with todays edition is its parts per million…

  29. HAB-PROFESSOR says:

    if an antropov can throw a sucker punch….and get away with it…. my god how far we have fallen

  30. showey47 says:

    Yeah,thats what i thought.

  31. Chuck says:

    I’m sorry… did you use the names Ulanov, Manson, Thornton and Morrissette, then follow them up with the phrase “winning formula”?

    When it rains, it pours: Habs miss flight

  32. showey47 says:

    Wow,antropov threw a suck punch. That must have been why we lost,what was i thinking?  Please post a source or proof that says your list of players were directly linked to winning stanley cups? I mean,look at all the conn smythe winners on that list.


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